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Waste authority to spend £2.5m examining carbon capture plans

Carbon captured from the new Edmonton incinerator could be buried under the sea but expert calls plans ‘la la land’, reports Josh Mellor, Local Democracy Reporter

The new incinerator at Edmonton Eco Park has already been approved and preparation for its construction has begun
The plans for the new incinerator now under construction at Edmonton Eco Park

The controversial new Edmonton incinerator could include a ‘carbon capture’ facility to reduce its carbon emissions.

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is currently building a new, larger incinerator at Edmonton Eco Park, increasing its maximum capacity to 700,000 tonnes of waste a year. Construction work officially got underway in September.

Last month, an NLWA committee approved an initial budget of up to £2.5million to investigate whether it would be possible to include a carbon capture plant alongside the new incinerator.

If built, it would capture most of the carbon dioxide (CO2) the incinerator is expected to produce each year, which would then need to be transported and stored under the sea.

At the meeting where the £2.5m was approved, with the possibility of £7.5m more at a later date, NLWA members raised concerns about the process of transporting the captured CO2 out of North London.

Programme director David Cullen argued there are “solutions that merit investigation” with NLWA chair Clyde Loakes strongly supporting the plan. However, he admitted the authority would need to “push boundaries” and that a solution might take “a couple of years” to be clear.

An early assessment shows there is no simple solution for transporting the CO2 either to the Kent or Norfolk coast. Using lorries would need “around 100” trips a day, while south-east England’s railways are already congested and laying a pipeline from Edmonton to the coast “will be challenging”.

Brian Mark, an engineer who has advised the government on waste incinerators, said carbon capture is “wishful thinking” to avoid stopping fossil fuels. He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s all been done in proof-of-concept installations but the costs just make it ‘la la land’ – we’re talking about storing [carbon dioxide] for geological amounts of time.


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“It’s never really ever been achieved commercially, there have been attempts obviously and you can do it in the lab, but it’s a matter of getting the scales to the point that it’s commercially possible. 

“They’ll talk about it because it’s the lifeline for the fossil fuel industry.”

However, Stuart Haszeldine, professor of carbon capture and storage at the University of Edinburgh, says he is “very much in favour” of carbon capture schemes at sites where waste is being burned for fuel. He argues that “joining up” carbon capture with power-generating waste incinerators would make their environmental impact “negative”.

On the undersea storage of carbon dioxide, Stuart added: “There’s evidence that you can monitor it safely and guarantee that it can stay there for the future. 

“Since 1996 a project in Norway has been putting carbon dioxide down a borehole, one million tonnes a year, every year for the past 22 years.

“It’s a good thing for the UK to get involved with[…] what we’ve got to guard against is building a plant just to burn waste.”

A NLWA spokesperson said energy-from-waste facilities such as the Edmonton incinerator that “hygienically dispose of waste” should not be conflated with other industries such as factories and fossil fuel-fired power plants.

They added: “However, the development of carbon capture infrastructure is a core part of the government’s plan to take the UK to net zero and it is supporting the development of carbon capture and storage clusters in strategic areas of the UK.

“These clusters will bring greater economies of scale and allow numerous organisations and businesses to tap into a common infrastructure to capture, transport, and lock away carbon emissions.

“Carbon capture and storage would give our new energy recovery facility an even more positive role in protecting our environment, making the facility carbon negative.

“That is why we are investigating its viability with sufficient investment.”

NLWA is a waste disposal authority run by councillors from the North London boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.


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