Veolia announces latest carbon capture technology in UK EfWs

Veolia is set to become the first UK operator of Energy-from-Waste (EfW) facilities to demonstrate the latest carbon capture technology through a partnership with Carbon Clean.

Teams from the partnership are currently working on the new project, with a trial expected to begin in spring 2021, which will highlight how the latest carbon capture technology can work effectively on EfW plants.

Veolia EfWVeolia currently operates 10 plants that take around 2.3 million tonnes of non-recyclable waste and transform this into electricity. This latest carbon capture technology is designed to trap CO2 at the EfW, preventing it from being emitted into the atmosphere.

As an estimated 20 per cent of the nation’s carbon emissions are generated by domestic heating due to a low standard of energy efficiency, Veolia expects the latest carbon capture technology to lower carbon emissions and reduce costs.

The waste management company has reported that the Carbon Clean technology is significantly smaller than other technologies. This is said to make it suited to EfWs as it can extract and purify CO2, allowing it to form part of a new carbon circular economy.

The CO2 is then compressed and/or liquified, allowing for it to be used in industrial applications or for permanent storage.

Gavin Graveson, Executive Vice President of Veolia UK and Ireland, said: "This project marks another significant step forward for the industry by making it possible for Energy Recovery Facilities to contribute to the environment through lowering carbon and delivering landfill diversion, grid resilience, district heating and carbon capture.

“By using the potential of non-recyclable waste to generate energy and support communities, we can power the low carbon cities of the future."

Last year, a Zero Waste Scotland report highlighted the negative climate impact of EfW, finding that the carbon intensity of EfW plants was twice as high as the UK national grid average, which could contradict any claim that it can be considered a low-carbon technology.

While Veolia expects these advancements in carbon capture technology will contribute to lowering the carbon intensity and greenhouse gas emissions emitted from EfW sites, anti-incineration activist groups are claiming otherwise. Shlomo Dowen, National Coordinator of the UK Without Incineration Network (UKWIN), commented: "While it remains scandalous that incinerators are such a high carbon technology, even if this problem were mitigated that would not make incineration sustainable.

“Study after study shows that the vast majority of the material used for incinerator feedstock could and should have been recycled.

“This carbon capture experiment does nothing to prevent recyclable material from being incinerated, and does not undo the harm caused by the loss of these materials. Incineration remains a leakage from the circular economy that should be discouraged."

Having been defined as critical for meeting climate targets by the International Energy Agency, the carbon capture technology is said to help the UK meet its target of bringing all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, including technologies such as carbon capture.

In November, the UK Government released a 10-point plan for a “green industrial revolution”, which included more than £1.2 billion of new investments, including the latest carbon capture technologies, ahead of hosting the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow later this year.