Following the launch of its £20m MRF, Scottish firm Avondale is planning a thermal drying facility and advanced fuel production facilities.
In June 2010, the Scottish Government outlined its vision for a Scotland “where all waste is seen as a resource: waste is minimised; valuable resources are not disposed of in landfills, and most waste is sorted, leaving only limited amounts to be treated”.
This tough approach outlined in Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan includes two new ambitions that will apply to all waste: 70% to be recycled, and a maximum of 5% to be sent to landfill. Both must be achieved by 2025. In order to deliver these changes effectively, radical new measures will need to be developed.
Colin Cooper managing director of Avondale Environmental - a waste management and renewable energy generation company based in Central Scotland - believes that the company’s new MRF is a significant milestone in this process.
The state-of-the-art MRF built next to the firm’s landfill site in Polmont, in the Falkirk council area of Central Scotland, opened at the beginning of February and will process in the region of 200,000 tonnes of waste a year. This is roughly equivalent to the City of Glasgow’s black bin bag waste for a year. In the immediate future, the MRF will secure up to 70 new jobs as the plant increases to full capacity over the coming year.
Since opening to receive waste in late 1999, the landfill site has proactively tried to sustainably meet the challenges being faced in the waste sector. It takes waste from the Forth Valley area and West Lothian, handling around 450,000 tonnes of municipal, commercial, industrial and hazardous waste each year.
Using methane captured by on-site gas engines, the landfill currently generates renewable energy that has been exported to the National Grid. Some of this electricity will now be used to power the new MRF.
The MRF harvests recyclable materials such as plastics, glass, metal and aluminium which will then be sold for re-use. It is also a source of renewable fuels from waste and it diverts approximately 60% of the materials handled away from landfill. Strategically located in the heart of Scotland, Cooper says, the Avondale site it a valuable and accessible asset for local authorities and commercial organisations within a 50-mile radius of the site.
But for Avondale, this is only the beginning of a much longer term strategy. “We have already invested £60m in our facilities at Polmont, and this additional £20m MRF is the critical springboard for further development,” says Cooper. “Taking us way beyond our traditional business of landfill services and firmly rooting us in the recycling and renewable sectors.
“Continuing advances in waste and recycling technology, increasing fiscal and policy pressures on landfill and a burgeoning renewable energy landscape have created opportunities which we have and will continue to grasp.”
The company is currently planning phase two of its development and the introduction of a Thermal Drying Facility, which should come in from 2016 onwards. This will produce a higher quality renewable fuel from the Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and organic matter. These fuels will then be used in the high performance end of the market, such as energy-from-waste facilities.
The high-grade RDF is a high calorific fuel that is produced by shredding and dehydrating solid waste with converter technology (in this case, thermal drying) and consists mainly of combustible components from municipal waste. It can either be sold in its processed form or compressed into pellets, bricks or logs and used for other purposes, for example, in the UK and Europe RDF is used to fuel cement kilns.
The thermal drying facility will increase the site’s landfill diversion by around 90% and it will be fed by the surplus high grade heat from the on-site landfill gas engines.
Following on from this will be the development of Advanced Fuel Production facilities utilising the RDF. “This is an innovative and exciting area of renewable energy which is largely untapped,” says Cooper. Avondale is currently monitoring production trials of technology in Europe which produce diesel from RDF.
Cooper argues that these future developments underline Avondale’s commitment as a pivotal player in the transformation of Scotland’s waste and renewable industries. “With plans to continue investing in Scotland, in the Polmont facilities and workforce, and in the local community,” he says. “Avondale remains at the forefront of advanced waste technology.”