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April 8, 2015

Mass Burn

Florida WTE facility conducts first fire successfully

Facility operators at the Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Florida, in February began feeding processed municipal solid waste (MSW) into the first of three processing lines at Renewable Energy Facility 2 (REF 2).

Considered one of the most advanced waste-to-energy (WTE) power plants in North America, REF 2 will process more than 1 million tons of postrecycled MSW each year, while providing power for an estimated 40,000 homes and businesses, reducing reliance on SWA’s landfill by up to 90 percent and also recycling an estimated 27,000 tons of metals annually after the trash is burned.

The authority reports that REF 2 will be operated in accordance with stringent environmental emission requirements. To acheive that, construction plans have incorporated a technology designed to offer more complete combustion of waste and state-of-the-art air pollution control technologies, the authority says.

The SWA’s REF 2 is scheduled to begin commercial operation in summer 2015 at Palm Beach Renewable Energy Park.

REF 2 is the newest component of SWA’s award-winning, integrated solid waste management system. The system includes six transfer stations that consolidate curbside collection; a recovered materials processing facility; a renewable energy facility that burns postrecycled garbage to create energy; a Class I and Class III landfill; seven home chemical and recycling centers; a biosolids processing facility; and the 300-acre Greenway Trail System.

The team of KBR, Houston; Babcock & Wilcox, Barberton, Ohio; and CDM Smith, Cambridge, Massachusetts, are the SWA’s design and construction partners in this $670 million project.

 

Landfill gas

Construction begins on $60 million landfill-gas-to-energy project in California

Orange County, California, government and business officials have presented details on the environmental and economic benefits to be gained from a renewable energy plant being built at a county landfill.

Proponents of the landfill gas-to-electricity plant, to be built at the Frank R. Bowerman landfill near Irvine, say it will power homes and businesses, create construction and operational jobs and generate significant revenue.

“This project makes sense for the OC (Orange County) in so many important ways,” says Orange County Board Chairman Todd Spitzer, who represents the district where the landfill is located. “It represents a win-win for the environment and the economy and shows that the county of Orange is following smart and resourceful policies regarding its public landfills.”

Spitzer made his remarks during the groundbreaking ceremony for the $60 million plant, which will be built on the 725-acre landfill that is one of the largest on the West Coast. The project—to be financed by Caterpillar Financial Services and built and operated by Bowerman Power, a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Montauk Energy—was championed by Spitzer. It won approval from the county’s full Board of Supervisors in October 2014.

At the event, Spitzer, executives from Bowerman/Montauk and other officials listed the benefits to be gained by the plant, which is expected to be operational by early 2016:

  • The plant will be a processing and power unit that captures landfill gas created by waste buried at the landfill.
  • The gas will be converted to about 160,000 megawatt-hours of electricity that will be sold to Anaheim Public Utility to power residences, schools and businesses.
  • The plant’s Caterpillar reciprocating engines will feature gas clean-up and emissions reduction technologies that will meet all local, state and federal air quality requirements.
  • The electricity will be sold under a 20-year agreement with the city of Anaheim
  • The average annual royalty payment to Orange County is projected at $1.62 million, which, over the 20-year agreement, will total an estimated $32 million.
  • An estimated $1 million in annual costs for plant operation and maintenance services will be paid for by Montauk.
  • 60 construction jobs will be created, along with the purchase of various building materials and services. In addition, seven full-time employees will be hired by Bowerman for plant operations.
  • The Bowerman plant will be the county’s fourth gas-to-energy facility. Altogether, the four plants will produce 400,000 megawatts of electricity per year, enough to power more than 50,000 homes.
     

Dave Herrman, CEO of Montauk Energy, says the company will move quickly to complete the construction of the 113,000-square-foot facility. Montauk Energy develops, owns and operates large-scale, renewable energy projects using landfill methane.

 

Gasification

PHG Energy to deploy large-scale waste gasification system in Tennessee

Nashville, Tennessee-based PHG Energy (PHGE) and the city of Lebanon, Tennessee, have signed a contract that the company says will provide an environmentally sustainable method of waste disposal and produce green power in the process.

The waste-to-energy (WTE) technology, which will go online early next year, is a downdraft gasification plant that will cleanly convert up to 64 tons per day of blended waste wood, scrap tires and sewer sludge into a fuel gas that will generate up to 300 kilowatts of electricity. The generation of this power will provide for the plant’s internal power needs as well as contribute electricity to the wastewater treatment plant where it will be located.

