Infrastructure Partnerships Australia calls for EfW investment

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.

Read moreInfrastructure Partnerships Australia calls for EfW investment

New policy rules out incineration of waste

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has ruled out any incineration of waste under a new ACT energy policy.

The territory government has released its ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25, following ten weeks of community and industry engagement to develop the policy and move towards its 90 per cent resource recovery by 2025, as stated in the ACT Waste Management Strategy 2011-2025.

The Waste Feasibility Study, completed in May 2018, found that the ACT is unlikely to meet the 90 per cent target, or move beyond 80 per cent resource recovery, without some form of waste-to-energy.

“The policy establishes underlying principles and outcomes to guide the transition to a circular economy and provides clear direction about the types of activities that are permitted,” the ACT Waste-to-Energy Policy 2020-25 states.

Resource recovery rates in the ACT have plateaued at around 70 per cent for the last decade, which means that approximately 300,000 tonnes of waste are going to landfill each year.

Shane Rattenbur, ACT Greens Leader and Environment Spokesperson said the policy explicitly bans the “thermal treatment” of waste in the nation’s capital.

According to the policy, new facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT.

“When it comes to managing our waste, as the nation’s climate action capital, we can – and must – do better. We should be a waste management leader, ” Rattenbury said. 

“The new ACT Government policy starts to lay the foundations for this, by ruling out thermal treatment of waste, but still allowing cool technologies for organic waste treatment, such as anaerobic digestion.”

The policy’s key outcomes include anaerobic digestion of waste is permitted and encouraged, production of, but not burning of RDF is permitted, the waste hierarchy is respected and recycling is not undermined, improved resource recovery rates and existing waste-to-energy operations are not negatively impacted.

“These initiatives will continue the focus on improving avoiding, reusing and recycling waste in line with the waste hierarchy,” the policy states.

“Where waste-to-energy activities are permitted in the ACT, only residual waste will be eligible as a fuel.”

All waste-to-energy facilities will be required to have a licence under the WMRR Act, and any proposal that is not consistent with the policy will be refused a waste licence. 

“New facilities, proposing thermal treatment of waste, by means of incineration, gasification, pyrolysis or variations of these for energy recovery, chemical transformation, volume reduction or destruction will not be permitted in the ACT,” the policy states.

“Existing waste-to-energy activities will be encouraged to improve their environmental impact over time.”

“There are cleaner, greener and more efficient ways of managing our waste, than burning it. The last thing we need are the toxic emissions or greenhouse gases from burning waste in Canberra,” Rattenbury said. 

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Are you going to Ballarat?

Ahead of the Australian Waste to Energy Forum, Barry Sullivan, Committee Chair, discusses the developing national sector.

A waste-to-energy (WtE) facility in Creswick, Victoria is exploring how to inject clear, filtered green gas into the state’s gas network. Diverting 2000 tonnes of organic waste via bio-digestion each year, the facility will serve as a case study, with replication potential highlighted by the state government.

With news of green gas and a number of high-profile WtE projects, public WtE perceptions appear to be shifting. Images of smoke and burning plastics have been replaced by productive conversations about landfill diversion and the future of renewable energy.

It’s welcome news for the team at the Australian Waste to Energy Forum, which returns to the Mercure in Ballarat this year from 18-20 February.

In its fifth consecutive year, the forum aims to provide a platform for all interested parties to discuss developments in Australia’s growing WtE sector. This year’s theme, “On the road to recovery”, has been selected to address two key areas: the application of waste hierarchy fundamentals, and changing perceptions about WtE facilities and their role within an integrated waste management strategy.

According to Barry Sullivan, Forum Chair, one of the biggest WtE challenges is lack of access to information necessary to make informed and considered investment decisions.

“We are finding there is a lot of misinformation in the public arena that inhibits project development,” Barry says.

“The issue with going to a technology vendor without basic knowledge is they will often say, don’t worry, we can make this work. In other words, when you sell hammers, everything looks like a nail.”

He adds that before looking to technologies, people need to understand their waste stream, moisture levels, quantity and calorific value, as well as the type of offtakes they hope to produce.

“The committee, and conference host, the Australian Industrial Ecology Network, intend to foster that understanding with our event,” Barry explains.

The two-and-a-half-day conference will feature a range of informative thought leader driven discussions.

“It has always been a priority of the committee to seek out presentations that will address key themes through the program, instead of just grouping abstracts into sessions,” Barry says.

“The committee has closely monitored WtE projects and changing technology over the past seven years, and we want to highlight those developments to our audience.”

Nurturing community engagement and education is also the driver behind the committee’s decision to run with a single stream.

