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RDF exports becoming ‘increasingly difficult’

Industry experts have indicated the boom-time for refuse-derived fuel (RDF) exports could be over, following figures released by the Environment Agency (EA) showing a potential slowdown in the overseas market.

Between January and August this year, exports of RDF and other associated material from England was down by nearly 17,000 tonnes on the same period in 2016 to just over 2.1 million tonnes.

This supports suggestions that the rapid growth in RDF exports over recent years is easing. From England and Wales, exports stood at around a quarter of a million tonnes in 2011 compared with just under three million tonnes in 2015.

RDF export firms such as Geminor and N+P have made big investments in UK infrastructure to cope with demand.

Keith Riley, a partner at EnergyGap, said finding export capacity was “becoming increasingly more difficult”, despite continued upward growth in the quantity of RDF sent abroad.

He said landfill bans in the Netherlands and Germany, competitive imports from eastern Europe and low electricity prices in northern Europe were factors. 

“Exports continue, but I think the rate of increase will slow as it becomes increasingly more difficult to find the additional capacity in the north European plants, which must comply with R1 of the Waste Framework Directive.

“As UK capacity comes on-stream, there is no doubt in my mind that a good proportion of the waste currently being exported will switch to UK disposal because it will be far more secure.”

RDF exporter Andusia, which last year was placed in the top 10 of the Sunday Times Heathrow SME Export Track 100 League, said reports had suggested the export market was slowing but that it had yet to feel the effects.

Rachel Balfour, marketing executive at Andusia, said: “Perhaps these reports have come from other exporters who are feeling the effect now that Europe is coming out of recession and seems to be producing and using more of its own waste.

“One thing we have noticed in recent months is that there has been a consolidation in the market. Many of the tier 1 exporters seem to have fallen away in favour of aggregators, such as ourselves, being the preference due to the personal relationship we have with our suppliers and plants.”

Andusia recently secured a 10-year contract with German combined heat and power firm MHKW Rothensee.

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