Waste and wastewater now represent a resource that can be recovered as energy in the form of heat, electricity or fu
Keeping track of waste
Étienne Petit, Veolia’s CEO in Germany
Turning waste into green energy has many advantages. First of all, it makes it possible to side-step the constraints linked to its storage, at a time when regulations in this area are becoming increasingly stringent, especially in Europe and the United States. “The energy transition is a global issue, championed as a priority by countries already highly advanced in the field of resource management optimization,” explains Étienne Petit, Veolia’s CEO in Germany. “As landfill sites have been prohibited since 2005, Germany began considering the recovery of waste and its use as an energy resource at a very early stage,” he states. Most European countries have taken this stance, encouraged by 2008’s framework directive. “Waste-to-energy has become an obvious approach. The United Kingdom has put in place financial incentives to encourage local authorities to recover their waste,” adds Pierre Mauguin, Energy Recovery Business Unit Coordinator in Veolia’s Technical and Performance division.
Going with the flow
360 meters long and almost 75 meters high, this masterpiece with delicate curves in the form of a double wave blends in seamlessly with the surrounding hills of Hong Kong and overlooks Deep Bay, just opposite Shenzhen. It is the largest sludge treatment facility in the world.
Sewage sludge from wastewater t reatment can a l s o be transformed into energy. “Until now, sewage sludge was used for spreading. This is going to be prohibited,” states Étienne Petit. Today, this sludge can be treated to produce RDF (Refuse-Derived Fuel), a high calorific value fuel. “It is an important energy source in Germany for cement works and power plants,” highlights Étienne Petit. Some seven million metric tons of RDF are used in the country each year. Another example in Hong Kong, where Veolia runs the largest sludge treatment facility in the world, T-Park: sludge incineration produces up to 14 MWh of electricity per year. This exceeds the plant’s energy needs, hence the decision to plow back the surplus into the public electricity network. Other avenues are emerging, as Étienne Petit describes: “An iron and steel plant emits a lot of heat. The idea is to capture this so-called ‘waste’ heat, treat it and use the energy potential released to power a city.” It’s a winwin situation: the local authority reduces its CO2 emissions and the industry monetizes a resource that would otherwise be wasted.
Landfilling waste and biogas recovery.
Around the world
Wastewater as an alternative energy source - Veolia
Mexico - Waste to Energy facility | Veolia
The worldwide potential is vast. The major emerging economies of Asia and Latin America are seeing a sharp increase in their energy needs. “Rather than increasing the number of open landfills on the outskirts of cities, waste recovery offers bright prospects,” summarizes Pierre Mauguin. The proof: Mexico, where ten million inhabitants produce 13,000 metric tons of waste on a daily basis. Today, two thirds of this waste is sent to a storage facility. Veolia has just won a contract for the construction and thirty-year management of one of the largest waste-to-energy plants in the world and the first in Latin America. The plant will process 1.6 million metric tons of household waste each year, i.e. twice as much as the largest French facility, and will produce 965 GWh electricity that will directly power Mexico’s metro.
On behalf of industrials
A strong trend is emerging and Veolia is gradually strengthening its offering for industrial clients in order to help them lower their carbon footprint. “Recovering their waste or wastewater represents a promising solution,” says Étienne Petit. In Germany, for instance, the Group is working with the paper industry in particular. In North Rhine-Westphalia, it helped the paper manufacturer Heinrich A. Schoeller Söhne GmbH & Co. KG optimize its water consumption – the sector is extremely waterintensive – and produce energy from its wastewater.
The circular economy for the food and beverage industry
In the United Kingdom, it took the same approach with the agri-food giant Heinz to generate the steam required to operate the packaging production lines at Kitt Green, the group’s largest facility in Europe.
“We are going to capitalize on the Group’s models to develop an even more structured and powerful industrial offering,” confirms Étienne Petit, adding, “We see the prospect of city-industry partnerships developing within the framework of decentralized local loops. It’s extremely promising from an economic, environmental and social point of view, with the guaranteed creation of strong labor pools. This is an authentic example of a circular economy model in which Veolia comes into its own as a facilitator and integrator thanks to its knowledge of the local markets.”