Pyrolysis plant gets the green light in Wales

A Bridgend pilot project which is generating clean energy from municipal waste is about to be transformed into a £25M commercial operation, due to open in 2010

In what is thought to be a UK first, 3NRG has acquired the necessary regulatory licences to operate an integrated mechanical heat treatment with power plant at Bridgend in Wales. The facility will generate enough electricity to supply its own needs and an additional 4,000 homes.

Employing a combination of solid waste steam treatment and materials recovery for recycling, the remaining biomass - derived from paper, cardboard and food residues - is put through a pyrolysis process to produce a gas. This gas is used to create steam, which in turn drives an electricity-generating turbine. The 4MW of surplus electricity generated is fed to the national grid.

A pilot project has been running for some time at the 3.5 acre former landfill site at Tythegston. The site was licensed for waste processing but has now been given the green light for the construction of a £25M integrated waste processing/electricity generating plant due for completion by early 2010.

Proven process
Mícheál Geary, 3NRG's business development director, says each element of the plant's technology is well-proven. "The autoclave mechanical separation stages have run on a small commercial scale at Bridgend. The thermal process is robust and proven in a wide variety of biomass processes. We are not inventing technologies, but we are applying existing proven technologies in an innovative combination to the processing of solid municipal waste."

He adds: "The 3NRG model is particularly attractive from a business perspective as policy, legislation and fiscal measures are all aimed at diverting waste from landfill throughout the EU. This process has the least cost, we believe, and can successfully operate at levels of 100,000 tonnes of waste per year. We are looking at a payback period on our investment of just three years."

3NRG is part of the FLI Group, based in Ireland, and FLI Environmental's chief executive Michael Flynn says that the company expects to build ten similar plants in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland over the next decade.

"We believe that this is the cleanest and most environmentally sustainable solution to processing residual solid municipal waste.

"This is a closed loop system which recycles or reuses 95% of solid waste which would otherwise have gone to landfill. It also has the smallest possible carbon footprint because it maximizes recycling and is the most cost-effective solution for the treatment of residual waste. The technology is suited to small-to-medium scale applications facilitating a regional, decentralized approach to waste management, reducing transport costs and impacts."

Competitive service
The company believes that the Bridgend facility, which is ideally located to serve both Cardiff and Swansea, will provide a competitive waste processing service for local authorities and private waste contractors in the South Wales region.

"Our process sits comfortably with ongoing efforts to maximize recycling through separate collections and ensures maximum recycling and recovery of the residual fraction that remains in the black bin," says Geary.

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