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Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions

What is the project?

Powerfuel Portland is proposing to deliver an Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) located at an existing site on the Isle of Portland in Dorset that will be capable of exporting around 15MW to the Grid (or large consumers of electricity in the local area). Additional energy in the form of hot water is also capable of being exported to local users. 

Why are these facilities needed?

  • As we transition to a low-waste, recyclable society, we need to deal with the current volumes of waste that is not currently recycled or is not capable of being recycled.
  • We also need to develop the technologies, which will support a low-carbon economy into the future. 
  • The UK lags behind the rest of Europe in term of percentage of energy recovered from waste.
  • We have one of the highest rates of landfill in Europe and around three million tons per annum of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF – processed waste) are exported to Europe where the potential for energy recovery is lost to the UK.
  • The landfill tax has increased to 91.35 GBP/tonne in 2019 and Scotland has already banned landfill from 2025 – following the lead of many European countries. This makes it more expensive to landfill and so creates greater demands for highly efficient waste disposal facilities like the one Powerfuel is proposing. 
  • There is a significant ERF capacity gap: 10 million tonnes per annum of material suitable for energy recovery are put into landfill. 

Why are the facilities needed in Dorset?

Local landfill disposal options have closed in the last year, resulting in local waste being shipped out of the county by road at relatively high cost. Powerfuel Portland provides a regional solution that is scaled to handle regional waste arisings. 

    • There is a great need for energy on the Isle of Portland. Limited grid capacity and lack of energy is a known economic constraint, which this project will help to alleviate.
    • The ERF will enhance local resilience, providing a local solution to Dorset’s waste problem consistent with the proximity principle in the Waste Framework Directive (which is a key feature of UK and EU law). Availability of local power will become increasingly important as society transitions, as the demand for electricity is expected to rise, for example for transport and heating.
    • The ERF proposals are strongly supported in the plan policies of the various local development and waste plans. 
    • Dorset has declared “a climate emergency” and this project will support the county’s wider sustainability goals. 
    • The Port location means that the facility can take RDF sourced from the Dorset area (which would be delivered by lorries) or other RDF by ship which would typically be delivered baled and wrapped. Shipped waste is considered as an additional part of a resilient supply strategy on top of the local waste market. Many shipping lanes pass close to Portland Port so the site is well placed to access this material by sea. 

What is an ERF and what kind of ERF will this be?

This facility is an Energy Recovery Facility. The process recovers the energy content in non-recyclable household and commercial waste, by using it as a fuel. The pre-treated and processed residual waste is delivered to combustion chambers where it is combusted at high temperatures and reduced to 20 percent of its original volume. The heat generated from the combustion chambers heats up water in steel tubes that form the walls of the combustion chambers. The water is converted to steam and delivered to a turbine that continuously generates electricity. A facility is classified as an ERF when it meets stringent efficiency criteria.

Is the technology proven?

Yes, it is. The facility will use best in class Northern European technology. There are more than 40 energy from waste facilities operating in the UK. However, most run on "raw" municipal solid waste (MSW) and commercial and industrial wastes, rather than being designed to only accept a homogenous refined fuel like the RDF that this facility will accept. Of these, only a proportion meet the exacting standards to be classified as a high efficiency Energy Recovery Facility. Some of these use "advanced conversion technology" and other types of processes to achieve this, with different levels of efficiency. 

More than 20 facilities are in various stages of development and many more are operational across Europe, including several located in city centre locations (such as the facility in Copenhagen). 

How much energy will the ERF plant create?

Electrical output:
Around 15MW of electricity will be available for export to the Grid. Closer to 17MW of power is actually generated, of which the facility consumes 2MW for its internal processes, in particular for emission reduction and cleaning. 15MW is sufficient to power an average of 30,000 typical homes per year, based on Ofgem's Typical Domestic Consumption figures for 2017.

In addition to the electricity exported, there will also be heat energy available for export into a district heating system which can serve local need in housing, community buildings and businesses. This would reduce the use of fossil fuels by those parties. Powerfuel Portland will proactively work with partners to make the district heating a reality. 

How much waste will it process?

The facility has the capacity to process 180,000 tonnes of waste.

What is RDF?

Refuse Derived Fuel or RDF is a refined processed fuel which consists largely of combustible and non-hazardous components of municipal solid waste (MSW), comprising household, commercial and skip waste after the recyclable material has been removed. 

The RDF can include similar characteristic wastes from commercial and industrial processes (but never hazardous or medical wastes). It is dried and shredded and therefore has less volume and takes less energy to move than unsorted “wet waste”. 

There are no odours when waste is transported in this dry state. It is usually in a baled and wrapped format for transportation, but if transported by road may be either baled or moved in sealed vehicles. 

