De Lara ... offering the latest technologies

De Lara ... offering the latest technologies

Acciona pushes for waste to energy projects in the region

The Spanish conglomerate group is offering the region advanced conversion technologies (ACTs) to turn waste to energy,  DAVID DE LARA, country manager for Acciona Industrial, Middle East tells K S SREEKUMAR in an exclusive interview

Acciona, a Spanish conglomerate group dedicated to the development and management of infrastructure and renewable energy, is currently participating in various bidding processes for waste to energy plants in Middle East.

"Many agents, both public and private, have already shown their interest in providing renewable and sustainable solutions to waste management in this region, and this is where Acciona wants to play a leading role," David de Lara, country manager for Acciona Industrial, Middle East tells OGN in an exclusive interview.

The main objective of waste to energy plants is to eliminate landfill that is to eliminate waste. "This is why we measure the capacity of plants in the amount of waste that a plant can "consume" in a calendar year. The production of energy is important, and betting together with other renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic energy, wind, hydropower, biomass ... you can get a very powerful mix of renewable energy that will eliminate dependence on fossil energy, and thus tend to a more sustainable energy model," he says.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the technologies that go into Acciona’s waste to energy model?

From Acciona we cover different technologies within our waste to energy business. We promote in our vision and values, as well as in our projects and relationship with customers and suppliers, the engagement and commitment to the circular economy, both in the reuse and in recycling of MSW waste and in construction waste. However, when this waste cannot be reused or recycled, in most cases it is preferable to recover its energy content rather than take it to landfills, both in environmental and economic terms.

Acciona’s energy efficient building

The technology that has traditionally been used, and the one that is most widespread commercially, is the thermal use generated in the incineration of waste for the generation of energy. At present, practically all the installed capacity in the world of waste to energy is by means of this conventional technology. While energy recovery from municipal solid waste (MSW) is well established, there is now an increasing range of commercial and industrial waste streams for which other energy recovery technologies are being developed. They are commonly referred to as advanced conversion technologies (ACTs) and can be divided into: pyrolysis; gasification processes (including new waste treatment technologies such as plasma arc gasification and a combination of pyrolysis and gasification); liquefaction processes to produce fuels (waste to chemical).

It is in these latest technologies that Acciona is betting on offering a varied portfolio adapted to the needs of each region, market and waste, along the traditional incineration, where we have under construction de Kwinana WtE in Perth, Australia, with a total capacity of 400,000 tonne/year.

Have you implemented waste to energy in the Middle East? What has been the response of countries like UAE to the technique?

We are currently participating in various bidding processes for Waste to Energy plants in Middle East. In recent years countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia or Oman are making an enormous effort to meet their renewable energy generation targets. In the photovoltaic sector, for example, they are at the forefront right now and are an example to be followed by the rest of the world. In the waste to energy sector, although it has not yet taken off as strongly as other technologies, different initiatives to solve the waste problem are beginning to appear, such as the Warsan area project, in Dubai. Many agents, both public and private, have already shown their interest in providing renewable and sustainable solutions to waste management in this region, and this is where Acciona wants to play a leading role.

Which all industries are embracing the new concept?

The simple gesture of moving from sending all waste to a landfill, to first treating it in recycling plants and/or then sending it to waste to energy plants, is already a concept that completely changes the traditional waste management scheme of a city or state. In order for these projects to be executed, it requires a series of studies to be carried out and initiatives to be developed involving the Administration, public companies, private companies and, most importantly, the local community.

The Acciona control room

Of the current technologies, incineration plants have the advantage of using proven and bankable technology, which tolerates a wide range of wastes, ideal for district heat and cooling connections to increase overall plant energy efficiency. There are others less widespread, such as anaerobic digestion, whose plants are relatively uncontroversial due to low or negligible emissions, but gives low overall electrical efficiency. There are emerging techniques that are not currently ready for widespread deployment but have the potential to increase the energy recovered from waste in the future: bubbling fluidized bed gasifier, plasma gasification, combined pyrolysis and gasification, gasification with syngas methanation and conversion to biomethane, among others. These technologies have been tested on a small scale, mainly through innovation pilot projects, and many of them have entered the pre-commercial phase.

Although in paper it sounds like a superb idea, why has it not been tried out more extensively in the region where thousands of tonnes of waste are generated daily?

Waste management, as we have already seen, is a complex issue, in which all actors in society have to be involved. Traditionally the landfill has been used as the only solution to waste, but for some years now the concepts of recycling, reuse, energy recovery of waste ... in short, the so-called circular economy, are growing and are being implemented in our way of doing and thinking. And I’m not just talking about Acciona, I’m talking about the private companies, the public administration, the citizens: we are aware that the planet we have is unique and that we have to protect it.

In the end, betting on this type of solution for waste has a translation, and it is the economic one. The landfill, generally managed by each municipality, has a low construction and operating cost, making it the most immediate option. A state-of-the-art waste to energy plant can be compared technologically with other types of energy plants, such as gas plants, solar thermal plants... and this has a direct impact on the cost of construction and its subsequent operation. But the added value of a waste to energy plant compared to a landfill is multiple: not only do we eliminate waste, but we also produce electricity for the consumption of citizens and industries; we reduce greenhouse gas emissions considerably compared to the landfill; we do not harm the environment or local fauna and flora; and we can even use the thermal energy generated for district heating.

