The waste management sector has seen rapid development in the last years with an increasing focus on creating clean renewable energy from waste products, according to the Norwegian environmental business organization Green Business Norway. Biogas technology companies are among its member organizations that are making the biggest strides abroad.
Green Business Norway is a private organization responsible for helping its 40 member companies work together in business development and find new export markets within environmental and energy technology. Its goal is to have 200 members within 2015.
Its member companies have been able to make breakthroughs in this highly competitive and growing sector internationally, while helping contribute towards the EU’s 2020 climate goals. Producing biogas from organic matter gets rids of organic waste, reduces methane emissions, and provides a local supply of renewable energy.
“Handling waste properly and bringing valuable resources into the value chain would definitely be one of the key components into achieving the 2020 goal,” said Thor Sverre Minnesjord, Green Business Norway chief executive.
The organization has been focusing lately on growth markets such as China and Central Eastern Europe. Poland is of particular interest because of the expected changes to its legislation on waste management.
The Polish Senate in April hosted a delegation from Norway to gather information about the Norwegian experience that may be used to help shape Poland’s legal framework. The seminar was organized as a direct follow-up from discussions during the Green Business Conference in Sandefjord last fall.
Green Business Norway is also keen for its members to make more forays into high-end markets such as the UK, the US and the Nordic countries, where customers typically have a greater understanding of the possibilities for modern technology and hence willing to pay a higher price for lowering their operating costs.
“The UK is seen as a demanding high-end market,” said Minnesjord. “If you get a breakthrough there, you get a lot of recognition.”
Turning Sludge into UK Power
Cambi is one of its members that successfully cracked the UK market. The company provides technology to convert biodegradable material to renewable energy. Its Thermal Hydrolysis Process (THP) recently won a large contract with Interserve Project Services to supply the key component of a digestion project for a large water company in London
The project entails renovating abandoned digesters in Essex and treating the indigenous sludge from this plant as well as the secondary sludge pumped from the East London plant. Secondary sludge is a particular problem as it has a high-water content and leads to lower capacity at the company’s existing fluidised bed incinerator plant.
Cambi’s THP technology works differently than conventional biogas technologies, which operate at 70˚C. The Cambi process treats the organic matter at 165-170˚C, dissolving it into an easily digestible feed for biogas production. The technology will be able to provide 4 MW of renewable electricity from the sludge in Essex and East London plant, a high dry solids pasteurized cake for agriculture, and reduced pressure on the existing incinerator plant in East London.
More recently, Cambi was able to make a Latin American breakthrough via a contract to supply its THP technology for a major wastewater upgrade and extension project in Santiago, Chile. The plant will help the region of Santiago meet it sustainable development policy, which aims to restore the natural environment’s water quality and prepare the region for a population increase. Cambi THP will double the capacity of the wastewater plant and enable the treatment of a wastewater quantity equivalent to 4 million inhabitants.
Residual sludge from recycling of paper.
About 20 million tons of paper sludge is produced annually in the EU.
© Bjørn Utgård/AgroPlas
From Waste to Wealth
Another Green Business Norway member, AgroPlas, is coming to market this year with new products for converting organic waste into valuable products such as fertilizers, biofuels and materials. Its value proposition – also known as “waste to wealth” – is to offer solutions to companies in the waste management, biofuel and agriculture industrial systems that increase the economic and environmental performance of their value chains.
The proprietary Vortair processor enables grinding, drying and separation in a single step with no moving parts. It can be used for processing of biomass, organic sludge, and organic waste. The company also has a GasPlas cold plasma reactor that uses scalable, cold-plasma technology for a wide number of cracking and synthesis applications. This can be used for enhancing value from biogas, creating carbon neutral fossil energy, and carbon negative fertilizer.
One example of how it creates more value from waste is through processing of paper sludge. The company says the current problem is that the recycling of paper yields a residual sludge which can cost as much as EUR 50-70 to get rid of per ton. The yearly production in the EU is estimated at 20 million tons. Legislation against landfilling is being phased in due to its excessive organic content.
The Vortair processor works by drying and separating the paper sludge into organic and non-organic fractions. Since the technology does not actually evaporate the water, but separates it from solids in the form of micro-droplets, the processor enables substantially reduced energy use compared to thermal drying systems. The derived products can be used as a bioenergy fuel, reused for paper production or as construction materials.
The processor has a capacity of 25,000 tons per year and an expected operating expenditure of around EUR 5-10 per ton. Vortair is the only known technology that enables efficient processing of paper sludge into tradable products. AgroPlas estimates that the technology can double gross margins for waste management companies. AgroPlas plans to have a demo plant for organic sludge at Bø in Telemark in June.