When used in an energy recovery facility as fuel it is more homogenous (rather than MSW) and therefore maintains higher more consistent performance in the energy extraction process and requires less additional energy inputs. 

Because RDF is produced after recyclable materials have been removed, it is a genuine “residue”. The Powerfuel Portland facility will not discourage existing high levels of recycling achieved in Dorset from continuing. 

Where will your fuel come from?

Dorset currently exports all its non-recyclable waste outside of the county. According to the Dorset Waste Partnership at the moment the majority of black bag, non- recyclable waste from Dorset goes to a mechanical/biological plant near Wimbourne. There it is turned into RDF that goes to Europe to be incinerated to generate electricity. A small amount of the waste also goes to an incinerator near Southampton and the remaining amount goes to landfill in Hampshire and Somerset. Further detail is included in the Dorset Waste Plan that was recently adopted.    

This waste, added to local commercial and industrial waste, means there is ample local RDF to supply the facility and we will work hard to secure feedstock from local sources which makes the most commercial sense for waste holder organisations to save money on transporting the waste further afield. It is commercially and environmentally most sensible for us to utilise locally-arising waste and we will work hard to secure feedstock from local sources. 

What is the ‘waste hierarchy’ and does the facility conform?

The waste hierarchy is a concept that was introduced into UK law by the EU Waste Framework Directive. It is commonly represented as a “pyramid” of options and strategies that helps society (a local authority area for example) minimise waste generation and manage the waste created in an optimal manner. It involves the evaluation of processes that protect the environment, resource depletion, energy consumption and sustainability. It ranks options from most favourable to least favourable actions. Diversion away from disposal to landfill is a critical objective. Basic mass burn incineration is classified as “disposal” – so at the same level as landfilling. 

The facility on Portland will be classified as “Recovery”, as opposed to “disposal” operation, and as it will be designed to meet the R1 Energy Efficiency Formula it is further up the waste hierarchy than standard incineration. The project promotes recycling by using residual material (RDF) that cannot be recycled.    

Why is the facility considered to be low carbon?

RDF will contain many different types of waste. Part of the RDF will come from things that were recently growing and are biodegradable (i.e. would break down in landfill releasing methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas) – e.g. food, paper, wood etc. Only the energy generated from the recently grown materials in the mixture is considered renewable. Energy from waste is therefore a partially renewable energy source, sometimes referred to as a low carbon energy source.   

How will it work?

It takes refuse derived fuel or RDF and water, and uses a moving grate boiler system to produce energy in the form of electricity and hot water. 

Municipal waste and similar commercial and industrial waste is processed and then baled off site into RDF. It is delivered to site by sea or road where it is stored within the onsite fuel hall. It will be de-baled and screened before being used for combustion using a moving grate boiler system. The RDF passes over a grate where the energy is recovered and used to produce heat in a boiler, the heat generates superheated steam which will generate electricity in a steam turbine. Around 15MW of power will be exported to the National Grid or used locally. 

After the steam has been used in the turbine, it is reused to improve efficiency whilst it is still at a hot enough temperature. Air-cooled condensers are used to cool the steam, condensing it and converting it back into water state. The warm water in the closed system returns to a tank. Periodically water will be changed and the tank will be topped up. The water once removed is treated in an on-site water treatment plant. After that it is classed as a trade effluent and would be discharged from the site into the foul sewer and treated by the sewerage undertaker who charge for that service. This will be governed under the site’s Environmental Permit and governed by the EA. 

After the steam has been used in the turbine, air-cooled condensers are used to cool the steam into water, which will be reused within the facility. Emissions are cleaned and contaminants removed or reduced. 

Could heat be made available for use locally?

Yes. The ERF can also feature a local heat network to provide cheaper and more environmentally sustainable heat for local services, businesses and housing projects. Private local power supplies could also be made available; for example, the Port would like to provide "shore power" for visiting ships.

Powerfuel is keen to work with local businesses or community groups that would like to explore the opportunities to utilise heat that can be made available.

Where is the site?

The site is on the north eastern corner of the Isle of Portland, on land owned by Portland Port. The site lies within the central port area adjacent to the main berths of the commercial port. 

Why has this location been chosen?

  • This is an existing industrial area (currently unused) within the port allowing for the processed refuse derived fuel or RDF to be transported to the site by road or delivered by ship.
  • Planning permission already exists on this site for a very similar operation.
  • Given the geography of the island and the location within the port, the ERF is being sensitively designed to reduce environmental impacts and minimise possible visual impact of the facility. 
  • The ERF will enhance local resilience in respect of both heat and power. 
  • Once the ERF is operating, in addition to paying local taxes, there will also be community benefit contributions allocated to local sustainability projects.

