With export bans looming and growing demand for renewable baseload power, it’s time for national agreement between states and territories on the role of EfW, writes NWRIC CEO Rose Read.
New research from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia suggests the “looming waste crisis” is a once in a generation opportunity to embrace energy recovery as an effective way to manage waste and provide baseload power.
The Queensland Government has released its highly anticipated Energy from Waste (EfW) policy following a webinar with the state’s Environment Minister, Leeanne Enoch.
Enoch hosted a ‘lunch with the Queensland Environment Minister’ via zoom last week due to social distancing restrictions, to announce the EfW policy and how it will play a key role within the waste and resource recovery system across the state.
The EfW policy aims to capture embodied energy from residual materials that would otherwise have been landfilled, as Queensland transitions towards a circular economy.
Enoch gave a candid update of the current state of play in Queensland, noted that the policy aligns with both the waste management hierarchy as well as Queensland’s strategic priorities, and provides industry with certainty on how EfW will be regulated and assessed in the state.
As well as establishing an EfW hierarchy to address the differing technologies available, the policy outlines seven outcomes to guide proponents on how environmental authority applications for EfW facilities will be assessed and regulated, detailing requirements that will need to be met to demonstrate operational performance of proposed facilities.
Gayle Sloan, Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association Australia (WMRR) CEO, said QLD’s EfW policy is a “very sensible and well considered document”.
She said EfW draws on international best practice, resisting the temptation that WMRR have seen in other Australian jurisdictions to create poorly thought out interventions that impact confidence and investment.
“The release of the document is a positive step towards offering EfW proponents some much-needed certainty, offering clear pathways to EfW, and importantly, a clear expectation about community engagement and social license,” Sloan said.
“All these steps are pivotal in rebuilding the economy and creating local jobs in the post-COVID world that we are building.”
Mark Smith, Waste Recycling Industry Queensland (WRIQ) CEO, agrees that the EfW policy provides an important building block for the Queensland waste and resource recovery sector and importantly sets out expectations from government to market.
However, Smith said a key challenge for state and local government and the private sector, who are the largest funders of infrastructure in Queensland and Australia, will be how the changes and improvements to waste and recycling management is communicated to the Queensland community.
“Recent research from CSIRO tells us that in order for community to trust and accept upgrades to waste facilities or new facilities being establish, is their confidence in the industry and their confidence in the government bodies regulating the sector,” he said.
“WRIQ is committed to improving the sector’s public brand and wants to ensure our members are supported by government when they decide to make investments to support the Queensland economy.”
Smith said it’s really important that government understand and recognise their role in building community awareness around the “role our sector plays in maintaining the economy and maintaining our way of life”.
WRIQ has congratulated the Queensland Government for releasing the policy and the commitment to releasing further guidance at the end of the year.
Sloan said that WMRR also appreciates the Queensland Department of Environment and Science’s (DES) strong engagement with the industry in the establishment of this policy.
“We look forward to the development of further detail on how industry can meet EfW requirements in Queensland, utilising what we know is international best practice, including the EU Waste Directives,” she said.
Smith said WRIQ will reach out to DES to also support the development process of the policy.
According to WMRR, during the webinar, Enoch also reassured attendees that resource recovery is at the forefront of many of the government’s decisions, acknowledging that the essential waste and resource recovery sector is a vital stakeholder and contributor to Queensland’s post-COVID economic recovery, particularly as the industry will be able to provide home grown manufacturing opportunities.
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) has held the first Energy from Waste (EfW) Conference in Canberra.
Attendees heard from a host of international and local speakers, who tracked the success of EfW facilities globally and the current gaps, challenges and opportunities to drive the technology in Australia.
According to WMRR CEO Gayle Sloan, there are currently more than 2000 EfW plants operating safely around the world.
“EfW technologies have been proven overseas, and at this conference, attendees heard from our international keynotes about the success of EfW working as part of an integrated waste management and resource recovery system,” Ms Sloan said.
“Industry is not touting EfW as the be all and end all of waste management, rather it is a recovery solution above disposal when we are unable to recycle. EfW assists in driving positive diversion and recovery outcomes.”
