How did this initiative and collaboration come about?
To begin, we should define the scope of the issue that needed to be addressed. Population expansion, greater urbanisation, and increased economic activity have all resulted in rising trash output rates throughout the world. This is especially important in the UAE, where inhabitants generate between 1.2kg and 1.3kg of garbage every day, with 77 percent of that waste ending up in landfills. Irresponsibly managed or overflowing landfills can produce greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide.
Bee’ah was created in 2007 as a pioneering force in the Middle East for sustainable solutions, with a strategy based on the twin pillars of sustainability and digitalization. Bee’ah has achieved a 76 percent waste diversion from landfill rate in the Emirate of Sharjah with a holistic approach to trash management and innovative recycling facilities. However, in order to achieve zero waste to landfills, we realised that we needed to take a step further and implement a waste-to-energy plan for non-recyclable residual garbage. As a result, in 2017, we formed a joint venture – the Emirates Waste to Energy Company – with Masdar to deliver waste-to-energy solutions to the area. The collaboration capitalises on synergies from both institutions, with Bee’ah being the UAE’s waste management leader and Masdar as the UAE’s renewable energy pioneer.
Emirates Waste to Energy is a supporter of the UAE Vision 2021, which has set a renewable energy target of 27% and a goal of diverting 75% of solid waste from landfills by 2021.
Explain briefly how your technology works and what effect it has on sustainability (actual data, numbers and figures would be great here).
We are nearing completion of the Sharjah Waste to Energy Facility, the EWTE’s first facility and the first in the UAE. The facility, which covers 80,000 square meters and is located within Bee’ah’s Waste Management Complex in Al Saja’a, Sharjah, fulfills the most stringent European Union environmental regulations. The waste-to-energy facility, when completed in 2021, will process 300,000 tonnes of nonrecyclable solid waste per year at a rate of 37.5 tonnes per hour.
The Sharjah Waste to Energy plant is unusual in that it makes heavy use of direct air exchange for mechanical system cooling and boiler cleaning with minimal water usage, which is perfect given the region’s lack of water. The facility will encounter special meteorological conditions as the UAE’s first waste-to-energy plant, such as hot and dry air temperatures and strong sandy winds. These environmental factors have previously been taken into account in the design of the equipment and activities. Furthermore, we have built an unique flue gas (a combination of gases created by the combustion of materials in power stations or industrial plants) treatment system that does not need the use of water, which is normally employed in waste-to-energy facilities. The procedure comprises injecting dry lime powder into the boiler’s output to treat acid gases, which optimises emissions performance (the quantity of carbon dioxide emitted) and operational expenses.
The procedure begins with a weighbridge for garbage collecting vehicles, which is followed by waste unloading into a waste bunker. There will be a control room with an operator who will manage a crane that will carry garbage from the bunker to the boiler. Before the bottom ash exit, the combustion grates supply waste flow to assure drying, ignition, combustion, energy release, and full burn-out. The grate is the location where trash is turned into energy. Following that, the boiler will recover heat from cremated garbage to generate steam, which will power a turbine generator. Bottom ash is discharged and put in storage to be turned into useable recyclable materials, while flue gas is cleaned using strict air pollution controls. The high-pressure, high-temperature steam is transformed into electrical energy by a steam turbine, which is linked to a step-up transformer, which subsequently sends the electricity to SEWA’s grid. As part of a closed-loop water cycle, the residual steam is sent through an air-cooled condenser and converted into water, which is then reused in the plant.
The Sharjah Waste to Energy project will not only offset around 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year, but it will also create up to 30 megawatts of energy, which will be fed into the Sharjah electrical system and used to power up to 28,000 households.
What are some of the significant milestones you’ve already achieved?
In January 2017, Bee’ah and Masdar signed a Joint Development Agreement, and the Sharjah Waste to Energy project conducted its groundbreaking ceremony. The Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), Standard Chartered Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Siemens Financial Services, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, and the Commercial Bank of Dubai provided funding for the project. CNIM, a French industrial contractor, was given the rights to design, develop, and manage the Sharjah Waste to Energy Facility in 2018. Piling work began in 2019, and commercial operations will begin in the fourth quarter of the following year.
Progress has been made during the COVID-19 epidemic, and we just had the first boiler component lifting ceremony, which will take place in June 2020. The boiler is a critical component of the plant because it recovers heat from burned waste to generate steam, which drives a steam turbine generator.
What is Sharjah’s waste-to-energy potential? In the United Arab Emirates?
Sharjah’s administration has been exceptionally forward-thinking, particularly in terms of long-term development. It is actively working to create the Emirate the Middle East’s first zero-waste-to-landfill city. As previously stated, the first Sharjah Garbage to Energy Facility will be a vital component of this strategy, diversifying energy sources in the Emirate while also addressing the issue of rising waste.
This accomplishment with the Sharjah Trash to Energy plant may be readily reproduced throughout the UAE, where the average waste output per person is roughly 1.2 to 1.3kg daily, and even throughout the GCC area. Emirates Waste to Energy Company is pioneering waste-to-energy technology in the area, and we feel the potential as a comprehensive waste management approach is enormous.
The objective is to become Sharjah the Middle East’s first zero-waste metropolis. Where else do you believe the zero-waste objective is achievable?
