Cheshire set for ‘world first’ waste-to-energy plant

DONG Energy is set to start construction on a waste-to-energy plant in Cheshire that will be the first of its kind to process unsorted and untreated household waste into biogas and recyclables.

The plant will be constructed in Northwich and once complete in 2017 will be able to process 120,000 tonnes of household waste annually, equivalent to the waste produced by 110,000 homes. 

The facility will be the first commercial full-scale site to use an innovative enzyme-based treatment, called REnescience, which converts unsorted municipal solid waste (MSW) into biogas and separated recyclable materials. 

Enzyme technology

The process, which has been tested at a pilot plant in Copenhagen since 2009, involves adding water and heat to MSW to create conditions suitable for enzymes, which are then added in a specially designed reactor. The enzymes liquefy any biodegradable materials in the waste stream, creating a ‘bioliquid’ which is easily separated from other non-degradable solids. 

The bioliquid will be used as a feedstock for biogas production, but also has potential uses in the chemicals industry or as a transportation fuel. Meanwhile, separated plastics and metals will be extracted for recycling.

The process does not require pre-treatment, combustion or shredding of waste, making it highly efficient for capturing both biomass and recyclables. 

Revolutionary approach

Richard Belfield, development director at FCC Environment Group, which will be the lead waste supplier to the plant, said that the technology could “revolutionise” industry thinking on waste-to-energy.

“Not only does this technology convert waste into energy without the need for the combustion of the waste; it will, for the first time, be able to extract the valuable recyclable materials which so far have been difficult, if not out of reach, in traditional municipal residual waste treatment processes.”

Northern investment

Brent Cheshire, UK country chairman of DONG Energy, added: “It's fantastic to see the world's first bio plant of this type being built in Northwich, underlining [that] the UK is once again leading the way in renewable energy. This new plant also highlights our commitment to investing in the Northern Powerhouse.

“REnescience is a brilliant new technology and generates as many resources as possible from everyday household waste. This new bio plant will see us handling waste in a much smarter way.”

The plant will be DONG Energy’s first move into the UK waste-to-energy market, with the Danish firm better known for its significant investments in offshore wind, including the mammoth Walney offshore wind farm off the Cumbrian coast.

Posted under Environmental Technologies and Renewable Energy, Biotechnology, Chemicals and Energy and Renewables on 23 February 2016