“This is not incineration or burning,” Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead explains. “There is no smoke or odor. The feedstock material is broken down at very high temperatures in a sealed vessel, and about 95 percent of what goes into the gasifier comes out as the fuel gas.”

Craighead also says the remaining 5 percent to 10 percent of material exiting the gasifier is a high-carbon biochar that can be recycled or sold for agricultural or industrial applications.

PHGE President Tom Stanzione says the Lebanon project will deploy what his company believes is the world’s largest downdraft gasifier and adds, “This is the same basic technology we utilized in all our previous designs, and we have upgraded capacity and power density to accomplish a lot more gasification in what is not a lot more space.”

The large frame gasifier, as the company refers to it, has been vetted through a rigorous testing process for more than two years at PHGE’s research facility.

A standard PHGE gasifier can convert up to 12 tons of feedstock per day to fuel gas, compared with the Lebanon model, which will process up to 64 tons per day without substantially increasing the footprint of the plant.

The plant is projected to keep more 8,000 tons of material out of landfills each year. Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced as well, keeping more than 2,500 tons out of the atmosphere each year. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that equates to the carbon dioxide produced annually to provide electricity to 312 homes, or the annual greenhouse gas emissions from more than 450 passenger vehicles.

Funding of the $3.5 million capital cost has been obtained through a federal program that awards bond subsidies to local projects that conserve energy. The Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds are allocated through the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), and the bonds repay communities about 70 percent of interest expense.

The Lebanon project will mark the 14th gasifier installation for PHGE. The company’s first municipal installation was commissioned in Covington, Tennessee, in 2013. Prior deployments of the thermo-chemical process were for industrial brick manufacturing clients to replace natural gas usage by cleanly converting wood waste to what is called producer gas or synthetic gas.

Craighead says that the city is viewing this installation as a first stage in a larger plan to convert the city’s household and commercial garbage to energy in the future. He adds, “We see keeping our garbage out of the landfill and using it to make energy as major goals for Lebanon in coming years. This is a problem that is coming straight at all of us, and we are going to make sure our city is ready with answers. One of our primary criteria is that the solutions we want will have to make good financial sense along the way.”

The Lebanon project marks another milestone for PHGE in the area of clean waste disposal and sustainable energy production. To date, PHGE has:

  • installed 13 commercial gasifiers in both industrial and municipal settings, and logged nearly 45,000 hours in production time;
  • acquired multiple intellectual property assets and a municipal gasification plant from Florida-based MaxWest Environmental Systems, Inc. in January of 2015;
  • demonstrated its ability to produce renewable electricity from a Caterpillar generator from scrap wood chips at its test facility in Gleason, Tennessee, and sold electricity back to the grid as a part of the TVA Generation Partners Program;
  • collaborated with GE Power and Water to develop a combination of technologies to create power with the use of GE’s Clean Cycle heat-to-power generator;
  • consolidated the company’s operations by purchasing the intellectual property of Associated Physics of America and bringing its scientific and production personnel on board with PHGE;
  • commissioned a new integrated technology at a WTE plant in Covington, Tennessee; and
  • obtained five new patents on the company’s downdraft gasification technology.
     

More information on PHG Energy and its gasification technology is available at www.phgenergy.com.

 

Mass burn

Covanta increases revenue in 2014 Energy-from-waste (EfW) facility owner/operator

Covanta Holding Corp., Morristown, New Jersey, has reported financial results for the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2014.

Total revenue increased by $52 million to $1.68 billion from $1.63 billion in 2013. The primary driver for the increase was North America EfW revenue, which increased by $39 million, the company reports.

Same-store North America EfW revenue increased by $49 million as follows:

  • waste and service revenues increased by $14 million;
  • energy revenues increased by $17 million, driven by an $11 million increase related to higher prices and a $7 million increase related to higher energy production; and
  • recycled metals revenues increased by $17 million, driven by a $13 million increase in volume, primarily as a result of capital investment to increase recovery rates, and a $5 million increase from higher market prices.

In addition, contract transitions, including lower debt service revenues, resulted in a decrease of $18 million. Transactions, primarily related to the full-year impact from the Camden, New Jersey, facility acquisition, increased revenue by $11 million, according to Covanta.

Other operating revenue decreased by $21 million, primarily in light of lower construction revenue, while non-EfW waste and services revenues in the North America segment increased by $19 million, primarily because of transfer stations acquired in late 2013, notes Covanta.

All other energy revenue (non-EfW operations) increased by $10 million on a consolidated basis, driven by a $2 million increase in revenue from biomass operations due to higher energy prices and $8 million in higher steam revenue from a facility in China.