The UAE’s difficulties with trash creation, overflowing landfills, and a lack of recycling knowledge are shared by the rest of the region. The Emirates Waste to Energy Company is looking into prospects across the MENA area, and there is a lot of interest in such solutions. At Bee’ah, we believe that waste-to-energy is critical to achieving an end-to-end waste management solution and reducing reliance on landfills.
However, waste-to-energy is only one component of the equation. We take pleasure in promoting a circular economy in the UAE and consistently developing creative solutions to achieve zero-waste objectives at Bee’ah. We feel that recycling is essential for recovering valuable materials from our garbage. We have multiple facilities to do so at our Waste Management Complex in Al Saja’a, such as the Industrial Waste Water Treatment Plant, which treats industrial-contaminated water to produce clean water that can be returned to the water cycle with minimal environmental impact; the largest Material Recovery Facility in the Middle East, which produces recyclables; and a Tyre Recycling Facility, which recycles 3,000,000 end-of-life tyres and converts them into crumb rubber product. The Construction & Demolition Waste Recycling Facility, which has a 95 percent recovery rate and produces recycled aggregates for reuse in construction projects; the Car & Metal Shredding & Recycling Facility, which shreds old car bodies and separates metal, glass, and plastic components for recycling; and the new Biomass Facility, which processes carbon- and cellulose-based waste to convert it into alternative fuel (a substitute for fossil fuels) for industrial purposes. The Biomass Facility was constructed and operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We believe that recovering value from waste, minimising our use of natural resources, and limiting the environmental effect of economic activity is critical.
We have extended this year into Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia due to our strong track record in the UAE. Bee’ah has won the contract for garbage management and city cleaning for Egypt’s new Administrative Capital, one of the world’s largest urban development projects. We’ve been tasked with meeting the city’s high target of achieving 80 percent rubbish diversion. From there, I am convinced that meeting the zero-waste goal for the new Administrative Capital will be a simple effort.
Similarly, Bee’ah just obtained Madinah’s municipal trash management contract. Our efforts in Madinah City will supplement the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 objectives, which include the building of a legislative and investment framework to promote the waste-to-energy sector, with a goal of achieving 3GW of electricity from garbage by 2025.
What role does waste to energy play in the broader energy transition and the UAE’s environmental goals?
The UAE’s Vision 2021 aim of 75% waste diversion is just the beginning of the country’s larger quest for a more sustainable future. The UAE Energy Strategy 2050 aims to quadruple clean energy’s contribution to the entire energy mix while reducing the carbon footprint of its power generating processes by 70%. To that purpose, it has already achieved significant advances in solar technology and is moving forward with nuclear power. It has also vowed to fulfill the UN’s seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and in year it signed the Zero Carbon Building Commitment, which aims to make all new buildings carbon-neutral by 2030, and all structures carbon-neutral by 2050. Waste-to-energy is both a waste management solution and an alternative energy source, expanding the UAE’s energy mix. So, while much work has to be done, Bee’ah and Emirates Waste to Energy Company are on the right route owing to our government’s vision and leadership, as well as its intentions to diversify energy sources through renewable energy infrastructure.
What were some of the most difficult issues you had to face as part of this project?
As this is a large infrastructure project, obtaining money was one of the most difficult tasks. But, thanks to the strength of Bee’ah and Masdar’s partnership and creative financing, we even won several awards for the secured financing, including the 2018 Thomson Reuters Project Finance International (PFI) Award for Clean Deal of the Year in the Middle East and Africa, the 2018 Bonds, Loans, and Sukuk Middle East Awards, and the 2018 IJ Global MENA Waste Deal of the Year. We have also collaborated with several organisations, including the start-up Seramic Materials, to investigate the feasibility of recycling ashes from Bee’ah’s waste-to-energy plant’s municipal solid waste incinerators (MSWI) into sustainable, economical, and durable construction materials. We are collaborating with CNIM, a group of French industrial experts, to guarantee that the Sharjah Waste to Energy facility is the most modern of its type in the world. And we have a partner in Masdar who shares our ideals of sustainability and digitization for a future-ready economy. Despite the COVID-19 epidemic and the logistical hurdles it poses, we are still on target to begin operations next year as planned.
What are your goals for growth and development in the following year?
Bee’ah is constantly looking for ways to advance the Middle East’s sustainability agenda, whether through the launch of new projects and ventures or through partnerships that result in positive co-creation and innovation. Our ultimate purpose is to improve the communities we serve quality of life. We intend to repeat the same success we’ve achieved in the UAE as we expand into other markets. The COVID-19 epidemic, which bears many characteristics with the longer-term climate change catastrophe in that it crosses borders, impacts communities of all socioeconomic backgrounds, and necessitates collaborative action from all parts of society, was not a setback for us. We are even more energised to continue driving our purpose ahead and enlisting the support and collaboration of all stakeholders for a brighter future.
The new Bee’ah Headquarters will be finished by the end of this year. As a net-zero-energy green building and fully AI-integrated office of the future, it is a tangible representation of our twin pillars – sustainability and digitalisation. We think that our new headquarters will provide the groundwork for future sustainable and smart cities, which is the only way ahead.
CEOforLIFE – We promote life. We support the SDGs.