Ms Sloan said harmonisation was another topic of conversation at the conference.
“At the Around the States panel, comprising senior government officers from QLD, SA, NSW, ACT, WA, and VIC, industry reiterated the need for all jurisdictions to come together, led by the Federal Government, to develop a nationally consistent policy and regulatory framework,” Ms Sloan said.
“That would go a long way in creating certainty for industry and all other stakeholders.”
Ms Sloan said attendees had numerous opportunities to discuss the various presentations.
“At an interactive session led by Arup, attendees were called upon to share their thoughts on what they believed were the gaps that needed to be closed, the opportunities that could be captured and the barriers that stood in the way of EfW development in Australia,” Ms Sloan said.
“From the feedback received at this session, Arup will now develop an industry roadmap to develop and establish EfW within a successful waste management and resource recovery system. WMRR will soon release this roadmap.”
The Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia (WMRR) and Bioenergy Australia have released the first in a series of energy from waste (EfW) factsheets.
The factsheet references the waste hierarchy, outlining EfW as only suitable when waste can’t otherwise be reused or recycled.
“In Australia general waste is normally disposed of to landfill, without additional value being recovered,” the factsheet reads.
“It is at this stage that diverting the material to an EfW plant for energy recovery can provide for better environmental outcomes.”
WMRR NSW EfW Working Group Chair Miles Mason said interest was building on the role and benefits of EfW in an integrated waste management system.
“There is a growing dialogue around waste issues and media coverage is increasing. However, there is also a lot of misinformation out there,” Mr Mason said.
“The fact sheet answers some of the common questions that often stem due to a lack of easy-to-understand information such as does EfW smell? Is it safe? Does it reduce greenhouse gas emissions? And how does EfW fit in a circular economy? This document is a good starting point in the conversation.”
According to the factsheet, EfW facilities use technology to control emissions by removing chemical contaminants and further filtering the air to remove particulates from gas.
“As part of the planning and permitting process, a comprehensive air quality and human health risk assessment is carried out,” the factsheet reads.
“During operations, exhaust emissions from these facilities are continuously monitored using gas measuring equipment, to ensure they comply with even the most stringent environmental standards.”
WMRR NSW EfW Working Group Vice Chair Shaun Rainford said there are varying levels of understanding around the terms, concepts, suitable waste types and costs.
“There are different definitions and policies across jurisdictions, adding to the complexity of EfW,” Mr Rainford said.
“As the peak body of the waste management and resource recovery industry, it is WMRR’s role to assist in education and provide factual elements to the conversation.”
Australian Paper and SUEZ have appointed Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) financial advisor for their $600 million waste to energy facility in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.
Australian Paper General Manager Corporate Development David Jettner said SMBC would contribute additional commercial expertise to the project during the critical development phase.
“As financial advisor, SMBC will provide specialised support for project development and establish debt financing facilities, as we seek to build a missing link in Victoria’s waste management infrastructure,” Mr Jettner said.
“We are now moving forward to secure waste through the Metropolitan and Gippsland Waste and Resource Recovery Groups tendering processes, establish contractual engineering, procurement and construction arrangements and arrange funding for our project.”
Mr Jettner said SMBC would play a vital role in helping Australian Paper navigate those processes.
“They will also provide sectorial experience to the project as the mandated lead arranger, with 15 successful energy from waste projects internationally including the Kwinana project in WA,” Mr Jettner said.
“Our facility remains the first energy from waste project in Victoria to achieve an EPA Works Approval, and along with SUEZ and SMBC, we are excited to move a step closer to making our vision for Latrobe Valley energy production from residual household waste a reality.”
According to SUEZ Victoria General Manager Nat Bryant, less than one per cent of Australia’s residual waste is used for energy recovery.
Additionally, Mr Bryant said landfill is the only option for household waste from South East Melbourne and Gippsland.
“With the closure of the Hampton Park landfill by 2025, our project will provide a vital solution to south east Melbourne’s impending waste management crisis,” Mr Bryant said.
The ACT Government has begun community consultation on waste to energy (WtE) to help develop policy and provide information for stakeholders.
