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Frequently Asked Questions Frequently Asked Questions

What is the project?

Powerfuel Portland is proposing to deliver an Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) located at an existing site on the Isle of Portland in Dorset that will be capable of exporting around 15MW to the Grid (or large consumers of electricity in the local area). Additional energy in the form of heat is also capable of being exported to local users. 

Why are these facilities needed?

  • As we transition to a low-waste, recyclable society, we need to deal with the current volumes of waste that is not currently recycled or is not capable of being recycled.
  • We also need to develop the technologies, which will support a low-carbon economy into the future. 
  • The UK lags behind the rest of Europe in term of percentage of energy recovered from waste.
  • We have one of the highest rates of landfill in Europe and around three million tons per annum of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF – processed waste) are exported to Europe where the potential for energy recovery is lost to the UK.
  • The landfill tax has increased to 94.15 GBP/tonne in 2020 and Scotland has already banned landfill from 2025 – following the lead of many European countries. This makes it more expensive to landfill and so creates greater demands for highly efficient waste disposal facilities like the one Powerfuel is proposing. 
  • There is a significant ERF capacity gap: 10 million tonnes per annum of material suitable for energy recovery are put into landfill. 

Why are the facilities needed in Dorset?

Local landfill disposal options have closed in recent years resulting in local waste being shipped out of the county by road at relatively high cost. Powerfuel Portland provides a regional solution that is scaled to handle regional waste arisings. 

    • There is a great need for energy on the Isle of Portland. Limited grid capacity and lack of energy is a known economic constraint, which this project will help to alleviate.
    • The ERF will enhance local resilience, providing a local solution to Dorset’s waste problem consistent with the proximity principle in the Waste Framework Directive (which is a key feature of UK and EU law). Availability of local power will become increasingly important as society transitions, as the demand for electricity is expected to rise, for example for transport and heating.
    • The ERF proposals are strongly supported in the plan policies of the various local development and waste plans. 
    • Dorset has declared “a climate emergency” and this project will support the county’s wider sustainability goals. 
    • The Port location means that the facility can take RDF sourced from the Dorset area (which would be delivered by lorries) or other RDF by ship which would typically be delivered baled and wrapped. Shipped waste is considered as an additional part of a resilient supply strategy on top of the local waste market. Many shipping lanes pass close to Portland Port so the site is well placed to access this material by sea. 

What is an ERF and what kind of ERF will this be?

Powerfuel Portland will be one of a new generation of Energy Recovery Facilities which use the latest technology and best available techniques to safely and efficiently dispose of waste and generate low carbon energy. 

The process recovers the energy content in non-recyclable household and commercial waste, by using it as a fuel. The pre-treated and processed residual waste is delivered to combustion chambers where it is combusted at high temperatures and reduced to 20 percent of its original volume. The heat generated from the combustion chambers heats up water in steel tubes that form the walls of the combustion chambers. The water is converted to steam and delivered to a turbine that continuously generates electricity. A facility is classified as an ERF when it meets stringent efficiency criteria.

Is the technology proven?

Yes, it is. The facility will use best in class Northern European technology. There are more than 40 energy from waste facilities operating in the UK. However, most run on "raw" municipal solid waste (MSW) and commercial and industrial wastes, rather than being designed to only accept a homogenous refined fuel like the RDF that this facility will accept. Of these, only a proportion meet the exacting standards to be classified as a high efficiency Energy Recovery Facility. Some of these use "advanced conversion technology" and other types of processes to achieve this, with different levels of efficiency. 

More than 20 facilities are in various stages of development and many more are operational across Europe, including several located in city centre locations (such as the facility in Copenhagen). 

How much energy will the ERF plant create?

Electrical output:
Around 15MW of electricity will be available for export to the Grid. Closer to 17MW of power is actually generated, of which the facility consumes 2MW for its internal processes, in particular for emission reduction and cleaning. 15MW is sufficient to power an average of 30,000 typical homes per year, based on Ofgem's Typical Domestic Consumption figures for 2017.