What will the operating hours be?

The facility provides “baseload” power and should normally operate 24 hours/7days a week. With pre-arranged down times, this should result in around 8,000-8300 operational hour per annum . Deliveries by road will normally take place in a daytime delivery window. 

Will the facility smell?

No. The waste is dry and will arrive wrapped in bales and then stored securely in the building ready for use, or else will arrive in sealed vehicles and deposited in the fuel store inside a building.

Will it be noisy?

The predicted noise levels from the proposed ERF will be within appropriate guidance and standards. 

What about the environmental impact on the local area?

The ERF plant will operate strictly in accordance with an “Environmental Permit” issued by the Environment Agency. The planning process requires a thorough assessment of all environmental and human effects and a detailed Environmental Statement is being prepared as part of the process. Seasonal surveys have been undertaken throughout 2019 as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process, which have not identified any concerns. This evidence will be carefully scrutinised in the permitting process, including input from all the relevant regulators, and will be open to full public participation and consultation.

What will be left over from the combustion process?

    • Overall the volume of the RDF input should be reduced by around 80 percent.
    • Inert slag and incinerator bottom ash (IBA) is the largest component of the output.  IBA is an inert, non-hazardous material that is widely reused and recycled in the UK and across similar facilities internationally. Across all plants in the UK in 2018, the average volume of IBA represented around 20 percent of the waste input. IBA is not categorised as hazardous and can be recycled and used as an aggregate suitable for earthworks, pavement construction and asphalt, or in the production of building materials such as breeze blocks. The processing of IBA into recycled aggregate includes the recovery of any remaining metals. Over the last 10 years, more than 5 million tonnes of this material has been recycled from other similar facilities in the UK and used as sub-base and capping material. Almost all IBA in the UK is now recycled rather than landfilled. Our intention is to ensure that the IBA residues from this facility are recycled and not landfilled. 
    • Fly ash and air pollution control residue (APCr) is a minor component of the total output. Across all ERF plants in the UK the average APCr was between 3 and 3.5 percent of waste inputs. In modern plants like the one Powerfuel is proposing, a large proportion of the plant is designed to capture this material. Air-borne gases and ash goes through a flue gas cleaning system and is extracted and stored. This residue is collected and stored on site, before being sealed in containers and removed for disposal or recycling. Advancements in technology mean that APCr can now be recycled using techniques approved by the regulators. In 2017 around 20 percent of APCr was recycled in this way. Our intention is to ensure that residues from this facility are recycled and not landfilled.

What emissions will come out of the stack?

Detailed air quality modelling is being undertaken to predict the impacts associated with emissions from the process. Computer modelling has been carried out to understand the wind characteristics at the site and on the dispersion of emissions from the facility, which indicates that there will be no unacceptable impacts on local air quality, public health or nature conservation sites. 

Maximum off-site impacts are predicted to be negligible at all receptor locations. Emissions associated with operational traffic flows associated with the proposed development are being taken into account in the detailed emissions and carbon model that will support the application. 

The latest statement on waste to energy plants from Public Health England (published October 2019) advises that modern, well run and regulated Energy Recovery Facilities do not pose a significant risk to public health. It also states that the effects are likely to be so small that they would be undetectable. 

All ERFs in the UK are tightly regulated and must operate within the national and EU's requirements as set out in the Industrial Emissions Directive (formerly the Waste Incineration Directive). The Environment Agency also carries out spot-checks to ensure that the monitoring equipment is operating correctly.     

How do you control air emissions?

There are strict air emissions limits set by regulatory bodies. Powerfuel Portland will employ state-of-the-art emissions control technology to keep within the limits set by the Environmental Permit and monitored by the Environment Agency. A large proportion of the plant is dedicated to capturing air emissions in the exhaust. 

The Powerfuel Portland Energy Recovery Facility will operate under strict air emissions control limits. To demonstrate compliance, we will use a combination of continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) that monitor emissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform regular stack testing. 

The EU has set very strict limits on the environmental impact of plants over the past decade and this plant will operate well within these limits. Engineering consultancy group Arup is producing a dispersion model to assess air emissions and appropriate stack height. Initial findings demonstrate that emissions emanating from the plant will remain comfortably below the limits set by the Environment Agency.   

How will any emissions be monitored?

The Powerfuel Portland Energy Recovery Facility will operate under strict air emissions control limits. To demonstrate compliance, we will use a combination of continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) that monitor emissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform regular stack testing.   

Will the ERF produce harmful emissions such as dioxins and furans?

