Q What is being proposed?
The proposal to be submitted to Swindon Borough Council is for the construction and operation of a Renewable Energy Centre (REC). The facility will recover energy non hazardous residual waste in the form of heat and electricity. The proposal includes a gasification plant with equipment for energy recovery, the necessary associated infrastructure, an industrial warehouse to be used for storage and distribution, new vehicular access and appropriate landscaping.
Q Why do we need this development?
There is a need to generate renewable energy in the UK, and to produce electrical power and heat at the same time. A facility operating in this manner is known as a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant, which is widely recognised as being one of the most efficient methods of generating energy. CHP developments are being strongly encouraged by Government to increase energy efficiency in the UK.
There is also a need to deal efficiently with the residual waste that remains after recycling efforts have taken place, which is not practical to reprocess into new products. The best way to deal with this residual material is to recover energy from it, through a facility such as the one proposed in this application.
Q What is RDF or SRF?
Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) is produced from the residual left over waste after extensive recycling has taken place. In this case, the waste comes from two sources: municipal solid waste (MSW), which comes from households and municipal facilities, and non- hazardous commercial and industrial (C&I) waste (such as packaging materials). The recycling systems used beforehand include kerbside collections for specific materials, other segregated collection systems and ‘bring to’ centres, mechanical separation plants and also some biological processing to reduce organic content. As a result, the national recycling rate for MSW was 44.9% in 2014 (DEFRA), which shows the levels currently being achieved in the UK.
Q What is the difference between RDF and SRF?
There is no real difference between the terms Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), except that SRF has to meet specific technical criteria (such as particle size and moisture levels) in order to meet certain European quality standards. RDF is more generic in nature. Both SRF and RDF are extensively used in Europe and the UK for energy generation in industrial applications, such as cement kilns. They are also used in dedicated energy recovery facilities, such as gasification plants. RDF and SRF are both waste derived fuels.
In this application, the fuel for the facility is referred to as RDF for simplicity.
Q Why can’t all waste be recycled?
It is simply not practical or possible to do so in our modern society, although it’s worth noting that the UK has made massive strides from being one of the worst recyclers in Europe in 1991 (at only 6% with virtually everything else being sent to landfill) to being amongst the best today, when like for like comparisons are made. For example, whilst the UK is at 44.9%, Germany is at 43%, the Netherlands at 52% and Denmark at 58%.
Examples of materials which cannot be recycled are plastic films like the ones that cover ready meals, some types of textiles, many laminated materials (such as certain types of crisp packets), disposable nappies, paper and card contaminated with food.
Q Which other countries burn RDF and SRF to generate energy?
Almost all countries in the EU use RDF and SRF to generate energy. They have been active in using this fuel in combined heat and power plants to provide energy for local communities for many years prior to the UK beginning to develop such facilities.
For example, Sweden has 32 such facilities, Denmark 27, Germany 81, Switzerland 30 and Austria 13 (see http://www.cewep.eu/information/data/studies/m_1459). All these countries have a strong and well-deserved reputation for environmental security and the achievement of high operating standards. The UK is now beginning to match this type of efficient facility.
Q What about climate change?
The REC will be equipped with modern technology that maximises environmental efficiency and effective use of the RDF. This will recover energy in the form of electricity and heat (as steam or very hot water).
Over 50% of the RDF is biomass or organic material; in other words, food or plant based material and degradable carbon such as paper, cardboard, natural fibres and wood. As a result, energy generated from it is classed as renewable and carbon-neutral energy. The proportion of biomass will vary according to the where the waste has come from and the processes used to produce it.
When burnt, fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal all release much larger quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) than RDF. Being able to use RDF instead of these fuels is known as ‘offsetting’ and is recognised as being a effective way to reduce the impact on the environment through climate change.
Q Are there any local customers for the heat?
The application site is set in an industrialised location, providing considerable potential for the export of heat from the REC. This could be to commercial properties in the locality. These prospective users may also be interested in the exported power.
Constructive discussions have been held with some potential customers who could use the heat, instead of having to generate it themselves using fossil fuels, such as gas or oil.
However, at this stage, potential consumers generally view the REC as a simple utility provider, so not unreasonably, they are reluctant to commit to serious discussions for the supply of heat and power until planning consent is secured and the development is likely to proceed. As a result, these discussions have to remain commercially confidential.
Q How long will it take to build?
The facility will take roughly 24 months to construct, with an additional 6 months commissioning and testing at the end of that period.
Q How much energy will be generated?
The proposed facility is capable of generating 14.5 MW/hr of electricity and 1.5MW of heat. This may decrease as the amount of heat exported to any local user increases, depending on the temperature and quantity of heat that is required. Both the electricity and heat can benefit local consumers.
Q Who will operate the facility?
Rolton Kilbride will not operate the plant. Instead, the facility will be operated under contract by an experienced company with an established track record of operating similar energy generating plants using waste fuels such as RDF. Due to the number of similar facilities now operating in the EU and worldwide, there is no shortage of such companies and interest in the operating contract. The storage warehouse may be operated by the same, or a different, contractor.
Q How many people will it employ?
The facility will employ 20 full time operators, maintenance technicians, engineers and managers. The warehouse and storage facility could employ up to another 40 people Experience indicates that these people are most likely to be recruited and live locally to the facility. Full specialist training is provided and the potential to include apprenticeships is being explored, too.