Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 26

Submission from Shanks Waste Management

  We welcome your inquiry into renewable energy generation technologies.

  We note that you are particularly interested in the current state of UK research and development in, and the deployment of, a wide range of renewable energy-generation technologies.

  We would like to draw your attention to the contribution which the production of solid recovered fuel (SRF) from municipal solid waste (MSW) can make to security of energy supplies, stable energy prices and achieving UK climate change targets.


  Shanks is one of Europe's largest independent waste and resource management companies offering a wide range of waste management solutions within its various collection, transport, recycling, treatment and disposal services. Shanks employs over 4,000 people across its operations in the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK, where it is involved with a number of long term PFI contracts to supply waste management services to Local Authorities.

  Shanks has developed a solution which, through investment in new recycling and recovery infrastructure, significantly shifts the business of traditional waste management towards resource management, making a significant contribution to renewable energy targets, achieving landfill diversion and carbon dioxide reduction cost-effectively and efficiently. This solution is based on the use of a Mechanical Biological Treatment process (MBT) which along with kerbside collection, civic amenity site management, and composting forms part of the range of services which Shanks offers.


  Mechanical Biological Treatment is a generic term applied to a range of technologies for the treatment of residual municipal solid waste (MSW). Shanks use a form of MBT that uses the biodegradable fraction of MSW—essentially anything that degrades through natural bacterial action, as a source of heat. Elevated temperatures within the mass of waste and sustained airflow across and through it stabilises and sanitises the waste over a period of 10-14 days as well as reducing the overall mass by around 25%. The resultant, dried, "stabilate" material can then be subjected to further refinement to recover stones, glass and metals etc to produce Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF). With a calorific value two-thirds that of coal, and a "carbon neutral" content in the order of 60%, SRF brings with it intrinsic economic and environmental value in terms of its contribution to the energy mix. I am attaching a short briefing paper which explains Shanks's MBT process in more detail (not printed).

  The potential scale of the contribution which could be made by SRF to the UK energy mix is significant. A report prepared for the ICE[33] in 2005, stated that up to 17% of the UK's electricity requirements could be met by the exploitation of the energy potential from such fuel. Certainly the timescales within which significant quantities of fuel may become available should be of interest. Over the next five years, long term contracts for the management of over 7.5 million tonnes of MSW the precursor to recovered fuels, will be procured.

  SRF is a renewable fuel that can be used either as a direct replacement for fossil fuels within a variety of processes or as a dedicated source of power through advanced thermal treatments such as gasification.


  Shanks has a number of SRF production facilities under construction, two of which are located in East London with another located at Dumfries, Scotland. All these plants will be in full production by this year, when annual production of SRF will be in the order of 200,000 tonnes per year. Moreover, Shanks was appointed as the preferred bidder for the 25 year contract to manage the waste of Cumbria County Council in November 2006. Additionally, the Company is bidding for other contracts and, if successful, annual fuel production could substantially rise.


1.  Planning

  One of the major hurdles to the development of widespread energy from waste (EfW) schemes in the UK currently stem from difficulties within the planning arena to realise projects and the issues associated with perception over the combustion of waste.

  We believe the proposal announced in the Planning White Paper for a single consent regime for nationally significant energy infrastructure should prove helpful in terms of the first hurdle.

2.  The Renewables Obligation and combustion of SRF

  Currently, the only eligibility in relation to ROCs for the use of SRF, relates to the power output that can be attributed to the biomass content when the material is used within advanced thermal techniques such as gasification or pyrolysis and, since January 2006, in accredited CHP schemes.

  Shanks has advocated the introduction of ROCs for SRF where the same can be shown to meet specified criteria as set out in the CEN/TS 343 standards, regardless of the type of technology utilised for the combustion of the material.

  We have a number of opportunities to combust SRF alongside biomass streams in facilities which have the technical capability and necessary consents in place, namely the Waste Incineration Directive (WID). However, under the current arrangements, revenue from ROCs from such a facility would be lost if a "pure" biomass stream is co-combusted with a fuel derived from mixed waste, including SRF. This has been a very significant barrier preventing such avenues being explored and hence limiting the use of such fuels within appropriately permitted facilities. We therefore welcome the Government's proposals in the Energy White Paper and Waste Strategy to make the Renewables Obligation "waste neutral", so that ROCs for biomass are not lost when it is co-fired with SRF.

  We also welcome the proposal in the Waste Strategy to base a definition of SRF on the CEN/TS 343 standard.


  With the exception of recycling, waste management concepts in the UK have focused on disposal—either by burning or burial. Shanks believes the UK needs to develop the practice of resource efficiency, both in materials use and in energy production and conservation. We therefore welcome the policies emerging in the Energy White Paper, Planning White Paper and Waste Strategy, which indicate a clearer recognition of the valuable contribution which SRF can make in terms of meeting UK energy needs in a cost-effective and efficient way.

July 2007

33   Quantification of the Energy Potential from EfW, Oakdene Hollins, March 2005-Report commissioned by the RPA and ICE. Back

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