“Bee’ah is close to achieving its zero-waste goal”- Mohammed bin Kuwair

“Bee’ah is close to achieving its zero-waste goal”- Mohammed bin Kuwair

/ Renewables / Monday, 29 April 2019 12:17

Working for more than 10 years to create a sustainable future, Bee’ah, the Middle East’s fastest growing environmental management company, has accorded an exclusive interview with Energy Review represented by Senior Manager for Technical Projects, Mr. Mohammed bin Kuwair, to talk about its biggest project, the waste-to-energy plant, its importance, its risks if any, and the main goal behind bringing such new technology to the UAE.

Recently, Bee’ah and Masdar have completed the financing of the UAE’s first waste to energy plant. Can you outline to us the importance of such plant and how does it operate?

The average person in the UAE generates around 2.7 Kg of waste every day. With the rapid urbanisation in the Middle East, waste production in the region is only expected to increase. Waste-to-energy projects will enable us to tackle this insurmountable problem, in addition to meeting our energy needs. Given the large amount of waste generated daily, this is an inexhaustible source of clean energy, that also ensures that our waste is diverted from landfills.

When waste accumulates in landfills, it also produces harmful gases like methane, which is 18 times more poisonous than CO2, and the second biggest contributor to climate change. By investing in waste-to-energy plants like ours, the GCC can ensure energy diversification and environmental protection, while utilising a source that has been confirmed by experts to be commercially viable.

As a sustainability pioneer, Bee’ah has always been interested in investing in new forms of renewable energy. To further this ambition, Bee’ah signed a MoU with Masdar at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) 2016 and formed a strategic partnership to explore the potential of waste-to-energy projects in the region. At ADSW’17, both companies formalised the agreement to establish a joint venture, the Emirates Waste to Energy Company (EWEC). The JDA for the Sharjah Multi-fuel Waste-to-Energy plant, which is the first venture that has resulted from this partnership, was also signed at ADSW’17.

One of the first waste-to-energy facilities in the UAE, this facility will incinerate up to 37.5 tonnes of municipal solid waste per hour, to generate 30 megawatts (MW) of energy, which will be supplied to the Sharjah electricity grid and power up to thousands of homes. It will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology for the treatment of flue gas, and has been designed to meet the strictest environmental standards, including the European Union’s Best Available Techniques.

Process: The Sharjah Waste to Energy Facility will incinerate the non-recyclable waste segregated by Bee’ah. The incineration process converts the waste to heat, which is used to generate steam, which is then used to drive an electric generator. The net electrical power produced will be supplied to the Sharjah electricity grid. The flue gas from the waste incineration will be treated before being released into the atmosphere. The by-products, such as bottom ash and fly ash are treated as well, temporarily stored at site and later used in the industry for roads and pavements.

Waste-to-energy is a new technology brought to the region. What are the risks that come with it?

Since waste-to-energy projects are new to the Middle East, significant effort is required to finance and set up the required infrastructure. The most commonly used method is incineration but for this process, advanced technology has to be deployed to ensure minimisation of pollutants and carbon dioxide. Proper management and disposal of ash produced from the process is also pivotal. To prevent loss of value to the economy, stringent measures have to be taken to ensure that only non-recyclable waste is sent to waste-to-energy plants.

Regardless of what method is used to produce energy, supplying the energy produced to the power grid, has its own set of challenges. Stringent planning and provision of storage facilities is required to ensure consistent performance on a daily basis, so as to prevent intermittent supply of energy. For this purpose, it might also be necessary to evaluate and expand the storage capacity of the grid itself.

Knowing this technology has been already available in other countries such as Europe and the US, what factors delayed its arrival to the region?

Waste-to-energy as a technology is complex and comes with a set of risks, which need to be taken into account by the different entities involved in its implementation. The technology has been available to countries in Europe and the US for a long time. However, the opportunity for it to be implemented in the region with the utmost compliance to environmental regulations has only recently become feasible. That’s because our cities are growing rapidly, and with the amount of waste exponentially increasing, waste-to-energy is a means to move past the practice of landfilling.

What are the main objectives behind this new facility?

According to the National Agenda Vision 2021, the UAE needs to derive 27% of its energy from clean sources, and divert 75% of its waste away from landfills. This facility will support the meeting of these goals by ensuring complete diversion of waste, while monetizing and producing clean, sustainable energy.

The facility will incinerate around 300,000 tonnes of waste per year, diverting it away from landfills.

It will generate 30MW of clean energy, energising over thousands of homes, and expanding the UAE’s renewable energy portfolio.

The project will ensure environmental protection by displacing almost 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions and saving 45 million m3 of natural gas, annually.

The facility will make Sharjah the first zero-waste city in the Middle East by 2021, meeting the sustainability ambitions of the region.

Are there any plans to build more waste-to-energy facilities in the near-future?

Following the establishment of this facility, we hope to establish similar plants across the UAE and the Middle East. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is also exploring the possibility of establishing a waste-to-energy project in the Northern Emirates, with support from Bee’ah and Masdar.

Do you think this technology, alone, is enough to attain zero-waste goal?

In line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, Bee’ah set the ambitious target for Sharjah to achieve zero waste when the company was created back in 2007. At present, the emirate diverts 76% of its waste away from landfill.

However, in order to achieve complete diversion, it was necessary to find a way to process non-recyclable materials. In line with Sharjah’s growth and sustainability vision, the emirate was also on the lookout for renewable sources of energy. By investing in waste-to-energy pursuits, Bee’ah has found an effective solution to both of these issues.

Bee’ah is close to achieving its zero-waste goal, not just due to this technology, but also because of our integrated waste management strategies. We have tripled waste diversion rates in Sharjah in just 10 years, using an innovative waste collection system, comprising of smart bins and an eco-friendly fleet. Bee’ah makes use of cutting-edge technology like geo-tagged smart bin sensors and automated route optimization, as well as a fleet of more than 1200 eco-friendly, electric & CNG-powered vehicles. Bee’ah was also the first in the region to place an order for Tesla’s new fully electric Semi truck.

Bee'ah is the only company in the UAE to have advanced recycling facilities for specific types of waste. We are only sending non-recyclable waste to the waste-to-energy plant, and recovering as much as possible. In addition to the region’s largest material recovery facility, Bee’ah has a tyre recycling facility, a metal recycling centre; an industrial waste water treatment facility, and a construction and demolition waste recycling facility. Therefore, we believe that the attainment of a zero-waste goal requires an integrated strategy, which starts from proper collection and segregation of waste streams; to processing, treatment and recovery of recyclable materials, and generating energy from non-recyclable waste using waste-to-energy facilities.

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