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Vantaan Energia takes the next steps toward carbon negativity

Vantaan Energia takes the next steps toward carbon negativity
Jukka Toivonen, CEO at Vantaan Energia (photo courtesy Vantaan Energia).

One of Finland’s largest municipality-owned energy companies, Vantaan Energia Oy has announced a series of new projects that not only fast-track its coal phase-out but also bring it closer to its carbon negativity by 2030 goal.

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Owned by the City of Vantaa (60 percent) in the Greater Helsinki area, and the Capital City of Helsinki (40 percent), Vantaan Energia produces and sells electricity and district heating, and is responsible for the construction and maintenance of district heating networks in Vantaa.

Since 2014, the company operates a waste-to-energy (WtE) plant that uses non-recyclable waste from households.

Coal phase-out ahead of schedule

During the summer of this year, a capacity extension to the WtE plant was commissioned to increase the utilization of domestic, non-recyclable waste and enable the phasing out of the use of coal in its energy production as outlined in the company’s Fossil-Free 2026 project, an interim goal toward carbon negativity by 2030.

Non-recyclable waste from businesses and industries is used as fuel and deliveries of waste to the new unit began in April with the first fire at the end of May this year.

By phasing out coal, Vantaan Energia’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from energy production will have decreased by as much as 70 percent.

Toward carbon negativity by 2030 (graphic courtesy Vantaan Energia).

In addition, the new unit will significantly reduce the company’s dependence on imported fuels.

Apart from positive impacts on the environment, phasing out the use of imported fossil fuels will also improve price stability for heat clients.

The coal-fired boiler unit in the Martinlaakso combined heat- and power (CHP) plant will however remain ready for deployment until further notice in order to safeguard the security of the supply of energy.

The K1 boiler unit at Martinlaakso was converted to biomass and operational in 2019. The normal use of the coal boiler has ended, but it is still available as a reserve and backup to ensure heat supply in all situations.

New high-temperature incineration plant

The company has decided to go ahead and build a new high-temperature incineration plant adjacent to the current WtE plant.

This new facility will be able to process non-recyclable hazardous household, commercial- and industrial waste, the latter from the paint- and pharmaceutical industries. In terms of household waste, typical items classified as hazardous include, for example, medicines, oily materials, paints, solvents, glues, lacquers, and varnishes.

The new plant aims to meet customer demand and to make Finland more self-sufficient with respect to the treatment of hazardous waste. Significant amounts of such waste have been exported from Finland to Europe for treatment.

With the high-temperature incineration plant treating hazardous waste we will be able to offer our customers a comprehensive solution for the treatment of non-recyclable waste, said Kalle Patomeri, Production Director of City Energy at Vantaan Energia.

The heat produced in the process will be utilized in the district heating network in Vantaa replacing some of the need for fossil gas and contributing to the phase-out of fossil fuels.

Best available technologies and carbon capture

According to Vantaan Energia, the hazardous waste-to-energy plant has been designed to meet the current and future requirements of the environmental legislation and will utilize the best available modern technology, which will guarantee a sustainable and energy-efficient treatment process in terms of the environment.

The plant is also designed to include carbon capture and further utilization, as a result of which Vantaan Energia will be able to offer its customers carbon-neutral treatment of waste that is classified as hazardous.

The project is an important part of the implementation of our strategy to build an increasingly effective waste recycling chain together with our customers. We also aim to process carbon sent for energy recovery and turn it into secondary products with the aid of carbon capture, Kalle Patomeri said.

Technology partners selected

The new infrastructure project gained the required building permit in the summer of 2022 and this was followed by the signing of a contract for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) on October 24, 2022.

Construction is set to begin in late 2022, and the plant is scheduled for completion in 2025.

Sweco Industry Oy is responsible for the plant’s design, procurement, project management, and development services while Hitachi Zosen Inova Steinmüller GmbH, a recently formed subsidiary of Japanese-Swiss cleantech major Hitachi Inova Zosen AG (HZI) will supply the rotary kiln boiler and Valmet Technologies Oy will deliver the flue gas cleaning plant.

The existing energy-from-waste (EfW) facility was originally built by Steinmüller Babcock Environment GmbH (SBE), then part of the Japan-headed Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering Co., Ltd, and since acquired by HZI earlier this year.

This relationship now continues with the newly formed Hitachi Zosen Inova Steinmüller (HZI STM) also providing other services and products to the Vantaan Energia plant in Vantaa.

We are delighted to be supplying and installing our state-of-the-art rotary kiln boiler technology into Vantaan Energia’s facility, which will be an important element in our client’s and Finland’s decarbonization strategies. HZI and HZI Steinmüller are proud to have worked on the existing Vantaa EfW facility and now as a Hitachi Zosen Inova, we look forward to again working with Vantaan Energia on this next project, said Thomas Feilenreiter, Hitachi Zosen Inova’s VP of Systems & Service Solutions.

The design works have already started and HZI STM will begin to install the rotary kiln boiler in November 2023.

Commercial operations are expected in the summer of 2025, after a three-year engineering and construction phase. Once operational, the facility will provide between 12 MW and 24 MW of heat.

The high-temperature incineration plant treating non-recyclable hazardous waste continues Vantaan Energia’s investment program to phase out the use of fossil fuels in the company’s energy production as soon as possible and to continue towards carbon-negative energy production in 2030. Energy utilization of waste and carbon capture and processing into new products play a key role in our strategy, said Jukka Toivonen, CEO at Vantaan Energia.

Rotary kiln boiler technology

This EfW project will build on HZI STM’s experience in providing robust boiler technologies that will safely, securely, and reliably treat a mixture of non-recyclable hazardous waste materials while providing energy, and reducing Finland’s use of landfills.