No. A key element of the design ensures that no dioxins are created. In fact, treatment in the plant leads to a net reduction in dioxins. A large proportion of the plant is dedicated to capturing air emissions in the exhaust. The ERF is fitted with a series of abatement plant to clean the flue gases. However, no emissions control system can be completely effective and trace amounts of some substances remain in the flue gases that are emitted to air. The stack of the plant is designed to ensure that the impacts of these emissions are not significant.   

Why do you consider power to be constricted on Isle of Portland?

Local electricity supplier SSE has said that the current grid supply is sufficient for the Isle of Portland. However, there is a chicken and egg situation here. If industry requires more power, or we electrify transport and remove gas heating in exchange for electric heating (as per the demands of a Climate Emergency) much more power will be required on the island and this is where the constraint comes in. When Powerfuel applied for grid capacity recently, it was confirmed that the available supply was constrained and to expand the supply would require reinforcement costing many millions of pounds. This is a barrier to economic growth as any major consumer of power will currently be put off moving to Portland, which is a problem that the ERF will address.

Will there be many vehicles travelling to and from the facility?

Powerfuel Portland is currently undertaking a detailed assessment to determine how many vehicles will be travelling to and from the facility. This analysis will look at the ‘worst case’ impact on the road network and so assumes that all RDF will arrive by road. In this worst case scenario we estimate that there will be around 40 delivery lorries a day into the site. The impact analysis needs to look at the “worst case” impact on the road network and so assumes all fuel arrives by road. 

This is not realistically going to be the case over the life of the plant as the likelihood is that some fuel will come by ship and some by road. Similarly, ash arisings could take advantage of the port location and leave the port by ship but it is important to assess alternative scenarios where the ash residue would leave the port by road. There is an existing accessible road to the site through the port.   

How tall will the buildings be?

The stack will be 50 metres tall. To put this into context, the largest cruise liners currently using the port are 55 metres tall. The tallest part of the buildings will be about 45 metres tall, the majority much shorter than that figure.  

Why does it have to be so tall?

The stack needs to be that height to comply with regulations on emissions control and air dispersion and needs to be above the building height by a margin. 

When will construction commence?

It is expected to start in the third quarter of 2020 with a construction period to be confirmed, but is expected to be around two years.  

What about the planning application?

Full planning permission was granted in January 2010 for the construction of an “energy plant”. This energy plant was expected to be fuelled by vegetable oil (including waste oils) delivered by ship – the project involved two 8.9 MW electricity generators, two stacks of 27 meters, an associated tank farm and 24/7 operations. A number of buildings were demolished to clear the site for development and the planning authority confirmed in writing that development had lawfully “commenced”. 

In July 2013 the original permission was varied to permit end of life tyres to be used as fuel – this established the principle of waste to energy at the site. 

A certificate of lawfulness was applied for and granted late 2019. It is not a separate planning permission as such. It related to previous consented developments in 2010 and 2013 at the Port on the same site as the ERF is proposed for. The certificate of lawfulness simply confirmed the factual status that those permissions had been granted and implemented and remain extant and capable of implementation. Powerfuel does not intend to develop out the 2010 or 2013 permissions. Hence it is working up its detailed application for the ERF. 

Powerfuel Portland will be submitting a new planning application for its ERF. The new proposal is a very efficient and best-in-class process using a different fuel, making it a much cleaner and more energy-efficient facility. The application will be supported a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which will look in detail and report on a wide range of specific topics, from ecology, air quality, transport, climate change and economy and health. The planning process will be open to full regulator, stakeholder and public consultation in the usual way. 

Will the local community be consulted?

Yes. Before a planning application is submitted Powerfuel Portland will be undertaking a widespread consultation with the local community to ensure residents and other interested parties and stakeholders are aware of the proposals, have an opportunity to ask questions about them and be able to comment on them before plans and designs are finalised.

How much will the project cost?

The capital expenditure is in the region of £100m.

How will the project benefit the local area?

  • The project will create around 30 jobs directly. Up to 45 indirect jobs will also be created.
  • Approximately 350 construction jobs will be created during the build phase.
  • During the construction phase, contractors will use local services, such as accommodation, restaurants etc
  • Energy security is a key issue and this project provides much-needed local power which creates greater resilience in the local area for the future.
  • Heat is available for use by local services, businesses and housing projects.
  • This project creates a waste treatment and energy recovery facility in Dorset. (There are currently no such facilities in Dorset.) Waste generated locally could be treated locally, negating the need for it to be transported out of the county. 
  • Community benefit contributions will be allocated to local sustainability projects.
  • The project will help sustain Portland Port by paying rent. The county will benefit from the annual payment of local taxes.