It follows the results of the ACT’s Waste Feasibility Study which found Canberra was unlikely to achieve a recovery rate of more than 80 per cent without some form of WtE leaving 200,000 to be sent to landfill.
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The ACT Government has launched a survey to gather community feedback and provide information on the different types of WtE to clearly outline the territory’s position on energy recovery. It has also launched an information paper to outline the challenges and opportunities for the technology in the ACT’s context.
The consultation will inform the ACT Government’s consideration of WtE in the territory.
Currently the ACT has a target to divert 90 per cent of waste from landfill by 2025 and has implemented a container deposit scheme to also improve the territory’s waste diversion rates.
WtE processing facilities are already in use in the ACT with methane gas captured at the Mugga Lane and West Belconnen landfill facilities used to power around 3000 homes.
The ACT has also set a range of targets to 2020 for secure and affordable energy which involves using clean energy technology.
City Services Minister Chris Steel said in the information paper that a serious conversation about what to do to reach the ACT’s landfill diversion targets is needed and should explore whether WtE is part of the solution.
“WtE technologies sit on a spectrum – not all of these involve burning or heating and some technologies are already in use in the ACT, for example through landfill gas capture at our Mugga Landfill site,” Mr Steel said.
“One of the key recommendations of the Waste Feasibility Study was the development of a WtE policy in the ACT to provide certainty to industry and the community about whether WtE has a role in the nation’s capital.
“As the Minister for City Services I want our community and industry to be partners in co-designing a long-term, informed and evidence-based policy vision for WtE in the ACT.”
The community consultation period will close on 29 November 2018.
Veolia has signed a $450 million 25-year operations and maintenance service agreement on a large-scale waste to energy facility in Kwinana, WA, capable of producing 36 megawatts of electricity – enough to power 50,000 homes.
The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) will commit up to $90 million towards towards the $688 million and will be able to process 400,000 tonnes of household, commercial and industrial residual waste per year.
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Operations and maintenance of the facility will commence in 2021. Veolia operates 61 thermal waste to energy facilities around the world.
Macquarie Capital and Phoenix Energy Australia are co-developing the Kwinana plant, with co-investment by the Dutch Infrastructure Fund (DIF). Infrastructure company Acciona has been appointed to design and construct the facility. The project has been approved by the WA Environmental Protection Authority.
It is expected to produce cost-competitive base load power by processing household waste from local councils and contribute to grid stability in WA’s South West Interconnected System.
Technology that has been previously used in Europe will be implemented in the plant, which is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 400,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 85,000 cars off the road.
The plant will use the Keppel Seghers grate technology, which has seen use in more than 100 waste to energy plants across 18 countries. Metals recovered in the process are then able to be recycled, with the facility producing an ash byproduct that is commonly used as road base or for construction.
CEFC’s funding is part of a $400 million debt syndicate that includes SMBC, Investec, Siemens, IFM Investors and Metrics Credit Partners. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is contributing a further $23 million in grant funding.
Veolia Australia and New Zealand Managing Director and CEO Danny Conlon said the project is an exciting development for Veolia in Australia.
“Adding to Veolia’s existing infrastructure in NSW and QLD, where we generate enough electricity to power 35,000 homes per year from waste, the Kwinana Project is another example where we will extract value from waste materials, delivering a clean energy source,” Mr Conlon said.
At a time when Australian businesses and households are seeing energy shortages and rising costs, Veolia is proud to be working with innovative partners to help deliver new, environmentally sustainable energy from waste”.
ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the project provides a renewable energy solution for reducing waste going to landfill.
“The use of combustion grate technology is well established in Europe and North America but has not yet been deployed in Australia,” Mr Miller said.
“More than 23 million tonnes of municipal solid waste is produced annually in Australia and this project could help to divert non-recyclable waste from landfill and recover energy in the process.”
CEFC CEO Ian Learmonth said the landmark project was the CEFC’s largest investment in WA to date.
“Creating energy from waste is an exciting and practical way to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, while also delivering cleaner low carbon electricity,” Mr Learmonth said.