Excluding write-offs, operating expenses increased to $1.48 billion. The year-over-year increase was primarily attributed to:

  • a $23 million increase in North America EfW plant operating expenses primarily resulting from an $11 million increase in EfW same-store plant operating expenses and an $11 million increase due to transactions;
  • a $40 million increase in North America segment non-EfW plant operating expenses, primarily related to additional expenses from transfer stations acquired in late 2013, higher wood fuel cost at biomass facilities, higher employee incentive compensation and other expenses related to increased revenue; and
  • a $15 million increase in consolidated general and administrative expenses, primarily due to higher non-cash stock compensation and expenses incurred related to the implementation of cost efficiency initiatives.

Excluding write-offs in 2014 and 2013, operating income decreased by $29 million to $207 million in 2014 due to the revenue and expense items noted above.

Adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) declined by $20 million on a year-over-year basis to $474 million in light of contract transitions (primarily a reduction in debt service billings), higher scheduled plant maintenance expense, lower construction profit and one-time gains that occurred in 2013.

Free cash flow declined by $5 million to $240 million, primarily as a result of lower adjusted EBITDA and higher maintenance capital expenditures.

Adjusted EPS (earnings per share) increased by $0.01 to $0.39. The increase was driven by lower book interest expense and higher equity income, partially offset by lower operating income.

The company summarizes the highlights for the 2014 year as:

  • commenced construction of Dublin EfW facility;
  • won Pinellas County, Florida, EfW facility operating contract and commenced operations;
  • record recycled metal and special waste volumes and revenue;
  • executed waste and service contracts totaling approximately 4 million tons per year;
  • launched efficiency improvement initiative – on track to deliver $30 million in adjusted EBITDA benefit in 2015;
  • extended expected benefit of tax net operating loss into late decade; and
  • increased regular dividend by 52 percent to $1.00 per share (annualized);

“I am very pleased with our team’s performance. We delivered a solid year operationally and financially, and we positioned Covanta for long-term growth with a number of strategic wins, most notably commencing construction of the Dublin facility and winning a new contract to operate the Pinellas facility,” says Anthony Orlando, Covanta president and CEO. “Furthermore, we continued our track record of successfully extending waste and service contracts, our organic growth initiatives are delivering results and we announced an important efficiency improvement program that will benefit 2015.”

 

Biomass

P&G, Constellation begin construction on biomass plant

The Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G), Cincinnati, and Baltimore-based Constellation have jointly announced a plan to develop a biomass plant to help run P&G’s plant in Albany, Georgia. The biomass plant is expected to produce up to 50 megawatts (MW) of energy.

Constellation will build, own and operate the $200 million cogeneration plant, which will supply steam to P&G’s Albany paper manufacturing facility and generate electricity for Georgia Power.

P&G says that by using the energy derived from the biomass plant, it will move closer to its 2020 goal of obtaining 30 percent of its total energy from renewable sources.

For more than 30 years the Albany facility has used a smaller on-site biomass boiler to convert wood scrap into renewable steam, which provided the plant with about 30 percent of its total energy. The new facility is expected to provide a highly efficient combined heat and power biomass unit. Incoming biomass will provide 100 percent of the steam and up to 60-70 percent of the total energy needed for the plant.

“We are committed to improving the environmental sustainability of our products across all aspects of their life cycle,” says Martin Riant, P&G’s executive sponsor of sustainability and group president, Global Baby and Feminine & Family Care. “As this project enables us to operate one of our largest global plants with a renewable energy source, it will reduce the environmental footprint of two leading brands, Bounty and Charmin.”

The facility is Constellation’s newest project. The company has more than 300 MW of assets in operation or under development.

Commercial plant operations are expected to begin in June 2017. The plant’s fuel supply will come from biomass otherwise left to decay, to be burned or sent to landfill.

 

Refuse-derived fuel

Sun Recycling enters fuel contract with Palm Beach County, Florida

The governing board of the Solid Waste Authority (SWA) of Palm Beach County, Florida, has voted in favor of bringing supplemental waste fuel to the SWA’s Renewable Energy Facility 2 (REF 2) while there is excess capacity over the next several years. As part of this, SWA will enter into a contract with Sun Recycling LLC, headquartered in Davie, Florida, to bring processed construction and demolition material and processed municipal solid waste (MSW) from Sun’s recycling facilities in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Patti Hamilton, vice president of marketing and communications for Sun Recycling, says the delivery of the waste to the SWA’s new facility also helps meet Florida’s state recycling goals, because the state’s 75 percent recycling target counts each megawatt-hour of energy produced by a renewable energy facility toward the goal. In addition, Hamilton says, the Florida legislature has recognized that combusting waste materials for energy production is a preferred alternative to landfilling, therefore WTE facilities are permitted to maximize acceptance and processing of nonhazardous wastes.

