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Full Circle completes a century

NORTHERN Ireland’s only large-scale waste to energy facility, Full Circle Generation (FCG), announced today that it had recovered over 100,000mt of waste since operations began in earnest last August, and that it is also looking to build on this impressive start by increasing throughput to over 140,000mt over the next 12 months. The gasification plant uses a fuel produced from household waste to create electricity which is then supplied to Bombardier.

The construction of the £109m facility completed in February 2018 and since then the operators, Bouygues Energy Services, have been optimising the plant in preparation for its first year of full operation. Using cutting edge technology, the plant extracts gasses from treated waste and then combusts them before passing the steam through a traditional thermal process.

Full Circle Generation Director and Managing Director of RiverRidge Brett Ross commented: “This is a very important milestone for the waste sector in Northern Ireland. Full Circle Generation, Northern Ireland’s only large scale Energy from Waste facility, has changed how the waste sector has traditionally operated. With the processing of its first 100,000mt of fuel completed, we have demonstrated the robustness of the design of this plant and shown that this is an effective solution and a proven alternative to the landfilling of waste, or the need to export Refused Derived Fuel (RDF) to mainland Europe.”

Today’s announcement was welcomed by Environment Minister Edwin Poots who visited the facility in Belfast’s Harbour Estate.

Minister Poots MLA said: “This Energy from Waste facility is an exceptional piece of infrastructure, adding real value to the waste sector and showcases how we can recover energy from waste effectively. This allows Northern Ireland’s black bin household waste to be processed through the use of gasification technology, with the end result being a source of energy for businesses in Northern Ireland. It is reassuring to know that residual waste is being dealt with in an environmentally sensitive way.”

The fuel required for the facility, known as Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), is manufactured using Northern Ireland’s household waste arisings. Local company and the initial developer of the facility, RiverRidge Holdings Limited, is responsible for the manufacture of the fuel at two of its state-of-the-art waste treatment facilities in Garvagh and Portadown.

The treatment process initially extracts recyclable products from the household waste streams and then shreds the residual fractions so that they can be easily recovered at the FCG facility. The company is one of Northern Ireland’s leading waste treatment operators and manages the waste for several of Northern Ireland’s largest councils including Belfast, Derry City and Strabane, Causeway Coast and Glens and Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon.

With FCG expecting to operate at full capacity next year, RiverRidge has estimated that it will require close to 400,000mt of waste before treatment to meet this requirement.

Brett Ross, CEO of RiverRidge, explained how the facility can deal with over 80% of Northern Ireland’s household waste residual arisings while still ensuring recycling levels are maintained. In fact, he went further to state that current research and development into the treatment of waste being carried out by RiverRidge, is expected to increase the level of recycling of household waste significantly by 2023.

He said; “We are an innovation company and see waste as a heavily commingled collection of valuable resources. Our role is to build infrastructure that can separate the various fractions into homogenous resources that can be used efficiently to either create a product or generate energy.”

The FCG facility represents a key piece of infrastructure for Northern Ireland and was funded via the private equity firms, Equitix and P3P Partners.

Equitix is a long term investor, developer and fund manager of core infrastructure assets in the UK and Europe and has invested over £500 million into the Northern Ireland economy to date. Following on from their investment into FCG, the manager acquired Granville Eco Park, the first Anaerobic Digestion plant in the UK to achieve certification under the AD Certification Scheme, and Firmus Energy, a growing gas distribution network on the outskirts of Belfast.

Equitix has over £6.5 billion of assets under management and holds interests in waste-to-energy facilities across the UK and Europe including the North Allerton park in Yorkshire, and Biostoom facility in Belgium. With over 300 assets in its portfolio, Equitix has extensive experience in the renewable energy space as well as across the telecoms, social infrastructure, transportation and regulated utilities sectors.

Hugh Crossley, Chief Investment Officer at Equitix, added; “We are delighted to play an instrumental part in the delivery of Full Circle Generation which has been such an important addition to Northern Ireland’s green infrastructure network. This is a world class energy-from-waste facility, processing a meaningful proportion of Northern Ireland’s waste, recovering much-needed renewable energy, and providing a predictable energy source for Bombardier and Northern Ireland. It builds on our other sustainable energy investments in the region like the Firmus gas distribution network and Granville Eco Park, for the benefit of communities and our investors alike. This has been a team effort and huge congratulations also go to our partners Bouygues and the wider supply chain.”

P3P is also focused on infrastructure projects and focus more specifically on energy, waste and vertical farming. The firm has vast experience in the financing and development of complex projects where customers require a unique and state of the art energy solution. FCG was P3P Partner’s second investment into gasification technology however the firm has also developed 14 combined heat and power (CHP) facilities for commercial customers including a number of Hilton Hotels located across the UK. In addition to this, P3P has a strong reputation within the agribusiness sector having developed six similar CHP facilities for horticultural customers.

Julian Harris at P3P Partners added; “This is indeed a great milestone to applaud and mark. This joint venture truly offers Northern Ireland clean and green electricity on an annual basis and enhances their green infrastructure network. We are very pleased to be an instrumental partner in the delivery and success of this project.”

The incoming Circular Economy Package requirements will require a range of additional recycling and recovery infrastructure in order to meet future 2035 recycling and diversion targets and contribute to a low carbon circular economy in Northern Ireland. The FCG facility contributes significantly to Northern Ireland meeting its current landfill diversion needs, as well as supporting Bombardier, one of Northern Ireland’s largest employers. Together with RiverRidge the facility will play a significant role in assisting Northern Ireland environmental policy direction including the drive towards a national recycling rate of 65%.