Fortum to enter the UK Energy-from-Waste sector

European energy company Fortum has announced plans to build a new Energy-from-Waste plant in Glasgow, expanding its UK-based operations.

EfW facilityFortum will enter the sector with its new Carbon 2x concept, which aims to capture emissions from waste incineration and convert them into CO2-based, high-quality raw materials.

Producing methane as an intermediate step in the pilot, Fortum’s long-term target is to produce special plastics. Alongside plastic applications, the company is also exploring the use of its methanol as an ‘alternative, more sustainable feedstock’ for the chemical industry.

The Carbon 2x process will utilise the CO2 captured from the flue gases of waste incineration (energy-from-waste plants), together with ‘sustainably sourced hydrogen (H2)’, to produce either methane or methanol as an intermediate product.

This methane and/or methanol can then be used as a raw material in, for example, the polymer production industry, ‘where it can replace virgin fossil-based and scarce renewable substances and therefore decrease new emissions to the atmosphere’.

Could waste incineration go ‘net-negative’?

A round of pilot testing originally presented the company with the potential of Carbon 2x alleviating current dependence on fossil-based raw materials, improving Europe’s self-sufficiency and potentially decarbonising waste incineration.

Fortum told Resource that its Carbon 2x concept has allowed the company to rethink CO2 and its uses in the waste-to-materials context. The firm added that its aim is to ‘maximise the circulation of materials by complementing mechanical recycling’, as well as supporting ‘the decarbonization of energy-from-waste plants’.

Annually, 3.6 million tonnes of plastic are used to make products in the UK, but only 41 per cent of this plastic is collected for recycling. Fortum told Resource that it hopes to assist in the recycling of plastics that are not currently captured in separate collections, complimenting mechanical recycling by making use of the emissions produced by the incineration of non-recyclable waste. The firm claims that if Carbon 2x and waste incineration is used to supplement mechanical recycling, up to ‘90 per cent of the carbon from waste could be circulated’.

Fortum: ‘We have to rethink how we do recycling’

Kalle Saarimaa, Vice President of Recycling and Waste at Fortum, said: “The UK Energy-from-Waste market is in an interesting development phase and will, over time, offer the potential for further investments in Energy-from-Waste.

“At Fortum our objective is to reuse, recycle and utilise as much of the waste streams as possible; we want to make waste incineration fully circular. This means that also CO2 emissions should be turned into new raw materials.

“To do this at scale, we need to rethink how we do recycling in general. In the UK alone, there are 48 EfW plants, meaning that 11 million tonnes of CO2 could be captured and reused in a year. We want to tap into this potential and bring our competence and track record of pioneering waste solutions to the market.

“We have a holistic approach and competence in waste management. This wider entry to the UK enables us to investigate the investment potential for our other strategic growth areas, such as the recycling of batteries and Waste-to-Energy ash recycling.

“In the future, also in the UK, we could not only capture and use the emissions from the waste incineration, but also recover and reuse valuable raw materials from the ash. For us, the concept of ‘waste’ does not exist. There is only material that can be used and reused again, with the right solutions and competence in place.”