Owning and Operating Costs of Waste and Biomass Power Plants

Claverton Energy Conference, 23/24/25th October 2009

Dave Andrews, DAEC

(Note – this is a general note about one manufacturer. For a a more detailed and recent survey of suitable manufactuers, send an email to tyningroad@gmail.com)

Here are some broad brush head line figures for the owning and operating of a particular kind of advanced staged combustion power plant, obtained from a leading manufacturer, suitable for biomass, waste materials and waste wood. The  process is essential combustion, but is referred to as gasification / combustion, meaning the material is first charred on a grate, with the off syngas being burnt in a separate adjacent and low level refractory chamber.  The char is then burnt at a later stage as it moves down the great.  This leads to greater burn up of fuel and lower emissions. The syngas combustion is maintained within the ceramic, and special gas flows prevent the contaminants in the gases fouling and degrading the ceramics.

 This is a big issue in conventional plants since refractories have to be replaced every few years due to chlorine attack.




Since 3 of these plants have now been built, with extensive operating cost, they are fully bankable.  Indeed the vendor will build, finance, own and operate units if clients desire.




These plants are modular in nature so any size up to 80 MW can be constructed from 4 basic sizes – this keeps costs down.


Build Costs (all high budget figures) for a 4.5 MWe plant


Civil build including all utility connections grid gas water and drains small power and lighting site completed 3-4 million pounds.


Power plant with gross output of circa 4.5 MWe will cost in the region of 12-13 Million depending on final design and spec and commodity costs at the time of order.   


So turn key installation could cost 15-17 Million pounds.


Cost of capital

If we amortise 17 million over a period of 15 years the cost would be for money paid back on a 7% rate of interest on a yearly basis is £2.32 million to pay back per year.

Staffing levels

Six members of staff, in total, will be needed to operate the plant at a yearly cost of £200,000 and all these staff will be able to service the unit basic maintenance needs with  specialist help brought in from time to time.

Spares and other consumables

For all the spare parts needed and the dosing agents required and all other requirements in costs to run a power plant use a high budget of £500,000 per year.

Total running costs

This will then gives a total running and purchasing cost figure of £3.02 million pounds per year.


The net output will be around 4 MWe depending on final specifications.


This will produce £4,807,269 of revenue per year under new feed in tariff or FIT.


Fuel cost and return

The fuel needed for 30% wet waste wood paper and card will be 5-6 tones per hour or 45,000 tones per year. If we presume this to be zero gain zero cost, assume no gate fee then this makes a very robust safety margin, ie income over costs, for the future.


Ie a  net profit of £1,787,269 as a likely worse case scenario. 


Joint Ventures, Build Own Operate, etc


The manufacturers are interested in owning plants either partly or fully as a project partner if this is of interest to the client. The above type of plant will be performance bonded to give absolute surety’s to maximum continuous ratings.


General performance and costs figures


Virgin wood generally are cheaper to build and have higher efficiencies than plant burning waste or contaminated wood.


The following budget figures are reasonable:



Waste wood, reclaimed contaminated wood, card etc

Forest wood

Power Output

2 MW

20 MW

(2 x 10 MW)

80 MW

(4 x 20 MW)

2 MW

20 MW

(2 x 10MW)

80 MW

(4 x 20 MW)



Efficiency %



Note – the above figures are provisional – but near enough – they will be finalised in the next two weeks. DA – 31 October 2009 (This is a draft paper)


Waste Compliance Directive – WID


All waste combustion plants must meet the Waste Compliance Directive – typically the plants concerned are half WID limits.


Heights of buildings


Typical most conventional stage combustion plants tend to have very tall buildings, due to the need for long residence times demanded by WID, and chimneys for dispersion. Advanced combustion techniques as used here, by virtue of existing horizontally, rather than upwards, can be restricted to 14m in height, which is a significant advantage for planning permission.


Fuels – ability to deal with a wide range of fuel types and contaminants.


These kind of plants can deal with anything from virgin wood to highly contaminated waste wood, ie containing plastics and metals, up to 30 % moisture content, and even 40% aggregate / brick.  Partly this is due to the ability to recycle hot air, but other advanced techniques are employe.


Further info: dave dot andrews the at symbol gmail dot com

46 comments on “Owning and Operating Costs of Waste and Biomass Power Plants

  1. From the Tabular statistics above, one would assume, that the waste wood processes are less efficient then the forestwood processes.

