Resource Use

Wheelabrator Kemsley EfW plant enters full operation

A new energy-from-waste (EfW) facility in Kent, Wheelabroator Kemsley, has entered full commercial operation following a successful commissioning phase in early 2020.

Operated by Wheelabrator Technologies, the new facility is a combined heat and power facility that will generate up to 49.9 megawatts (MW) of electricity with the capacity to process 550,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste every year.

Wheelabrator Kemsley was built by contractor CNIM, creating 800 jobs over four years of construction, including 46 full-time operational roles, with significant inward investment in the region around the facility.

The new facility brings Wheelabrator Technologies’ total residual waste treatment capacity in the UK to 2.2 million tonnes, generating a net 1.1 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy for the UK grid, enough to power 500,000 homes and businesses every year.

Wheelabrator Technologies’ other UK facilities include Wheelabrator Parc Adfer in Deeside in north Wales (200,000 tonnes of waste per year), Multifuel Energy Limited Ferrybridge 1 in Yorkshire (725,000 tonnes) and Multifuel Energy Limited Ferrybridge 2 in Yorkshire (675,000 tonnes).

The new facility adds a significant amount of additional residual waste treatment capacity to the UK’s current overall capacity at a time when industry and policy-makers are calling for more EfW plants to deal with the UK’s growing levels of residual waste.

A new report from UK think tank Policy Connect has called for widespread deployment of EfW facilities in a “Scandinavian” approach, naming EfW technology as the ‘safest, cheapest and most environmentally responsible solution to the UK’s residual waste problem’ as the UK looks to continue its move away from landfill.

Wheelabrator Kemsley EfW facility
Wheelabrator Kemsley EfW facility
Concerns have been raised, however, over the emissions produced by EfW plants and the health impacts of living close to these incinerators, while MPs have called for an incineration tax to promote investment in recycling rather than locking in waste treatment in EfW facilities.

Robert Boucher, President and CEO at Wheelabrator Technologies, said: “To be able to complete construction, hot commissioning, grid synchronization and steam export to DS Smith during the Covid-19 pandemic is a fantastic accomplishment and a testament to the commitment of our team and our partners to work safely and make a difference. Takeover at Kemsley is the result of many years of commitment, hard work and strong partnerships with DS Smith, our customers and the communities we operate within.”

Wheelabrator Kemsley will also provide steam heat – up to 70 tonnes per hour – to fibre-based packaging company DS Smith’s adjacent Kemsley Paper Mill.

Colin McIntyre, CEO of DS Smith’s Paper and Recycling divisions, said: “Harvesting steam from Wheelabrator Technologies’ facility for our paper mill at Kemsley is a key part of our energy strategy. As the largest mill for recycled paper in the UK, processing almost one million tonnes of paper for recycling a year, achieving the right energy mix is vital. With the facility fully operationally, it will supply us with a third of the steam required to run our paper making operations.

“We are delighted with our strategic energy partnership with Wheelabrator, a partnership which enables a carbon reduction of 78,000 tonnes per year and contributes to one of our nine ambitious long-term sustainability targets – to reduce our CO2e emissions by 30 per cent per tonne of production by 2030.”

Wheelabrator Technologies submitted a Development Consent Order (DCO) application in 2019 to increase the Kemsley facility’s energy output and increase the waste capacity to 75 MW and 657,000 tonnes respectively, with a decision expected in the first three months of 2021.

Wheelabrator is also working on three new facilities expected to commence construction in 2021: Wheelabrator Kemsley North (390,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste per year), Wheelabrator Kelvin in West Bromwich (400,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste per year) and Multifuel Skelton Grange in Yorkshire (410,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste per year), developed in collaboration with SSE as part of the Multifuel Energy Limited 2 joint venture.

One project that won’t be going ahead is Wheelabrator’s proposed 500,000-tonne capacity facility in Hampshire’s Test Valley, after Wheelabrator Technologies announced it would be withdrawing plans in February this year after two public consultations revealed the extent of local opposition to the project.

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