Private local power supplies could also be made available; for example, the Port would like to provide "shore power" for visiting ships, which currently burn large volumes of red diesel while docked at the Port to keep their generators running. Switching to low carbon electricity from the ERF will enable significant savings of CO2 and other pollutants. Powerfuel is in active discussions with cruise lines and other contracted Port users. Powerfuel is keen to work with other local businesses or community groups that would like to explore the opportunities to utilise heat that can be made available.

Heat output:

In addition to the electricity exported, there will also be heat energy available for export into a district heating system which can serve local need in housing, community buildings and businesses. This would reduce the use of fossil fuels by those parties. Powerfuel Portland will proactively work with partners to make the district heating a reality. 

Powerfuel is in active discussions with the Ministry of Justice to supply heat to HM Prison Portland and the local young offenders institute. Discussions are also ongoing with the local leisure centre (Osprey Quay) and several housing developers. 


How much waste will it process?

The facility has the capacity to process up to 202,000 tonnes of waste.

What is RDF?

Refuse Derived Fuel or RDF is a refined processed fuel which consists largely of combustible and non-hazardous components of municipal solid waste (MSW), comprising household, commercial and skip waste after the recyclable material has been removed. 

The RDF can include similar characteristic wastes from commercial and industrial processes (but never hazardous or medical wastes). It is dried and shredded and therefore has less volume and takes less energy to move than unsorted “wet waste”. 

There are no odours when waste is transported in this dry state. It is usually in a baled and wrapped format for transportation, but if transported by road may be either baled or moved in sealed vehicles. 

When used in an energy recovery facility as fuel it is more homogenous (rather than MSW) and therefore maintains higher more consistent performance in the energy extraction process and requires less additional energy inputs. 

Because RDF is produced after recyclable materials have been removed, it is a genuine “residue”. The Powerfuel Portland facility will not discourage existing high levels of recycling achieved in Dorset from continuing. 


Where will your fuel come from?

There is ample local RDF to supply the facility and it is commercially and environmentally most sensible for us to utilise locally-arising waste. We will work hard to secure feedstock from local sources. 

What is the ‘waste hierarchy’ and does the facility conform?

The waste hierarchy is a concept that was introduced into UK law by the EU Waste Framework Directive. It is commonly represented as a “pyramid” of options and strategies that helps society (a local authority area for example) minimise waste generation and manage the waste created in an optimal manner. It involves the evaluation of processes that protect the environment, resource depletion, energy consumption and sustainability. It ranks options from most favourable to least favourable actions. Diversion away from disposal to landfill is a critical objective. Basic mass burn incineration is classified as “disposal” – so at the same level as landfilling. 

The facility on Portland will be classified as “Recovery”, as opposed to “disposal” operation, and as it will be designed to meet the R1 Energy Efficiency Formula it is further up the waste hierarchy than standard incineration. The project promotes recycling by using residual material (RDF) that cannot be recycled.    

Why is the facility considered to be low carbon?

RDF will contain many different types of waste. Part of the RDF will come from things that were recently growing and are biodegradable (i.e. would break down in landfill releasing methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas) – e.g. food, paper, wood etc. Only the energy generated from the recently grown materials in the mixture is considered renewable. Energy from waste is therefore a partially renewable energy source, sometimes referred to as a low carbon energy source.   

How will it work?

The ERF takes refuse derived fuel or RDF and water, and uses a moving grate boiler system to produce energy in the form of electricity and hot water. The RDF passes over a grate where the energy is recovered and used to produce heat in a boiler, the heat generates superheated steam which will generate electricity in a steam turbine. Around 15MW of power will be exported to the National Grid or used locally. After the steam has been used in the turbine, air-cooled condensers are used to cool the steam into water, which will be reused within the facility. Emissions are cleaned and contaminants removed or reduced.  

Where is the site?

The site is on the north eastern corner of the Isle of Portland, on land owned by Portland Port. The site lies within the central port area adjacent to the main berths of the commercial port.

Why has this location been chosen?