“Taken together, these two state policies identify a second benefit for importing the material beyond the economic benefits to the residents of Palm Beach County,” Hamilton says. “By recovering the energy from the postrecycling construction and demolition material and MSW, nearly 100 percent recycling can be achieved. This further moves our goal of ‘Recycling for Zero Waste.’”

The projected net revenue to SWA from the import of the supplemental waste fuel is estimated at about $18 million over five years, much of which SWA says will be returned to property owners. Initial supplemental waste loads from Sun Recycling was expected to begin arriving in February 2015.

 

Refuse-derived fuel

N+P named Global Cemfuels Alternative Fuel Supplier of the Year

Netherlands-based N+P International has been awarded the “Global Cemfuels Alternative Fuel Supplier of the Year” title during the Global Cemfuels conference Feb. 16-17, 2015, in Dubai (UAE). The company says the award is seen as a confirmation of its position as a reliable and experienced partner for high-quality alternative fuels.

The company notes that since it started its first alternative fuels production facility in 1993 in Germany, the company has steadily grown its presence in the field of alternative fuels. N+P CEO Karel Jennissen says, “Nearly 25 years ago we started our first alternative fuel project with deliveries to a cement kiln in Belgium. Nowadays, we are supplying alternative fuels throughout Europe — from Latvia to Portugal and from Norway to Cyprus, and our ambitions are to expand beyond Europe.”

This year N+P expects to deliver its first alternative fuels — including refuse-derived fuel, solid recovered fuel and Subcoal pellets — to several new European countries, primarily in the Mediterranean and Balkans region, where the local waste market does not have the infrastructure to produce the right quality fuels yet, the company says.

N+P says it is also actively working to expand its operations to northern Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

N+P’s newly formed fuel support teams help local companies to upgrade their current alternative fuel qualities to match the needs from the local applications. The fuel support teams also advise end users on how to start or increase substitution rates.

 

Anaerobic digestion

Vermont awards grant money for AD projects

The Vermont Public Service Department (PSD) has awarded two Vermont-based companies, Casella Resource Solutions, Rutland, and Grow Compost, Waterbury, with Clean Energy Development Fund grants to set up pilot projects demonstrating the feasibility of anaerobic digestion (AD) of food scraps.

Casella’s grant totals $139,000, while Grow Compost’s grant totals $131,549.

The PSD collaborated with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets (VAAFM) and the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) to design the program. PSD also worked with Green Mountain Power, which contributed $70,000 of refunded nuclear insurance money to allow the PSD to make it possible to support the projects.

The companies will use the funds to collect and process leftover food scraps from businesses and institutions and deliver them to farm-based anaerobic digesters where they will be used to produce heat and power.

With its grant, Casella will begin separating out food scraps and deliver them to one of its transfer stations where it will be processed into a slurry, and then shipped to an anaerobic digester at a dairy farm in Bridport, Vermont.

Meanwhile, Grow Compost is considering the purchase of a truck that would allow the company to process material on the vehicle. The company would then deliver the raw material to an anaerobic digester at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph.

“The Public Service Department is pleased to be able to support not only renewable energy generation, but also on-farm anaerobic digestion and food scrap recycling,” says Christopher Recchia, commissioner of the PSD.

 

Anaerobic digestion

Blue Sphere closes on food waste-to-energy joint venture in North Carolina

Blue Sphere Corp., a developer, manager and owner of waste-to-energy projects, has announced the closing of a joint venture to develop, construct and operate a 5.2-megawatt biogas generation facility in Charlotte, North Carolina, with affiliates of York Capital Management.

Under the terms of the joint venture, Blue Sphere owns 25 percent of the project.

The company has received an initial payment of $1.25 million in cash at the closing with a second payment of $1.175 million to be paid in two equal installments of $587,500 later in 2015. The second payment will be made upon the project’s achievement of mechanical completion and commercial operation of the facility.

Blue Sphere CEO Shlomi Palas says, “We closed on a joint venture to develop a significant food waste-to-energy facility in the United States, which under the current construction timeline for the project is anticipated to commence production and sale of electricity during the fourth quarter of 2015.”

Palas continues, “We booked our first revenue in the history of the company from the cash payment received at the closing, and upon successful completion of the project, expect to earn regular revenue from the sale of electricity and compost and feedstock tipping fees.”