“As WtE is still in early phases, many don’t know if they need thermal or non-thermal solutions for example, so we decided to cover all WtE elements in the one stream,” he says.

“You don’t know what you don’t know, so it makes sense for all delegates to attend each presentation.”

The program features a range of range of speakers including Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Blue Environment Director Bill Grant and a keynote from Veolia Kwinana Project Director Toby Terlet.

Toby’s presentation, Energy Recovery Facilities: What’s not written on the tin, will detail challenges faced by a WtE facility in Tyseley, UK, including major upgrade works at the same time as industrial action, heavy snow and a declining national public sector budget. This presentation will discuss how Veolia worked proactively through the challenges with City of Birmingham to further cement the successful long-standing partnership and resulting in a five-year contract extension.

To develop a thriving national industry, Barry says it’s important to not only showcase success, but share challenges openly.

“Last year we had a technology company present on their biggest failure, which provided a valuable lesson for everyone in the room,”
he says.

Other discussion topics include WtE in a circular economy, anaerobic digestion, licence to operate, current project updates, project development considerations and future opportunities and developments.

“We are hosting a session where local governments can talk about future plans. It won’t feature cities with official requests for a proposal in place, but rather those that want the WtE community to know they are thinking about it,” Barry says.

Another will be how to develop technologies that provide return on investment, in spite of small tonnages.

“While WtE in Australia is certainly advancing, progress has been slow, as government agencies tend to rely on standards from Europe and North America,” Barry says.

“But Australia is a different animal with different requirements. We simply don’t have the tonnages other countries do and it’s important to develop technology around that.”

According to Barry, hosting the forum in Ballarat creates a sense of occasion.

“Not only is Ballarat accessible, with trains running every hour from Melbourne, but having a group of likeminded individuals converge on one place creates a real sense of community, and with everyone in town, the evenings are known for networking,” he says.

“We’ve now gained quite a reputation – people aren’t asking ‘are you going to the WtE forum?’ They’re asking, ‘are you going to Ballarat?’

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VIC EPA approves Laverton WtE plant

The Victorian EPA has granted a works approval for a waste-to-energy (WtE) plant in Laverton North.

The facility, to be developed by Recovered Energy Australia, will process 200,000 tonnes of source-separated residual municipal solid waste each year.

According to an EPA statement, Recovered Energy Australia propose to deliver approximately 15 mega watts of electricity to the grid annually.

“EPA assessed the proposal against all relevant environmental policies and guidelines and looked at any potential environmental and human health impacts that could result from the facility,” the statement reads.

“The works approval is subject to conditions. These conditions include the requirement for an EPA-appointed auditor to review detailed design, and for further EPA consideration prior to finalising detailed plans.”

Conditions also require the facility to achieve an environmental performance equivalent to European standards.

Recovered Energy Australia has also secured a planning permit from Wyndham City Council to construct and operate the proposed facility, seperate from the EPA works approval.

“Once constructed, Recovered Energy Australia will not be able to operate the waste to energy plant until it obtains an EPA licence,” the statement reads.

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Masdar acquires 40 per cent stake in East Rockingham WtE facility

Global renewable energy company Masdar has made its first Australian investment, after acquiring a 40 per cent stake in Western Australia’s East Rockingham Resource Recovery Facility.

Masdar and Abu Dhabi advisory and development firm Tribe Infrastructure Group have invested in the waste-to-energy project via their Abu Dhabi Global Market-based joint venture holding company, Masdar Tribe Energy Holdings Limited.

Masdar Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi said extending Masdar’s reach into Australia is an exciting step forward for the company’s clean energy operations..

“The problem of dealing with everyday waste is a global challenge, with more than two billion tonnes of municipal solid waste generated each year. To this end, we are proud to be helping the state of Western Australia to deliver clean sources of power generation and sustainably manage its municipal solid waste,” Mr Al Ramahi said.

“The Australian waste-to-energy sector provides excellent commercial potential in the long-term.”

Tribe Infrastructure Group Chief Executive Officer Peter McCreanor said he looks forward to delivering clean energy infrastructure to Australia.

“This is just the first of numerous such development projects we’re working on, and our partnership with Masdar is an integral part of our strategy for Australia,” he said.

“We are proud to have played a leading role in the development and financing of the East Rockingham Recourse Recovery Facility, assembling a world-class team to deliver this important project for Western Australia.”

The $551 million facility reached financial close 23 December 2019 with support from a $18 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and $57.5 million in subordinated debt from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The facilities development consortium includes Hitachi Zosen INOVA, John Laing Investments and Acciona Concesiones.

When complete, the facility will process 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable municipal, commercial and industrial waste and up to 30,000 tonnes of biosolids per year.

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