  • This is an existing industrial area (currently unused) within the port allowing for the processed refuse derived fuel or RDF to be transported to the site by road or delivered by ship.
  • Planning permission already exists on this site for a very similar operation.
  • Given the geography of the island and the location within the port, the ERF is being sensitively designed to reduce environmental impacts and minimise possible visual impact of the facility. 
  • The ERF will enhance local resilience in respect of both heat and power. 
  • Once the ERF is operating, in addition to paying local taxes, there will also be community benefit contributions allocated to local sustainability projects.

What will the operating hours be?

The facility provides “baseload” power and should normally operate 24 hours/7days a week. With pre-arranged down times, this should result in around 8,000-8,300 operational hour per annum. Deliveries by road will normally take place in a daytime delivery window.

Will the facility smell?

No. The waste is dry and will arrive wrapped in bales and then stored securely in the building ready for use, or else will arrive in sealed vehicles and deposited in the fuel store inside a building.

Will it be noisy?

The predicted noise levels from the proposed ERF will be within appropriate guidance and standards. 

What about the environmental impact on the local area?

The ERF plant will operate strictly in accordance with an “Environmental Permit” issued by the Environment Agency. The planning process requires a thorough assessment of all environmental and human effects and a detailed Environmental Statement is being prepared as part of the process. Seasonal surveys have been undertaken throughout 2019 as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment process, which have not identified any concerns. This evidence will be carefully scrutinised in the permitting process, including input from all the relevant regulators, and will be open to full public participation and consultation.

What will be left over from the combustion process?

    • Inert slag and incinerator bottom ash (IBA) is the largest component of the output. IBA is an inert, non-hazardous material that is widely reused and recycled in the UK and across similar facilities internationally. Almost all IBA in the UK is now recycled rather than landfilled. Our intention is to ensure that the IBA residues from this facility are recycled and not landfilled.
    • Fly ash and air pollution control residue (APCr) is a minor component of the total output. Across all ERF plants in the UK the average APCr was between 3 and 3.5 percent of waste inputs. In modern plants like the one Powerfuel is proposing, a large proportion of the plant is designed to capture this material. Advancements in technology mean that APCr can now be recycled using techniques approved by the regulators. Our intention is to ensure that residues from this facility are recycled and not landfilled.

Are facilities like this safe?

Yes. Major health studies have proved that these facilities are not a risk to human health. Public Health England, the Environment Agency for England and the UK Government (through Defra) jointly state: “modern, well-managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants… while it is possible that such small additions could have an impact on health, such effects, if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable”. They also state “well run and regulated modern Municipal Waste Incinerators are not a significant risk to public health”. 
The UK’s Environmental Services Association (ESA) puts emissions from Energy Recovery Facilities into context, stating ‘in 2015 home wood burners generated 785 times more particulate matter, while road traffic emitted 45 times more NOx, and Bonfire Night alone produced 10 times more dioxins than EfW across the whole year.’ All ERFs in the UK are tightly regulated and must operate within the national and EU's requirements as set out in the Industrial Emissions Directive (formerly the Waste Incineration Directive). The Environment Agency also carries out spot-checks to ensure that the monitoring equipment is operating correctly.

What emissions will come out of the stack?

The Powerfuel Portland Energy Recovery Facility will operate under strict air emissions control limits. To demonstrate compliance, we will use a combination of continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) that monitor emissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform regular stack testing. 

A large proportion of the plant is dedicated to capturing air emissions in the exhaust. The ERF is fitted with a series of abatement plant to clean the flue gases. Five levels of protection to remove Ash/Dusts, SOx, NOx, Heavy Metals and water vapour: (1) Electro-static precipitator (2) Baghouse (3) Activated Carbon (4) Lime (5) water vapour extraction (removes water so there is no visible plume from the facility the majority of the time). 

Detailed air quality modelling has been undertaken to predict the impacts associated with emissions from the process. Maximum off-site impacts are predicted to be negligible at all receptor locations. Emissions associated with operational traffic flows associated with the proposed development are being taken into account in the detailed emissions and carbon model that support the application.