    An interesting parameter to include in the above would be a comparison of conventional fuel (like coal) $/MW on production site v/s $/MW on the consumer side.

    A less friendly figure on the consumer side in $/MW terms using conventional fuel,compared to the $/MW figure on the production side(and its relative comparison with above),should act as a pointer towards non-captive power planing.

    Am I making sense ?


  2. Adding costs of 1 MWh produced by these power stations compared with the cost of electricity produced by power stations using conventional fuel to the above table of the budget figures would be very productive for better understanding the situation around sustainable energy.

  3. Sir,

    I am the Solid Waste Manager for our Utility in a US Territoryxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx. The Utility is Ameican xxxxxxxxxxxxxxPower Authority. I am interested in the WtE technology and would like to learn more on your BioMass technology.

    I’m also interested in a combination of Biomass & Municipal wastes technology if you have.

    Kindly advise on your convenience,

    Petero xxxxxxx

  4. Hi Dave, Ive been researching and evaluating methane production and Have an Idea. As rual residents many homes have septic systems is there a possability that system could be modified to produce methane to fuel there home for heating, and/or power generation, I’m trying to figure out a free supply of fuel continuously.

  5. Roland – idea is a non starter – as a little research would have shown. ie Avonmouth Sewage Works produces 3 MW of electricity from 1,000,000 persons – do the maths.

  6. We are looking a turn-key supplier of biomass power plants 2MW – 10 MW. Our site & grid is ok for 10 MWe. We are arrange to use Gliricidea Sepium as fire wood. Addition to this paddy husk, waste wood chips & agri waste also available.
    Thanking you
    L. Jayaratne
    EverGreen Power

  7. We got solid supply of forestry wood chips up to 7000 tons/month. and recently selling electricity to goverment (up to 165MV Diesel).
    looking for advice for Biomass Power Plant.


  8. Hi Rully

    Your bulk supply of 7000 tonnes of biomass depending on moisture content could give you a burn rate of about 10 tonnes per hour, if the calorific value (CV) is in the order of 10 MJ /kg , a modern rankine cycle steam plant will could give an electrical output of about 6 MW.

    Every aspect of of this type of installation will depend on the CV of the fuel , the moisture content, the fuel preparation is important which should be chipped down to a size of about 50 mm diameter or less to be fired in a spreader stoker fired boiler giving about 40 tonnes of steam per hour. Air or water cooled condensing will be required, plus all the usual boiler auxiliary plant of fans, feed pumps , fuel handling will also be required.

    The water requirement will range from about 30 tonne per hour for wet cooling down to about 3 tonne per hour for dry cooling.

    This sort of plant could be viable depending on how firm the fuel and water supply is.

    I do not understand your comment about diesel plant generation, but if you are already operating plant on a commercial basis then a 6 MW steam plant even becomes more viable depending depending on existing site infrastructure.

    I will certainly be able to recommend your inquiry for further engineering study and costing depending on how far you would like to proceed.


    • Hi John, what would the Capital cost generally be for a 6MW peak (average 5 MW) wood chip biomass power plant be?


  9. Hi…we have a woody biomass project in Indonesia. Looking to do 11MW. Does anyone have experience in this part of the world building out these gasification plants?

  10. I have already been browsing on-line higher than 3 hours just lately, on the other hand certainly not found virtually any attention-grabbing write-up including your own. It truly is wonderful really worth adequate in my opinion. In my view, in case almost all internet marketers in addition to blog writers manufactured very good written content because you would, the web has to be much bigger beneficial than before.

  11. I am looking for a supplier of a 3-5MW biomass energy plant for a forestry operation in Peru. We have as much fuel as necessary from our forest concessions and sawmill facility. I need help with feasibility, design, build and finance. Please contact me if you know of a company who could help

  12. Hello,

    I am interested in starting a 5 MW biomass gasification power plant .I will strictly use the rice husk as the fuel.Could someone advice me if it is viable to start with a capital investment of $ 2.2m .If possible give idea of gasifier equipment that would suit my project.The fuel biomass is there in plenty but i fear the burn rate of this fuel per hour to give an output of 5MW would be very high.Kindly advice

    • Hi Steven,

      We are looking to do the same here in London, UK. We have about the same in investment, we would be open form a consortium to further enable our plans. We have finalised plans for a 5mw fresh rapeseed oil biofuel power plant.

