Human consumption and waste are considered key contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and the decline in biodiversity. Recycling rates in Wales are among the best in the world. In 2020-2021, despite the pandemic, Wales recycled more than 65 per cent of its waste. Less than five per cent of its municipal waste ended up in landfill.
Driven by the Welsh Government’s waste strategy, ‘Toward Zero Waste’, which aims to achieve zero waste by 2050, enfinium entered a Public Private Partnership with the five Welsh local authorities (the North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Project, ‘NWRWTP’) to develop the enfinium Parc Adfer energy from waste facility in Deeside. Parc Adfer commenced operation in December 2019 and now all of NWRWTP’s municipal waste is diverted from landfill and is instead used to generate baseload power to the National Grid.
Parc Adfer converts non-recyclable residual waste into partly renewable, low-carbon power for the National Grid using a combustion system, playing an important part in Wales’ circular economy and waste management infrastructure.
When waste arrives at Parc Adfer, it is tipped into a fuel bunker, lifted into a hopper, and fed into a boiler unit where it is incinerated at an extremely high temperature. The hot combustion gases pass a series of water-filled tubes producing high-pressure steam that powers a turbine to produce electricity to power homes and businesses. The exhaust gases pass through technologically advanced scrubbing and filtration systems to remove acidic gases and particulates.
The biogenic content of the waste delivers renewable electricity, helping to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
It is potentially possible to use the residual steam and hot water to power local industry and homes and Parc Adfer is exploring these options, which would further improve the facility’s environmental credentials.
Around 20 per cent of the waste that goes into Parc Adfer comes out as an inert ash. Even that doesn’t go to waste. It is collected and processed by a local specialist to remove metals and then be used as a construction aggregate, for example in road bases, which reduces demand on quarried resources. The extracted ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recycled and even trace and precious metals are recovered, including a surprising quantity of gold and silver.
Parc Adfer also has an on-site Visitors’ Centre, which welcomes educational visits from schools and supports community learning about the facility and the importance of Reducing, Reusing, Recycling and Recovering (the waste hierarchy).
Future projects at Parc Adfer might include carbon capture and the production of hydrogen for use as a transport fuel in support of the UK’s circular economy ambitions and the Net Zero Strategy.
The creation of a stable and favourable economic foundation is essential for investment in major infrastructure. Through landfill taxation, subsidies and grant funding, the UK and Welsh Governments have created a market for energy from waste, which has incentivised the construction of waste to energy facilities.
Relationship building and communication are also key, particularly when there are several partners involved in a project. The local authority and Welsh Government have, in the case of Parc Adfer, communicated well and provided a strong sense of public sector commitment and security.
Working with five separate local authorities requires excellent partnership management. Fortunately, Flintshire local authority’s provided strong committed leadership, which was key to Parc Adfer’s success.
Positive communication with the local community was also vital. In addition to the usual planning consultations, Parc Adfer was quick to set up a Community Liaison Group (CLG), which held regular monthly meetings throughout the construction, commissioning, and operation of the facility. That engagement was useful in sharing information and reducing concern about the technology and processes. Parc Adfer’s staff addressed any issues directly and openly and held guided tours of the construction site and, eventually, the completed facility. CLG meetings have since reduced in regularity as people have become more comfortable with the facility and its operation.
enfinium Parc Adfer has also contributed financially to, and been an active part of, the community. Pre-pandemic, Parc Adfer staff organised litter-picks with schools, and financially contributed to various local environmental projects.
Effective communication with trade unions also proved to be important, particularly during the construction phase of the project.
But of course, there have been challenges along the way. With regards to project delivery, public-private projects work within a highly controlled procurement infrastructure, with stringent procurement processes and contract structures. This introduces a level of bureaucracy which can significantly increase costs and slow down delivery. There are areas of detail that offer little obvious value and need serious coordination. These processes have become increasingly complex and prescriptive over the years. In addition, the planning process can sometimes deliver unexpected results and add risk to projects.
Following construction, the Covid-19 pandemic meant changes to work and strict enforcement of Covid-19 rules on-site, to maintain continuity of this key public service. The measures were effective, and Parc Adfer has remained operational throughout the crisis. The only impact has been the closure of the Visitors’ Centre which has meant that the educational value of the facility has not been fully realised; we hope that will change in 2022 and the Parc Adfer Visitors’ Centre will open to visits from schools, colleges, and other interested parties.
We must also divert a minimum of 98 per cent of all waste from landfill; a target we have already beaten.
Lastly, we must recycle more than 15.75 per cent of waste as extracted metals and bottom ash aggregate, which we are ahead of.