Resource Use

UK GIB invests £28m in ‘first of a kind’ MRF

The UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has invested £28.25 million in a new materials recovery facility (MRF) and gasification plant in Forth, Scotland.

The investment was made via UK Waste Resources and Energy Investments (UKWREI), a Foresight-managed fund, to help finance Levenseat Renewable Energy Limited’s 12.3-megawatt energy-from-waste (EfW) plant and adjacent MRF in Forth.

Equity investment company Zouk Capital has matched GIB's investment, and development company Levenseat Limited, and Investec Bank plc have also invested in the £111-million project, which marks ‘the first time a UK plant has combined fluidised bed gasification technology with refuse-derived fuel (RDF), processed by the MRF’.

Plant details

UK GIB invests £28m in ‘first of a kind’ MRF
Artist's impression of the Levenseat MRF/EfW facility

The project will see a 215,000 tonne per annum MRF built just off the M8 corridor in Forth, which will recover plastics, metals, paper and card from household waste and commercial waste from the Glasgow and Edinburgh regions for recycling.

The remaining residual waste will then be formed into RDF and fed into an adjacent fluidised bed gasification plant to produce heat and electricity.

It is expected that the EfW facility will divert around 1.4 million tonnes from landfill and generate enough electricity to meet the needs of nearly 18,000 homes over its 25-year lifespan. The electricity will be supplied to the National Grid, with the heat output assisting the operation of the facility.

Further details regarding the technology will reportedly be announced ‘shortly’, but development company Levenseat has said it is now ‘actively pursuing the opportunity to supply spare heat from the new plant to local homes’.

According to Levenseat, the MRF will become operational in January 2017, with the complete plant commencing operations in June of that year.

More than 100 jobs are expected to be created during the construction phase (which is currently taking place under the management of contractors M+W Group) with 50 full-time jobs being created once the plant is up and running.

‘Making a significant contribution towards Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan’

Speaking of the investment, Shaun Kingsbury, Chief Executive of UK GIB, said: “This first-of-kind project is the latest innovative example of how the UK is modernising its waste management infrastructure. By increasing recycling and using the remaining waste to produce energy, the Levenseat project will make a significant contribution towards Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan.” (The Scottish Government’s plan includes a target to send less than five per cent of waste to landfill by 2025.)

James Samworth, Director of the Foresight Group, added that the MRF “will be a significant boost to waste infrastructure capacity in Scotland”, while the EfW plant will “benefit from the certainty of supply and the superior feedstock quality delivered by the high-specification MRF plant adjacent”.

Colin Campbell, Managing Partner at Zouk Capital LLP, highlighted that the facility will also be “one of the few advanced conversion technology (ACT) projects to be built under the UK government’s Renewables Obligation (RO) regime” – as although 40 ATC plants received an RO extension, only around six of them are expected to be built.

GIB criticised for over-investing in EfW

The announcement of the latest GIB investment comes amidst growing criticism of GIB’s preference for EfW facilities.

According to environmental consultancy Eunomia, 90 per cent of GIB’s investments in the waste sector have been in projects that are mostly or wholly EfW residual waste treatment facilities. However, the consultancy argues that the interventions in the UK waste sector ‘risk hindering the country’s efforts to increase recycling and decarbonise energy’, as GIB has made ‘repeated errors in assessing the environmental impact of the projects it funds’.

Eunomia highlighted that when GIB appraises the environmental impact of an incinerator, it assumes that ‘every unit of electricity produced by an incinerator leads to the avoidance of generation as intense as CCGT [combined cycle gas turbine]’, but the ‘reality is that the benefit of electricity from incinerators drops rapidly over its lifetime’.

As such, Eunomia is now backing calls made by the Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee in July 2014 to ensure that UK GIB finances innovative recycling technologies to ‘support a circular economy’.

Find out more about the Levenseat MRF/EfW facility in Forth.

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