“The average red lid wheelie bin contains enough waste to produce up to 14 per cent of a household’s weekly power needs. This investment is about harnessing that energy potential, while safely diverting waste from landfill.
“We are pleased to be working alongside Phoenix Energy Australia, Macquarie Capital and DIF in bringing this state-of-the art technology to Australia. We congratulate the Western Australian government and the participating councils in embracing this 21st century approach to waste management,” he said.
Macquarie Capital Executive Director Chris Voyce said the Kwinana plant is expected to employ around 800 workers, including apprentices, during its three-year construction phase, and some 60 operations staff on an ongoing basis.
“Macquarie Capital is pleased to be contributing to the supply of sustainable and secure renewable power to Australia’s overall energy mix,” Mr Voyce said.
“As an adviser to, investor in and developer of renewable energy projects around the world, we see waste-to-energy as an effective example of adaptive reuse: reducing the pressures on landfill by diverting it toward the generation of clean energy,” he said.
CEFC Energy from Waste lead Henry Anning said the CEFC is pleased to play a role in demonstrating the business case for large-scale waste to energy investments in Australia in the future.
“Australians produce almost three tonnes of waste per person per year. While the priority is always a strong focus on recycling and organic waste management, there is still a considerable amount of household waste from red-lidded bins ending up as landfill, where it produces a large amount of emissions,” Mr Anning said.
“Energy from waste investments such as the Kwinana plant are about creating new clean energy opportunities for Australia, while offering councils and households a practical and innovative way to manage waste. Just as importantly, they can significantly cut methane emissions produced by landfill.”
With the addition of the Kwinana facility, the CEFC has now made six large scale investments to reduce waste-related emissions.
EPA Victoria has called for further community consultation on Australian Paper’s proposal to develop a large-scale waste to energy facility.
The company has provided the EPA with a health impact assessment to support its application to develop the facility within the boundaries of its site in Maryvale, Latrobe Valley.
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The proposed plant would generate both steam and electricity which can be directly in the paper mill or exported to the grid. It would replace two gas-fired boilers and would produce around 30 megawatts of electricity and 150 tonnes of steam per hour.
The EPA’s assessment of the applications will consider issues such as best practice technology, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions, waste fuel composition, compliance with waste hierarchy, potential risks to human health and the environment from air, noise, disposal of fly ash, wastewater treatment and operational contingencies.
It follows a community public meeting held earlier in July, which found there was significant support for the proposals, with many submitters commenting the technology is already operating safely overseas, there are environmental benefits of less waste going to landfill and economic benefits of local job creation.
EPA Development Assessments Director Tim Faragher said the works approval application was originally open for public comment in June and EPA received 115 submissions.
“EPA also ran a community conference in July to hear concerns from those that made submissions. This further consultation period allows interested community members to make further comments on the new information that Australian Paper has submitted,” Mr Faragher said.
When making a final determination, the EPA will also consider all public submissions and the outcomes of the community conference.
Biojet fuel company Fulcrum plans to open a waste to energy facility in the US that will convert municipal waste into a low carbon, renewable jet fuel.
The facility will use research developed by oil and gas company BP and chemical company Johnson Matthey (JM), which convert synthesis gas generated from municipal solid waste into long-chain hydrocarbon molecules that make up diesel and jet fuels.
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Fulcrum has secured the license to the technology and expects to convert 159,000 tonnes of municipal waste into 41.6 million litres of fuel each year, the equivalent of more than 180 return flights between London and New York.
BP’s head of group research Angelo Amorelli said BP first became interested in the technology, called Fischer-Tropsch (FT), in the 1980s while looking to turn gas into liquid fuel.
“The breakthrough came five or so years ago, when we started to explore the potential for our FT process to turn biomass into fuels,” Mr Amorelli said.
He explains that JM redesigned the reactors which looked like baked beans cans filled with the catalyst, creating ‘cans tech’.
”BP then changed the recipe for the catalyst and, by combining that with the’ baked beans’ reactors, we trebled the productivity and halved the cost of building the technology compared to traditional FT reactors,” he said.
Image Credit: BP