LISTEN AGAIN: Waste-to-Energy webinar

On Thursday 26 November, we were invited to speak on the panel for ENDS waste and bioenergy’s webinar – ‘Decentralised Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plants towards a circular economy’.

Hosted by Luke Walsh, editor of ENDS Report, we were joined by Turboden’s business development manager, Alessandro Bertacchini, discussing all-things WtE, alternative fuel and innovative technology.

In case you missed the live session, here’s a top-level overview and a link to listen to the full, hour-long programme of content in your own time.

Setting the environmental scene

The session kicked off with Luke outlining the landscape in the UK and looking at how both Brexit and Coronavirus have caused so many changes in industry.

He talked about the UK’s RDF (refuse derived fuel) position too – explaining how RDF exports from the UK will increase by between £25 and £50 a load at both ends, once the country leaves the European Union. And depending on the ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ result, this will add aporoximately £4 a tonne onto the cost of the process.

He also mentioned the taxes that have been introduced in the Netherlands and Sweden – two of the main end-destination countries for the UK’s RDF – and how, as a result, the need to process waste at source has never been greater.

However, interestingly, he also mentioned that these challenging situations could have subsequently created an opportunity for the UK to reflect and look towards the treatment of waste on a smaller scale, in the country of origin.

The road to a circular economy

Alessandro from Turboden – global leader in the design, manufacturing, and maintenance of Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) systems – shared the company’s background information with delegates before delving into intricacies of the circular economy.

He explored the waste hierarchy model – prevention, reuse, recycling and composting, recovery and landfill – and how residual waste will always be present in our society, alongside the challenges this brings.

Questions such as ‘How can material cycles be kept clean? How can the waste be treated securely after recycling? And how can we ensure that all of the resource value within the residual waste is unlocked and utilised?’ were answered with one single phrase… ‘WtE’.

He then delved into the main objectives of WtE plants and the environmental benefits they carry – including emissions control, diverting waste from landfill, avoiding marine and soil pollution, and eliminating the need to use fossil fuels, to name a few.

Benefits of decentralised Waste-to-Energy facilities

The main topic of discussion though came when evaluating the need for smaller, decentralised energy recovery facilities placed in strategic locations across the UK.

He talked to delegates about the positive effect on reducing transportation – translating into less CO2 emissions and a lower overall cost in waste logistics.

Other advantages explored were the smaller footprint of the energy recovery facility itself and how the impact on the landscape is not only minimised, but how it may even be faster to obtain planning permissions for this kind of plant.

Aside from solely environmental benefits, societal and financial gains were also mentioned. For instance, how the improved valorisation of waste and implementation of higher-efficiency systems can generate heat and power locally – promoting greater self-sufficiency within communities – as well as provide a quicker return on investment for shareholders.

He then went into detail about the ORC cycle – outlining to attendees how it works, how it performs in comparison to steam, and the overall advantages a small waste incineration (SWIP) plant could bring to the UK market.

Decentralised facilities in context

Last but not least to take to the virtual floor was our very own MD, Simon Webb.

Simon introduced his section by giving an example of the turnkey WtE plant we worked on with Sugimat in 2016, at Gatwick Airport – processing 15 tonnes per day of non-recyclable wastes recovered from the airport’s recycling facility.

He also alluded to further projects we have coming up in the pipeline – the first being a CHP project at a hospitality venue, where all the heat and power will be distributed to a number of properties on the estate, as well as the racecourse and racing circuit.

Continuing the journey into Sugimat’s innovative technologies, Simon spoke about the firm’s thermal oil boilers – their USPs and benefits in a smaller-scale WtE facility – and the latest addition to their portfolio, the Horizon+ solid waste fuel boiler.

As well as operating at similar temperatures to steam, the pressure is much lower in thermal oil boilers, meaning there is less maintenance required. In addition, it was noted that they also experience increased boiler efficiencies of up to 86% and fewer circuit losses – vastly reducing the amount of potential downtime.

Innovative technologies leading the way

The Horizon+ model was a focal point in the presentation, as it represented a ‘first of its kind’ in the industry.

It was borne out of the need to solve the performance issues created by high-ash-content fuels such as RDF.

The boiler itself is mounted on a frame – equipped with casters – and driven by a gear motor, which enables it to rotate slowly on the axis of the coils. The rotary movement encourages ash within the boiler to follow the spiralling of the tubes – allowing suspended particles in the gas flow to be discharged through an outlet.

He then went on to explain this in context with Sugimat’s Computer Vision Control (CVC), describing how the continual monitoring of the combustion allows for greater efficiency and lower operational costs, while omitting the need for human intervention.

Other topics covered in the 60-minute session were the typical business cases for RDF and SRF (solid recovered fuel), and examples of small-scale energy recovery facilities – regarding capacity, costs and logistics – being standardised for RDF and SRF.

Questions?

Wrapping up with a Q&A, attendees put Simon and Alessandro in the hotseat – asking about why smaller plants should be considered over larger ones, their impact on progress in the sector, and how they compare to the use of bio fuels.

To listen to the webinar in full, please visit the following link.

We have 20 years in the waste and recycling industry, 10 of which are in the WtE arena, so if you have any questions about the content covered in this webinar, or any additional queries, please contact our friendly team via: hello@tidyplanet.co.uk or connect with Simon on LinkedIn.