How do you help offset the use of fossil energy in the national electricity mixes?

The main objective of waste to energy plants is to eliminate landfill, i.e. to eliminate waste. This is why we measure the capacity of plants in the amount of waste that a plant can "consume" in a calendar year. The production of energy is important, and betting together with other renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic energy, wind, hydropower, biomass ... you can get a very powerful mix of renewable energy that will eliminate dependence on fossil energy, and thus tend to a more sustainable energy model.

How do you contribute towards meeting UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

Acciona’s commitment to sustainability can be defined as strong support for social progress, environmental balance and economic growth, and it is reflected in its contribution toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These common goals defined by the United Nations requires active involvement by companies, as well as many other agents.

Via its projects in water, renewable energies and infrastructure, Acciona contributes towards key objectives, among other reasons to be a sine qua non for achieving the rest. In particular, these objectives related to the aforementioned SDGs on access to water (no. 6), energy (no. 7), infrastructure (no. 9) and mitigating climate change (no. 13). To a different extent, it also contributes to the rest of the goals through the initiatives included in the Sustainability Master Plan.

What solutions are provided by you in the region’s water sector that contribute to sustainable development?

Throughout its history, Acciona has purified, processed and desalinated water for more than 100 million people worldwide and we have started to bring our energy efficient technology and expertise in the Middle East Region in 2008. Through its water treatment activities, the Company assures the supply of drinking water to areas of water stress while preserving the environment.

Keeping in mind always that our commitment to sustainability is reflected in our contribution toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations as we mentioned before, we are now developing several projects in the GCC region always under this commitment:

We have designed and built and are now operating and maintaining the Fujairah 1 seawater Reverse Osmosis (RO) desalination plant in the UAE. The project consists of expanding the current facility to provide additional capacity of 137,000 cu m per day, bringing the original plant’s total capacity to 592,000 cu m per day. The plant is expected to serve a population equivalent of 600,000 inhabitants through the most efficient RO desalination technology. The UAE authorities anticipated the water demand and called for the enlargement of the existing plant to ensure the region’s water supply. The new plant has been designed to guarantee the facility’s correct functioning by implementing the most robust pretreatment technology available in the market. The engineering and execution teams at Acciona Agua have implemented the optimal design in order to minimise the specific energy consumption per cubic meter of water produced to less than 3Kwh/ cu m. These figures are amongst the lowest in the world and show our Company´s commitment with the sustainability of the selected technical solution.

We are also working in another exciting project in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia: In this 210,000 cu m per day capacity Seawater Reverse Osmosis (SWRO) desalination plant, one of the largest with RO technology in the kingdom, Acciona developed a highly efficient design, which enabled us to offer not only a very competitive price for EPC but to optimize the Operating Expenses (OPEX) and the Specific Power Consumption for our client, the SWCC. The potential role of advanced materials and innovative technologies in improving the Plant´s performance and the sustainability of SWRO desalination as a technological solution will aid to avoid potential water shortages.

What is your contribution towards sustainable construction and efficient building management?

1.1 Acciona Construction takes part in the European REINVENT project through its R&D Technology Centre. The purpose of this project is to develop new products for the construction industry using biomaterials and natural fibers, reducing the dependence on products made from fossil fuels.

1.2. Laser guidance system for building tunnels

The Acciona Construction division has designed an innovative laser guidance system for building tunnels where tunneling boring machines are not needed. The system increases the precision of the excavation by over 60 per cent. By using this technique, Acciona Construction avoids up to 3 per cent of cost overruns and over-consumption caused by the deviations between the actual excavation area and the theoretical design area.

1.3. Acciona’s FISSAC project

This project is focused on Fostering Industrial Symbiosis for a Sustainable Resource Intensive Industry across the Extended Construction Value Chain.

The FISSAC project involves stakeholders at all levels of the construction and demolition value chain to develop a methodology and software platform in order to facilitate information exchange. The model will be based on three sustainability pillars: Environmental, Economic and Social. It aims to develop and demonstrate a new paradigm built on an innovative industrial symbiosis model towards a zero waste approach in the resource-intensive industries for the construction value chain, tackling harmonized technological and non-technological requirements, leading to material closed-looped processes and moving to a circular economy.

1.4. PAPERCHAIN Initiative

This project seeks to recover waste from the paper and pulp industry for reuse in the construction, mining and chemical sectors.

On the A-14 Highway project in Catalonia, Spain, Acciona undertook research on the valorization (reuse, recycle or otherwise obtain value from) of ash from the paper industry for use in construction in collaboration with local recycling pulp mills and the Regional transportation authority. The laboratory results showed that the waste paper ash could stabilize subgrades and subbase layers and be used in bounds pavements. We then validated the results in a field trial over a 200m section of the road where we used the ash as a soil hydraulic binder. The trial was successful and the technique is being actively considered for use on other highways project including the Puhoi – Warkworth Motorway in New Zealand.

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