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Innovative waste-to-energy and waste-to-fuel companies are investing in South Humber. Here’s why…

10:57 am, Friday, 30th August 2019 - 5 years ago

With sector expertise, large industrial sites and a supportive local authority, South Humber is certainly process industry-friendly. Furthermore, the area offers a ready supply of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) for businesses investing in innovative waste-to-energy and waste-to-fuel operations.

Thanks in part to its ports and logistics infrastructure, South Humber is home to a well-established process industries cluster, with considerable expertise in traditional sectors including petro-chemicals, chemical manufacturing and gas production and storage.

And now, the combination of logistics and local expertise is proving key to the attraction of a new generation of innovative process technology companies.

Each year, more than 2.5 million tonnes of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) is exported from the UK to continental Europe, with the Humber ports handling almost one-third and Immingham the largest share.[1][2] That’s providing a ready supply of RDF for companies establishing innovative waste-to-energy and waste-to fuel plants in the area.

RDF to more sustainable aviation fuel

One of these companies is Velocys, which, together with partners British Airways and Shell, has taken an option on land in South Humber for a waste-to-aviation-fuel production facility.

“The UK has a very positive set of financial conditions for plants like this.” says Neville Hargreaves, the company’s VP for Waste to Fuels. “It sets a high price on the proper disposal of waste through the landfill tax, and the renewable transport fuel obligation means that credits from producing a low carbon fuel can be sold to obligated parties”.

With regard to local factors, Neville adds: “We needed a location where the right people can be recruited and where the council and neighbours find us an attractive prospect. I couldn’t have asked for more positive support from the local authority”.

RDF to more sustainable energy

Great Coates Energy Ltd. also has a significant stake in South Humber, having secured planning permission to build an RDF-to-energy facility in the area. Vireol, the company’s part owner, has further long-term plans to establish a cluster of companies on a large site at Great Coates near Grimsby.

Ged Russell, Technical Director of Vireol and Director of Great Coates Energy Ltd, explains: “South Humber is ideal because there is plenty of RDF available.”

The company also appreciates the help and support received from North East Lincolnshire Council, and other local partners.

“The local authority has been in continuous contact, and are very helpful with the planning process”, Ged says. “They’re engaged with local stakeholders and have a good idea how to develop projects that fit in with local aspirations. We’re also very pleased with the level of capability, knowledge and expertise in the local labour pool, and with the training support offered by CATCH and the Grimsby Institute.”

A ‘process industry-friendly’ location

There’s no doubt that South Humber is a process industry-friendly location. The local authority, North East Lincolnshire Council, values the sector highly for its economic contribution, and highlights a supportive approach to planning as one of the ways it attracts and assists businesses in the sector.

Cost-effective space for industrial businesses is another key part of the South Humber offer. The area is home to one of England’s largest industrial enterprise zones, with sites that are development-ready, suitable for large-scale operations, and supported by financial incentives. Land costs and rents are amongst the lowest of England’s industrial enterprise zone locations.[3]

These advantages are complemented by a large, specialist process industries workforce which, as a percentage of the total workforce, is 2 x the Great Britain average. This technical skills offer is combined with labour costs that are 23% lower than the UK average. [4]

The cluster is further supported by proactive education and training services from the Grimsby Institute of Further & Higher Education and CATCH, an industry-led facility set up to support the process, engineering and energy sectors. Both offer apprenticeships, technical qualifications and industry-specific practical courses, as well as working with companies to tailor courses to their specific current needs.

New-generation technologies

While energy has been produced from waste for many years, the new generation of plants use both new and existing technologies in novel ways to create heat, power and fuel from RDF. Traditionally, energy was produced from waste by incineration. Now, cleaner, more sustainable processes are being adopted, like those to be used at the Great Coates Energy plant.

According to Ged Russell, “the process will start with gasification of the waste. As well as being a much cleaner process, this has the advantage of creating useful gas by-products, which can themselves be used as feedstock for chemicals including fuel”. Heat as well as energy will be generated by the plant, with the potential to be used by local businesses.

A dynamic industry cluster

Velocys and Great Coates Energy are just two of the innovative companies establishing operations in South Humber. Others include North Beck Energy (waste to energy), Nu Energy (waste to energy) and IGE Solutions (plastics to fuel). And these projects are just part of a wider regional energy story. The Humber Energy Estuary encompasses other high-growth sectors including offshore renewables, and is at the heart of the Humber LEP’s strategy to build a diverse, low-carbon energy economy in the region.

South Humber’s new energy investments will join the area’s established cluster of energy-focused businesses that includes the Phillips 66 Humber Refinery. Producing around 20% of the UKs transport fuel, this facility converts crude oil into liquefied petroleum gases (LPG), gasoline, diesel and aviation fuels, as well as anode grade coke and highly specialised graphite coke, used in Lithium Ion batteries [5]. Yet another South Humber innovator, Phillips 66 is investigating ways to turn waste oil from various sources into transport grade bio-fuels.

The desire to keep waste out of landfill, and to produce energy and fuels more sustainably, is leading to the rapid development of new technologies. And South Humber, with its location and logistical advantages, is benefiting from the large-scale industrial investment that follows. The cluster’s ongoing growth will, undoubtedly, lead to the further development of skills, expertise, education and supply chains, making the area even more attractive to leading-edge energy and fuel technology companies.


[1] Environment Agency, 2017;
[3] Property data, “South Humber Location Data Guide”
[4] ONS; “South Humber Location Data Guide”
[5] “Phillips 66 Humber Refinery”; Energy, Oil & Gas;