Bristol’s pioneering energy park powers ahead with handover of £252m plant

January 22, 2021

A world-leading ‘circular economy’ energy park being built in Bristol  has reached a major milestone with the completion of its £252m energy recovery plant.

Contractor CNIM has officially handed over the site at Avonmouth to waste management and recycling business Viridor and it is now gearing up to generate up to 307GWh of electricity annually from non-recyclable waste. 

The energy, enough to heat and light the equivalent of 84,000 homes, will be used to power a £65m plastic recycling plant – the largest of its kind in the UK – being built on a neighbouring site, as well as being sold to the grid.

The two combined will create a true circular economy energy park, according to Viridor.

As a result, the whole scheme is being lauded as an industry first, creating the opportunity to create even greater sustainability and environmental efficiency.

The energy recovery facility (ERF) is currently receiving 240,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from Somerset Waste Partnership and the West of England Waste Partnership as part of the commissioning process. When fully operational it will divert 320,000 tonnes of residual waste away from landfill.

The construction site has remained open throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, implementing the required government guidelines around social distancing for construction.

Viridor CEO Kevin Bradshaw, pictured, said the company was pleased to have achieved this important milestone following other significant achievements at the site, including the first export of electricity to the grid in July.

“The addition of another energy recovery facility to the Viridor fleet diverting non-recyclable waste from landfill across the UK is, of course, cause for the celebration on its own merits,” he said.

“However, the Avonmouth ERF forms part of the wider Avonmouth Resource Recovery Centre, including a £65m investment in a plastic reprocessing plant currently under construction which will draw heat and power from the ERF.

“The opportunity to have a Viridor facility, using non-recyclable waste to generate the heat and power, which will allow us to recycle and reprocess more plastic here in the UK is the wider goal for our Avonmouth centre.

“Optimising resource and energy efficiency and providing the infrastructure investment needed to make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s green economy continues to be the driving force of our business strategy.

“We will continue to seek opportunities to replicate the use of the ERFs as the combined heat and power plants that they were designed to be, supporting recycling and circular economy initiatives.”

CNIM Environment & Energy managing director Guillaume Turc added: “The technologies implemented, and the expertise of our teams enable Viridor to meet its dual objective of energy and environmental performance, providing a state-of-the-art solution contributing to the circular economy.

“We are particularly proud to have delivered to Viridor a turnkey plant at the cutting edge of technology, despite the constraints put on us by the Covid epidemic.”

Somerset Waste Partnership managing director Mickey Green said: “This facility is another important piece in the Somerset waste management puzzle. While we remain focussed on reduction, reuse and recycling; having a means to ‘repurpose’ waste that cannot be recycled, rather than sending it to landfill, is a great leap forward.

“The handover is a great achievement and a milestone in our ongoing work with Viridor and other partners to decarbonise the county’s residual waste.”

The plastic recycling plant will handle plastic 1.6bn bottles, pots, tubs and trays in its first year of operation – a total of 81KTPA (kilo tonnes per annum), from which it will produce 60KTPA of recycled plastic.

By its third year this will have risen to 89KTPA (1.7bn bottles, pots, tubs and trays), producing 63KTPA of recycled material.

The plant will improve recycling rates and reduce the amount of waste sent for export at a time when many developing countries are protesting about being used as dumping grounds for waste from Europe.

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