Dubai building facility for waste-to-energy generation

Dubai is setting the stage to build one of the largest waste-to-energy (WTE) plants in the Middle East as the US$21 billion global WTE market is forecast to increase by nearly 60 per cent over the next eight years.

Dubai Municipality is building a Dh2 billion facility to convert solid waste into energy in Warsan district two, according to Wam, the state news agency. This falls in line with the emirate’s move to reduce landfill waste by 75 per cent over the next five years.

It will take three years to bring the plant online with operations expected in the second quarter of 2020. The first phase will receive 2,000 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste per day to produce 60 megawatts of power, said Hussain Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality.

The global WTE market is rapidly increasing, with the market size forecast to grow to more than $33bn by 2023 from last year’s $20.86bn, according to the American research and consultancy company Global Market Insights. The region will grab a chunk of the market, said Mhairi Main Garcia, the director of Dubai-based Clean Energy Business Council.

“The GCC states rank among the highest per-capita producers of municipal solid waste in the world with the majority of waste dumped in landfills using valuable land and resulting in quantified environmental damage,” she said.

However, there are still obstacles to get the market up and running.

Low-cost landfills will need to be addressed if WTE or even recycling is to be successful. “Recycling in the GCC is currently ad hoc but there is huge scope for recycling across the region,” Ms Garcia said.

From WTE projects, a secondary recycling market could open up with the by-products from these plants being used in areas such as road construction.

She pointed to other regional examples led by Qatar with its large-scale WTE plant. This will lead to more private-sector participation, which is the trend throughout the region in other areas in the power sector. Kuwait is tendering a large WTE project on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.

The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is planning to invite private-sector bidders to run a huge project to handle waste in the Northern Emirates, capable of processing between 1,000 and 1,500 tonnes per day.

“What is still unclear in this relatively new market is whether governments will continue to fund these projects directly as is the case with Qatar’s Domestic Solid Waste Management Centre or whether this will be growth area for PPPs, with regional and international lenders providing finance to WTE projects,” Ms Garcia said.

“The next 12 to 18 months will be key in understanding whether a PPP market will develop regionally in this area.”

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