Urbaser Balfour Beatty wins £500m EfW contract


Gloucestershire County Council's Cabinet have given the go-ahead for Urbaser Balfour Beatty (UBB) to build and operate an energy-from-waste facility at Javelin Park, near Haresfield after months of ‘technical, financial and legal discussions’.

The 25-year contract, estimated to be worth approximately £500 million, will see the combined heat and electricity facility process up to 190,000 tonnes of waste a year, specifically focusing on the waste that cannot be reduced, reused or recycled. The council has said that it aims to recycle 70 per cent of Gloucestershire’s rubbish by 2030, with the remaining 30 per cent being sent to the UBB facility. The county recycled 47 per cent of its rubbish in 2011-12.

Councillor Stan Waddington, Cabinet Project Champion for waste, welcomed the agreement, saying: "This decision follows on from Cabinet's decision in December last year and will now allow us to agree a formal contract. This deal is good value for Gloucestershire taxpayers and will help us deliver a clean, green and affordable solution to Gloucestershire's rubbish… People can be reassured that the proposed contract has been designed to be flexible and capable of adapting to what we need."

Javier Peiro of Urbaser Balfour Beatty said: "Urbaser Balfour Beatty is pleased that Gloucestershire County Council's Cabinet has awarded the contract for a long-term solution to the county's waste problem. We… are confident that this contract offers excellent value and benefits for the county.

"The proposed energy-from-waste facility at Javelin Park will play a vital role in meeting the real and pressing need for an alternative to landfill in Gloucestershire… [and] would prevent the equivalent annual greenhouse gas emissions of nearly a million cars, recover approximately 3,000 tonnes of metals each year for recycling, and increase Gloucestershire's renewable energy production by over 50 per cent."

According to the council, the contract will:

  • Save taxpayers £190 million over 25 years from eliminating landfill and energy prices;
  • Divert 92 per cent of the county's residual household waste from landfill;
  • Generate 16,000 megawatt hours of renewable electricity a year (equivalent to the needs of around 25,000 homes);
  • Potentially provide heat to local businesses and residents.
  • Create 300 jobs during construction and 40 jobs during operation.

The ‘potential’ to provide heat to local business and residents is a recurring issue with combined heat and power (CHP) plants, as historically, they have rarely been able to deliver on their heat-providing services, due to the disruptive nature of implementing the required pipe network to nearby buildings. Veolia’s South East London Combined Heat and Power plant for example, was built in 1994 but is still unable to provide heat to buildings due to a lack of infrastructure. Incinerators that only produce electricity tend to achieve conversion efficiencies of between 15 and 25 per cent, whereas adding heat production can take efficiencies up to 79 per cent, according to consultancy AEA.

This plant is the latest of several energy-from-waste plants to get the go ahead, despite a recent report from Eunomia Research & Consulting suggesting that the UK could see overcapacity in residual waste treatment plants by 2015, if the current rate of construction is not curbed. The report suggests that due to increased emphasis on recycling, reusing and recovering material, residual waste rates are falling, leaving incinerators without the required levels of waste needed to produce efficient and cost-effective processes.

UBB will now have to wait for its planning application to be approved and an environmental permit to be granted by the Environment Agency before construction can start.