How often will there be a plume visible from the facility?

Our detailed modelling and analysis has shown that in an average year there will be a visible plume for fewer than 50 hours a year.

How do you control air emissions?

There are strict air emissions limits set by regulatory bodies. Powerfuel Portland will employ state-of-the-art emissions control technology to keep within the limits set by the Environmental Permit and monitored by the Environment Agency. A large proportion of the plant is dedicated to capturing air emissions in the exhaust. 

The Powerfuel Portland Energy Recovery Facility will operate under strict air emissions control limits. To demonstrate compliance, we will use a combination of continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) that monitor emissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform regular stack testing. 

The EU has set very strict limits on the environmental impact of plants over the past decade and this plant will operate well within these limits. Engineering consultancy group Arup is producing a dispersion model to assess air emissions and appropriate stack height. Initial findings demonstrate that emissions emanating from the plant will remain comfortably below the limits set by the Environment Agency.

How will any emissions be monitored?

The Powerfuel Portland Energy Recovery Facility will operate under strict air emissions control limits. To demonstrate compliance, we will use a combination of continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) that monitor emissions 24 hours a day, seven days a week and perform regular stack testing.   

Will the ERF produce harmful emissions such as dioxins and furans?

No. A key element of the design ensures that no dioxins are created. In fact, treatment in the plant leads to a net reduction in dioxins. A large proportion of the plant is dedicated to capturing air emissions in the exhaust.

Will there be many vehicles travelling to and from the facility?

The site at Portland Port has a great advantage in that Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) can be delivered by both road and sea. For planning purposes, we have to work on the worst-case scenario of 100% of the RDF being delivered to the site by road, which would result in a maximum additional 40 lorries into the Port (80 vehicle movements). This is not realistically going to be the case over the life of the plant as the likelihood is that some fuel will come by ship and some by road.

The most up-to-date data from the Department for Transport, shows that Portland Beach Road has a daily 2-way traffic flow of 17,500 vehicles. If 100% of deliveries to the ERF are made by road, it will only generate an additional upper estimate of 80 vehicle movements per day which therefore forms only 0.4% of daily traffic flow, a very marginal impact. This is a worst-case scenario, and likely to be smaller. In addition, we will be submitting a travel plan to agree set routes and timings to further reduce the impact, especially during peak hours.

How tall will the buildings be?

The stack will be 80 metres tall. To put this into context, the largest cruise liners currently using the port are 55 metres tall. The tallest part of the buildings will be about 45 metres tall, the majority much shorter than that figure.

Why has the height of the stack increased?

Our original plan was to have the stack at 50 metres above sea level, which would have kept emissions within the permitted levels. However, following consultation and expert analysis, Powerfuel has increased the height of the stack to improve emission dispersion even further. At 80 metres the emissions from the stack will be so low as to be immeasurable (i.e. contribute less than 1% difference) and as such will be deemed ‘insignificant’ by Natural England and the Environment Agency. This change will further limit the potential that emissions from the ERF could have any significant impact on air quality or sensitive local ecology.

When will construction commence?

It is expected to start in the third quarter of 2020 with a construction period to be confirmed, but is expected to be around two years.  

How much will the project cost?

The capital expenditure is in the region of £100m.

How will the project benefit the local area?

  • The project will create around 30 jobs directly. Up to 45 indirect jobs will also be created.
  • Both skilled and semi-skilled employment opportunities will be available. 
  • Approximately 300 construction jobs will be created during the build phase.
  • During the construction phase, contractors will use local services, such as accommodation, restaurants etc
  • Energy security is a key issue and this project provides much-needed local power which creates greater resilience in the local area for the future.
  • Heat is available for use by local services, businesses and housing projects.
  • This project creates a waste treatment and energy recovery facility in Dorset. (There are currently no such facilities in Dorset.) Waste generated locally could be treated locally, negating the need for it to be transported out of the county. 
  • Community benefit contributions will be allocated to local sustainability projects.
  • The project will help sustain Portland Port by paying rent. The county will benefit from the annual payment of local taxes.