Viridor announces £1 billion investment in carbon capture

Viridor has announced plans to invest £1 billion into carbon capture, utilisation and storage technology (CCUS), which it states will accelerate the UK’s decarbonisation agenda.

The scheme will see modular CCUS plants being installed across five Viridor energy from waste (EfW) plants, with the company partnering with Aker Carbon Capture in order to roll out the infrastructure. Viridor states that the CCUS solutions will be based on the carbon capture company’s pre-existing proprietary technology.

Energy from waste plantAccording to Viridor, the plants will allow the technology to be deployed within 15 months of planning and permitting, and should see fossil fuel emissions reduced by up to 90 per cent. Development on Viridor’s five EfW sites, in tandem with two planned bespoke CCUS plants, should deliver 1.5MT of carbon dioxide savings annually, meeting 15 per cent of the Government’s 2030 emissions reduction target. The waste management company also claims that the investment will create approximately 1,000 construction and 180 skilled green jobs across the nation.

The investment in modular CCUS technology develops on Viridor’s existing plans to construct a 0.9m tonne carbon capture plant at its EfW site in Runcorn, which forms part of the HyNet industrial CCUS cluster. According to independent research, just under five million tonnes of carbon dioxide could be captured and stored annually by 2030 if the 15 EfW sites within 20 miles of the UK’s industrial CCUS clusters are made use of. The research also
asserts that CCUS on EfW facilities could be lower cost in absolute terms than within other sectors. Whilst CCUS technology has its supporters, it is not without its critics, with sceptics warning of the potential for the lock-in effect to come into force with the implementation of the infrastructure, which would see the burning of waste being perpetuated unnecessarily.

Viridor’s decarbonisation goals

The announcement of the scheme is the latest in a series of phases outlined in Viridor’s decarbonisation plan. In May 2020, the resource management company detailed a five-step action plan roadmapping the journey towards net zero emissions by 2040. Viridor also aims to be the first net negative emissions waste and recycling company in the UK by 2045. In addition to taking steps to substantially increase recycling rates, the plan outlined Viridor’s intention to use carbon capture technologies to minimise emissions from waste that cannot be recycled. This new plan would enable the company to become net zero by 2030, a decade ahead of schedule.

Kevin Bradshaw, CEO of Viridor, said: “Viridor stands ready to invest in developing world-leading carbon capture technology. This will support our company and sector to decarbonise, as we have committed to do. But first of a kind technology projects on this scale require genuine partnership between the public and private sectors. Government policy support for waste management facilities to participate in industrial carbon capture schemes will be vital for us to keep progressing our plans.”

Minister for Investment Gerry Grimstone said: "Viridor's investment in cutting-edge decarbonisation technology will support the UK’s commitment to green growth and ambitious net zero targets. Investments like this will be vital to help reduce emissions and limit the rise in global temperatures whilst driving jobs, growth and levelling up across the country. The Global Investment Summit will demonstrate how we can use investment to nurture technological developments and propel our economy towards a more prosperous, greener future."

Tara Davies, Partner and co-Head of KKR Infrastructure for EMEA, said: “We are hugely excited that Viridor are playing their part to help deliver a low-carbon future in the UK. Our investment in Viridor reflects KKR’s commitment to investing in critical UK infrastructure and in companies which advance solutions to some of the world’s most pressing sustainability and climate challenges.”

Valborg Lundegaard, Chief Executive Officer of Aker Carbon Capture, said: “We are delighted to partner with Viridor on projects that could realize major emissions reductions in a hard to abate sector like waste-to-energy by 2030. Our modular carbon capture plants are designed for fast delivery and easy hook-up, and together with our partners we see this as a great opportunity to contribute to reaching climate goals and creating green jobs in the UK.”

David Phillips, Head of UK at Aker Carbon Capture, added: "The UK has set out a globally leading ambition on CCS and has the natural resources to make this a reality, which was instrumental in attracting Aker Carbon Capture to partner with Viridor in this market."