The Vantaan Energia facility will not only treat around 40 000 tonnes of non-recyclable hazardous waste per year but will also generate steam which will be used by homes and industry via a local district heating net.

HZI STM has a long history of installing its rotary kiln boiler technology and has previously instated these types of EfW facilities around the world – including the Clean Harbors El Dorado incineration facility in El Dorado, Arkansas (AR) in the United States (US).

Commissioned at the end of 2016, the US$120 million Clean Harbors El Dorado commercial hazardous waste incinerator in El Dorado can handle industrial and laboratory chemicals, manufacturing by-products, medical waste, and other solid and liquid materials. The HZI STM proprietary rotary kiln (foreground) and secondary combustion chamber (photo courtesy Clean Harbors).

According to HZI STM, a key advantage of rotary kiln technology is that several hazardous waste streams can be processed simultaneously, for example, solid waste, waste oil, polluted sludges, and polluted liquids. These non-recyclable waste materials can be treated in a single treatment unit.

A secondary combustion chamber is installed directly after the rotary kiln to ensure that toxic substances in the flue gas are safely destroyed at a temperature of at least 1 100 °C.

This temperature is considerably higher than in conventional domestic waste EfW facilities. The secondary combustion chamber is located at the end of the rotary kiln.

The flue gas from the secondary combustion chamber is fed into a steam boiler in which process steam is generated at approximately 212 °C.

This steam will be used for heating purposes or optional industrial processes. The plant’s modern flue gas cleaning system downstream of the boiler ensures that the latest and demanding European emission limits are always safely met.

For Vantaan Energia, the high safety level of the technology and design solutions used, the implementation of the investment projects according to stringent targets, and the high degree of availability of the plants are extremely important. Cooperation with HZI STM has been excellent in the soon-to-be-completed project on the Waste-To-Energy Plant. We are extremely happy that HZI STM will continue as our important partner also in the high-temperature incineration plant project, said Jukka Toivonen.

Planned Activated Biochar Plant

Together with partners, Vantaan Energia is also planning to build an Activated Biochar Plant that would produce activated biochar and carbon-neutral heat from recovered secondary non-recyclable wood. This waste material is currently utilized by combustion for energy recovery.

The new high-temperature incineration plant will be built adjacent to the existing waste-to-energy (WtE) facility units (photo courtesy Vantaan Energia).

The plan is to put about 60 000 tonnes per annum of non-recyclable wood waste into an oxygen-free pyrolysis process to produce around 8 000 tonnes per annum of bio-based activated biochar and process heat for district heating.

The non-combustion-based heat produced in the plant would reduce CO2 emissions in the metropolitan region by up to 60 000 tonnes per annum.

Vantaan Energy’s partners in the biochar project are the environmental management and materials recycling company Remeo and the conglomerate Berner.

For the former, the Activated Biochar Plant is a better solution for recycling customers’ non-recyclable wood waste contributing to the improvement of the overall recycling rate and helping meet the 70 percent recycling rate as required by legislation.

For the latter, the project opens a new business in the sale and distribution of activated biochar both in domestic and international markets. Assuming permitting and other conditions are met, the Activated Biochar Plant could be operational in 2027.

It is great to cooperate with leading companies in the sector and to see that the circular economy is taking huge leaps forward. It is also extremely important to find other alternatives to utilize non-recyclable wood than combustion for energy recovery, remarked Kalle Patomeri.

Toward 2030 carbon negativity with CCU

In parallel and as alluded to by Jukka Toivonen, Vantaan Energia is planning to recover CO2 from flue gases of its own energy production and explore further usage – carbon capture and utilization (CCU).

Achieving the climate targets requires extensive utilization of emissions reduction solutions. Processing of carbon dioxide into permanent products is a method of binding carbon back to circulation instead of climate emissions if the production of carbon dioxide cannot be avoided with other measures, Jukka Toivonen said.

To this end, the company has been awarded a grant of about EUR 500 000 from Business Finland to conduct R&D work on CCU solutions. The research work will be completed by the end of 2024.

The funding from Business Finland will accelerate our technology and process development of emissions reduction solutions and is also a recognition of our ability to innovate and implement significant emissions reduction projects, said Jukka Toivonen.

Novel electro-fuel project

One such CCU measure that Vantaan Energia is a step closer to realizing is an electro-fuel (eFuel) project, specifically electro-synthetic methane (eSNG).

The company is preparing to invest in an eFuel plant that will produce carbon-neutral (eSNG) by utilizing water and CO2 produced in the processing of waste in a new and innovative way.

Schematic of Vantaan Energia’s Power-to-Gas (PtG) project (graphic courtesy Vantaan Energia).

The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment has awarded a EUR 30 million grant toward a synthetic methane unit in Vantaan Energia’s planned eFuel project.

The eFuel facility is planned to be located in proximity to the WtE plant making it possible to recover and utilize the residual process heat.

If implemented as planned the facility would produce up to 80 GWh eSNG per annum displacing imported fossil gas. The majority of the eSNG would be used as a renewable transportation fuel while some would be utilized in heat production during periods of high heat demand.

Vantaa Energia’s electro-fuel project is unique in that transportation fuel production, heating, renewable gas- and electricity markets converge and merged into a single project.

The investment aid granted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment plays a significant role in enabling Vantaan Energia to implement its plan to phase out the use of fossil fuels in energy production as quickly as possible and proceed towards carbon negativity in 2030. The investment aid will accelerate the technological development of the Finnish hydrogen economy and the project offers an industrial-scale development platform for Finnish technology companies to commercialize new technologies in Finland and on a global scale, ended Jukka Toivonen.

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