Essex to procure short-term RDF contracts

Essex county council will next month begin procuring up to five contracts to sell around 180,000 tonnes per year of refuse derived fuel produced at the mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant currently under construction in Basildon.

The contracts, which are being procured on behalf of the Essex Waste Partnership, are designed to secure a short-term disposal arrangement to cover the commissioning period of the £120 million MBT plant and the first 18 months of the plant’s full operation.

Commissioning for the facility is forecast to last for around nine months from November 2014 to July 2015, and disposal of the output from the MBT plant is contractually the county council’s responsibility.

Procurement is set to start in March 2014 before the contracts are awarded in July 2014, with a maximum disposal bid of 20,000 tonnes per month per bidder imposed. RDF supply and disposal would then commence in November 2014.

According to a county council report, securing an energy disposal route for the refuse derived fuel (RDF), a by-product of the MBT process, would “improve” on landfilling the material, as it would save on landfill costs and is a more environmentally-sound solution.

Analysis and soft market testing carried out by the council found the cost of disposal of the RDF, including haulage and gate fees, would have to be £111 per tonne or less in order to at least equal the cost of landfilling the waste, which it said would be more than achievable.

The report states the short-term contract will enable the Partnership to test the energy disposal options. It also highlights “uncertainties in any commissioning period” with regards to quantity and quality of material produced.

‘If no price advantage is achieved from this procurement then the switch from landfill to RDF would not happen.’

However, should the procurement not achieve the envisaged savings or the RDF contractors fail to deliver, the landfill of the material remains a ‘fall-back position’ for the council.

And, following the short-term RDF contract, the Partnership intends to “take a longer term, more strategic view on how MBT outputs are disposed of’. But, if no price advantage is achieved from this procurement ‘then the switch from landfill to RDF would not happen”.

The Essex Waste Partnership is made up of Essex county council and its 12 district and borough councils, as well as the unitary authority of Southend-on-Sea borough council.

As the two disposal authorities in the Partnership, Southend council cabinet agreed earlier this month (February 13) to the procurement, following the approval of Essex council’s cabinet in January.

According to a county council report, the rationale for a short-term RDF contract would:

  • avoid the risk of any gap in supply because of periods of non-production during MBT commissioning while maintaining a certain quality of output
  • give the contractor an opportunity to demonstrate a consistent level of performance
  • help to build-up RDF specification data, which would then inform council’s the long-term strategy for dealing with MBT outputs
  • allow time to deliver the procurement of the long-term strategy

Construction work began on the Courtauld Road MBT facility, which will treat up to 417,000tonnes of residual, trade and non-recyclable waste per year, near Basildon in August 2013.

Partly funded via £100.9million of PFI credits, the plant is being built and operated by Waste management firm Urbaser and engineering company Balfour Beatty on behalf of the Essex Waste Partnership as part of a 25-year contract signed in June 2012 worth an estimated £800 million during its lifespan.


Charity Number: 1118616 | Company Number: 4323551