The TV ERF is an important public infrastructure project for the North-East and will provide a local, secure, reliable and affordable waste treatment solution from 2026 – helping move towards the goal of sending zero waste to landfill. The facility will serve more than one and a half million residents living in Newcastle, Durham and the Tees Valley by generating energy from the rubbish left over after people have recycled all they can. This leftover rubbish is known as “residual waste”.
The facility will be located at the Teesworks site in Redcar on the former British Steel works at Grangetown, which is a brownfield site suitable for the development of waste management infrastructure.
Each year, it is envisaged that the new facility will process up to 450,000 tonnes of residual waste from the region and use it to generate up to 49.9MW of electricity – enough to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes.
Seven local authorities (Darlington, Durham, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Redcar & Cleveland and Stockton) are working in partnership to deliver this facility and are currently selecting a partner to build and operate the TV ERF through a competitive tender process. The selected operator will be awarded a 29-year contract to design, build and operate the facility, with the potential to extend by a further eleven years.
Three bidders were shortlisted and Final Tenders were submitted by Viridor and Green Recovery Projects Ltd in March 2023. The project partners have agreed to temporarily pause evaluation of these tenders, and the appointment of a Preferred Tenderer, owing to uncertainty around electricity offtake for the plant, which has a substantial bearing on the procurement process. More information about this can be found in our updated FAQ document.
In addition to providing an essential sanitation service and a sustainable means of treating the region’s residual waste, the TV ERF will contribute towards economic regeneration and development in the local area.
The specific section of the Teesworks site allocated for the TV ERF is a 22-acre plot known as Grangetown Prairie 2 and there are ambitious plans for the economic regeneration of the whole site. Locating the facility here, alongside other new circular-economy infrastructure, will contribute to the regeneration and development of both the site and the local economy.
The TV ERF project will also create hundreds of jobs during the construction period and approximately 40 permanent positions once operational. In addition to creating employment opportunities, it is anticipated that the plant’s ability to export heat and electricity to the wider Teesworks site could serve as a catalyst for attracting other operators.
Furthermore, through the procurement process, the partner authorities have asked the short-listed bidders to consider how their specific proposals will contribute towards social value, carbon reduction and regeneration for the seven partner authorities. This has been given a significant weighting in the decision-making process and will likely to be a key differentiating factor between bidders.
The waste processed by the TV ERF is known as “residual waste”. Residual waste is the material left over after residents and businesses have separated all they can for recycling (through their kerbside collection services and household waste recycling centres for example), so this is typically anything which goes in the general rubbish bin. The waste hierarchy – which fundamentally underpins each of the partner authorities recycling and waste management plans - determines that it is preferable, from an environmental perspective, to treat this residual waste by generating energy from it instead of disposing of it in landfill.
The TV ERF is a critical and essential part of the waste management strategies of the partner authorities and will provide a local, secure, reliable and affordable residual waste treatment solution from 2026 – ultimately contributing towards the councils’ shared long-term goal of sending zero waste to landfill.
Prior to initiating the tender process, the respective waste strategies for the Tees Valley authorities, Newcastle City Council and Durham County Council were subject to consultation – both with the public and statutory consultees.
Improving recycling performance and championing waste avoidance are key priorities of the partner local authorities involved in the TV ERF procurement and these services are operated individually by each local authority. The partner authorities anticipate that recycling rates will continue to improve in the region as new national and local policies are introduced, so the TV ERF will not impact upon the pursuit of this higher recycling performance – indeed this has been factored in when specifying the residual waste treatment capacity of the new facility.
The safe treatment and disposal of waste is vital for maintaining a sanitary environment and protecting public health but treating residual waste, like most industrial processes, does create greenhouse gas emissions. These are very challenging emissions to avoid but, as part of the TV ERF tender specification, the bidders are required to demonstrate how they will reduce carbon emissions from this operation year-on-year over the duration of the contract.
Energy recovery is a lower carbon solution for the treatment of residual waste compared with landfill, which is the only viable alternative at this scale. For context, approximately 200kg of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) is saved for every tonne of residual waste sent to energy recovery instead of landfill – although the relative performance can vary within a range depending on specific local circumstances.
In future, potentially exporting heat as well as electricity from the TV ERF will increase the plant’s efficiency, further improving its performance compared with landfill. The residual waste stream can be further decarbonised through the removal of more plastics by increased recycling and waste reduction measures, while carbon capture and storage technology holds the potential to mitigate remaining net emissions in future.
Modern energy recovery facilities are among the most heavily regulated industrial installations in the world and must meet strict environmental standards. The TV ERF will use mature, proven and reliable technology to process waste. In practice, these facilities often operate at just a fraction of permitted emissions levels and, as a result, make only a small, if detectable, contribution to local concentrations of pollutants such that any impact on health from reduced air quality is negligible.
The TV ERF will employ a range of industry-standard flue-gas treatment technologies to remove pollutants and particulate matter from the gases produced during the combustion process, before they are dispersed through the stack. These technologies will separate and capture particulate matter and pollutants by filtering them from the gases. The substance left over from this filtration process is known as Air Pollution Control residue (APCr) – which itself can be treated and recycled through specialist processes.
Once the flue gases have been treated, those that are released through the stack are dispersed at height to ensure they are not concentrated at ground level and they are constantly monitored – with strict safety controls in place. The TV ERF will be regulated and closely monitored by the Environment Agency, which will only grant an environmental permit for the facility to the chosen operators if it is satisfied that the plant can operate within the stringent regulations.
The UK Health Security Agency (Formerly Public Health England) commissioned a study by Imperial College London in 2019 investigating the health effects of municipal waste incineration, which found that modern, well-run, energy recovery facilities are not a significant risk to public health. PHE concluded that, while it is not possible to rule out adverse health effects from these incinerators completely, any potential effect for people living close by is likely to be very small. This view is based on detailed assessments of the effects of air pollutants on health and on the fact that these incinerators make only a very small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants.
Recruitment will be the responsibility of the bidder chosen to operate the TV ERF in due course, but a decision to appoint a contractor will not be made until 2023. The chosen bidder and its sub-contractors will no doubt share details of employment opportunities and the process for registering interest in employment opportunities associated with the project publicly in due course. The construction of the facility is due to be completed in 2026.