Energy from Waste Plants UK with Carbon Capture

Published: 12 May 2020

Energy from Waste plants in the UK currently emit around 11 Mte CO2 per year, with proposed and under-construction energy facilities potentially adding another 9 Mte CO2 per year. Reducing these emissions would have a material impact on the UK’s low carbon energy transition.

Preliminary analysis of the potential of fitting Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) equipment to the growing number of Energy from Waste (EfW) plants in the UK as a means of CO2 reduction has therefore been undertaken.

The key conclusion from this analysis is that the cost of EfW-CCUS technology as a means of emissions abatement is competitive with other industrial abatement options.

Due to the biogenic content in waste, adding CCUS to EfW actually reduces net carbon in the system, which may be more effective than other disposal options e.g. Moving tonnes of waste to landfill.

However there is conceptual tension between waste combustion with energy recovery facilities and increased recycling as options, which although carefully managed in current policy would need further consideration if EfW with CCUS is to be incentivised, requiring policies reflecting this ability to generate “negative emissions” as a consequence of using the biogenic content of part of the carbon in waste.

Energy from Waste Report: Key points

Technical conclusions from the report include:

  • Many EfW plants are geographically well located for CCUS, being in industrial clusters near to accessible CO2 storage locations
  • A significant proportion of the UK’s EfW fleet is relatively new compared to other industrial facilities, and they therefore have a long life ahead of them in which to benefit from a CCUS retrofit investment
  • CCUS significantly improves the sustainability of Energy from Waste facilities and can therefore mitigate many of the system level environmental issues that threaten the long-term sustainability of EfW in the UK
  • On a lowest system transition cost basis, fitting CCUS to EfW plants could lead to 20% of all captured CO2 in the UK being derived from EfW plants by 2050, with a corresponding 20% overall increase in CO2 being captured in the same timeframe compared with the case without EfW-CCUS being available.

Energy from Waste Regulations UK: Policy Recommendations

  • EfW with CCUS should be included in the options the Government assesses when it considers an investment in the decarbonisation of industrial clusters. Learnings from experience from Japanese, Dutch and Norwegian projects should be sought.
  • Policy is developed that reflects the system value of the “negative emissions” that EfW with CCUS can provide. For large installations consideration should be given to the preferential placement of new plants in known/developing CCUS areas.
  • A more detailed option and techno-economic analysis is carried out that focuses on the technical options available for decarbonising EfW plants, the economic sensitivities to changes in residual waste quality/price, and which reviews the relative strengths of modern waste management and treatment options from a lifecycle analysis and cost perspective.

 

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