      Let me know if this is something of interest, if you prefer to call then my number is

      Kind Regards,

      Lee Dabhi

      • Attn:Sir / Madam

        I am MOHAMMED ABDULLA AL SHAIKH the CEO of ALSHAIKH GROUP and on behalf of the BOARD OF DIRECTORS ALSHAIKH GROUP KUWAIT, (http://www.alshaikhgrp.com ) am writing this email to confirm to you our legitimate and readiness to fund your project.

        We are ready to facilitate and fund any business that is capable of generating 10% annual return on investment (AROI) as loan funding to your project

        Allah Blessings

        Mohammad Abdulla Al- Shaikh
        CEO- Alshaikh Group

  13. Look at the article on the left of the page ” rice husk gasifier in Burma and contact the prof and ask him”.

    roughly speaking rice husk is the same as wood, so find out the relative calorific value of rice husk and dried wood and prorate the quantities.

    You are looking at about £3000/ kWe electrical, so work it out. $2.2 is not enough to make it work.

  14. Dave Andrew’s comment is more realistic and will probably more than what he mentioned.

    The. Gasifier route for small outputs might be best if you have a fuel with good size grading ie rice husk.

    Would or other bio mass off cuts might have to be chipped / prepared to suit the combustion and / or gasifier process.

    What ever project you embark on there will be fixed and variable costs.

    The variables will include commissioning , tuning and operation which can be minimized if you have in house skills and staff to cover the O & M side of a small generation project.

  15. hellow i need the qutation for bio mass energy generation plant…. 25 mw electricity production thro bio mass.. if any body … knows kindly contact me thanks…
    P&S Engineer

    Quantum Dynamics SFI Group
    Shakir Kot Airport Road, Sadiqabad,
    Rahimyarkhan, Punjab.
    Ph#: +92 (68) 5010071
    Cell#: +92 (300) 6999905
    waiting thank

  16. Attn:Sir / Madam

    I am MOHAMMED ABDULLA AL SHAIKH the CEO of ALSHAIKH GROUP and on behalf of the BOARD OF DIRECTORS ALSHAIKH GROUP KUWAIT, (http://www.alshaikhgrp.com ) am writing this email to confirm to you our legitimate and readiness to fund your project.

    We are ready to facilitate and fund any business that is capable of generating 10% annual return on investment (AROI) as loan funding to your project

    Allah Blessings

    Mohammad Abdulla Al- Shaikh
    CEO- Alshaikh Group

  17. Am looking to start 5 to 10 MW waste to energy plant in west Africa and looking for investment partners. Government guarantees and off taker agreement will be really available.

  18. I am very interested in your writing. Currently I’m offering to construct a power plant of 5 MW to the regional government of Lampung with palm oil mill waste fuels. What do you think, if the fuel is palm oil mill waste that much of this area.

    Also included such funding in your writing. However, if such costs can still be dikuran gi, because we think the cost is quite expensive when exchange our currency, the rupiah.
    1 Pounds = Rp 15,000.00
    So 17,000,000 x Rp 15,000.00 = Rp 255,000,000,000.00
    Total immense.
    What do you think

  19. Hello, we’re looking to generate about 2MW in West Africa for a cashew processing plant using the waste cashew shells as fuel.

    We’ll be processing 30 tons of cashew per day. Will this be enough fuel?

    Thank you.

  20. Hello Sunday

    Your query attracted my attention,

    I can comment as follows on the numbers you have given:

    An electrical demand to be generated from steam of 2 MW

    This would require about 20 tonnes of steam an hour operating at moderate steam pressures of 25 to 30 bar and a temperature of 350 to 400 deg C.

    From brief investigation the net CV of cashew nut shell is about 18 mj/kg which is very usable and moisture levels in the order of 11% and ash being 2.6%.

    From what I have read about cashew nuts is that about 60/70% of the total mass is shell so 30 tonnes of nut will give about 20 tonnes of shell.

    A 20 tonne steam demand every hour will mean about three tonnes of cashew shell will have to be fired every hour to maintain your electrical power generation taking that about 6 tonnes of steam will be generated for every tonne of cashew shell fired.

    If low pressure steam is required for the process, so much the better.

    The sort of plant to suit your requirements would be similar to those used in rice growing areas where rice husk is used as a fuel, the technology is well established.


    John Kiewiet

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