The UK is expected to remain a “very important market” for refuse-derived fuel (RDF) exports despite forecasts of a potential fall in tonnages before 2020, according to a report.
Waste specialist Tolvik Consulting’s study RDF Exports: Here for Good?, said that as more incinerator capacity comes online in the UK, it will become increasingly difficult to secure finance for new incinerators. Consequently no more than around five million tonnes of additional capacity is projected for construction.
The report forecasts that, by 2020, at least 8.1 million tonnes of combustible waste in the UK will continue to either be landfilled or exported as RDF, and the UK would continue to be a “very important market” for RDF exports. (Map above shows the key countries involved in RDF import/export, marked in dark blue).
This is the case even though the report said that on a “sustained basis” it would be difficult to see UK RDF exports rising much above the current 2.5 million tonnes a year and “in time tonnages could well fall”.
The core RDF consumers of Germany, Sweden and Netherlands, which had a 2012 overcapacity of 4.8 million tonnes, are expected to face a significant rise in overcapacity to between 6.6 and nine million tonnes by 2020 if there is a no net decommissioning.
The five neighbouring markets, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland, are also expected to add to overcapacity.
The most significant factor that would affect RDF markets is likely to be the rate at which existing incineration capacity is decommissioned, said the report. It is estimated that overcapacity would disappear if all incinerators between 44 and 48 years old were decommissioned by 2020.
Higher energy efficiency in Swedish incinerators meant that they have a €30 (£22) per tonne gate fee advantage over Netherlands and Germany, which is “more than enough” to offset additional RDF transport costs from the UK to Sweden.
The report added that the lowest cost RDF export from the UK to Sweden is £65 per tonne compared with £84 to Germany.
Last week MRW reported that RDF and solid recovered fuel exports from England and Wales increased by a third in the past year, up to 2.4 million tonnes from 1.9 the previous year.