Securing the long-term benefits of your Energy-from-Waste Plant

09 September 2021, 10:17 EEST

To top all the requirements in terms of safety, efficiency and desired return on investment in running a modern EfW power plant, a competent O&M partner is a valuable asset.

A green and blue truck with Fortum's tagline For a cleaner world leaving the waste-to-energy plant yard.

Fortum is one of the very few energy utility companies and asset owners offering O&M services to third parties. Our know-how has as well been developed and tested during our 25-year-long presence in the UK and Ireland, where we have delivered power plants and long-term operation and maintenance services for different kinds of power plants and customers. We asked Steve Hawes, expert for O&M business at Fortum eNext, about the essential elements of successfully operating an Energy-from-Waste plant long into the future.

What is particularly important for owners of EfW plants from the point of view of operation and maintenance?

An EfW plant is different from other thermal power plants in that it is paid to take it’s fuel. With about 70% of the revenue coming from the Gate Fee, as much waste as possible has to be processed, the power export price doesn’t have much influence on the EfW plants operating regime. Predictions show the UK has a residual waste capacity gap for probably the next 15+ years and maybe longer as exported waste becomes unacceptable for the receiving country.

Consider also that the minimum expected Gate Fees, driven by Landfill Tax, and the sector becomes very attractive for investors. These investors are not necessarily involved for the long haul, we see news of UK EfW assets changing hands almost every month as owners make decisions on when to maximise their returns.

So an EfW plant will have an operating regime of long-term base load and requires maintenance to be carried out with the absolute minimum downtime that keeps the plant in good condition for its resale value.

EfW plants also have to avoid negative publicity. Owners and investors view EfW plants as fitting their “clean world” environmental principles. Non-compliance damages their reputation and can make their next planning application troublesome. So the plant has to be a good, invisible neighbour and operate strictly within all the environmental requirements.

What are the long-term benefits of carefully planned and executed operation and maintenance?

Carefully planned operation and maintenance of the EfW plant will ensure high availability and reliability with predictable downtime. Scheduled outages, both minor and major, that are carefully planned well in advance, allow the maintenance to be executed with the minimum downtime and optimum cost.

Predictable planned outages allow the waste procurement team to be confident that the predicted deliveries will be met. Not only does this mean predictable income from the Gate fees, power export and the Capacity Market, it also avoids disruption in the waste supply chain with associated contractual implications such as minimum tonnages and Gate Fees for diverted waste.

What are the key elements of successfully performing full-scope O&M services?

Full scope O&M means that all the costs of maintaining the plant are included in the O&M Fee. The Operator takes the risk of the scheduled and unscheduled maintenance costs all within the O&M Fee, and also has performance guarantees that compensate the owner for periods of plant downtime.

The size of the O&M team is “just enough” and so to take on this responsibility they need to be able to perform the O&M in an efficient manner. This is where Fortum’s Integrated Management System is so important. The IMS has been under continuous development since its inception in our first UK O&M Contracts over 25 years ago. The IMS contains concise procedures on how the O&M is to be planned and executed, and how the stakeholders expectations are fulfilled. It has defined responsibilities so that every member knows their role. Every activity or event the O&M team face is “business as usual” for them.

We need to ensure the O&M team are trained and developed to fulfil their potential as individuals. Training and development programmes are an essential management function. As well as allowing individual to perform their existing duties competently, it means succession planning is a constantly taking place in the background.

What is needed in ensuring the technical and economic performance of the power plant?

This O&M team cannot know and do everything. They need expert back-up for trouble shooting, outage planning and outage execution. Fortum, and now also Uniper Engineering, provide this support.

These experts have broader experience of many different power plants and their problems than the site O&M team have and provide key advise and recommendations. Back-up support also means making the most of digital solutions in terms of Fortum and Uniper bespoke software for remote plant performance monitoring. Experts, working remotely, are able to advise on pro-active measures before a deviation in the process becomes an event.

Team efficacy, back-up support, training and development. These will produce a confident O&M team who will repay that investment with high availability and reliability of the EfW plant whilst maintaining its condition to fulfil its life expectancy.

We are excited to announce that Fortum eNext will be exhibiting jointly with Uniper at RWM on 22-23 September at the NEC Birmingham. To find out more about how we can help you to operate your EfW plant, visit our stand 5-V210 where we have put together a comprehensive programme for plant owners, operators, engineers and asset managers.

About the expert

Steve Hawes has worked in the UK power sector for over 40 years. He joined Fortum in 1992 and has held management positions in implementing Fortum’s 3rd party O&M Contracts in CGCT and EfW plants. Since then his role is Business Development which includes identifying and securing 3rd party O&M business for Fortum in EFW, biomass and CCGT projects in the UK and other selected regions. More recently this has expended to include Design - Build - Operate opportunities in District Heating, with one such project ongoing in Dublin since May 2021.