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A second life for the equipment at coal plants in the process of closure

We apply the circular economy in the process of closing and dismantling our coal plants to prioritise the search for a second life for the equipment and materials and to reduce waste generation as much as possible.

Compostilla Power Plant (León).
Compostilla Power Plant (León).

The closure of the coal plants is part of the strategy of decarbonisation of our energy mix, which is based on an ambitious plan to gradually reduce emissions over the coming years through to their complete elimination in 2050.

The dismantling of these plants is going to be carried out using a circular economy approach, a new model that we are already applying in other areas of our activity, such as new renewable generation, energy storage or electricity distribution projects.

“The objective that we set ourselves in these decommissioning projects is to execute them in such a way that the maximum result is obtained in terms of sustainability and circular economy. To this end, the execution of the works has to be made compatible with the maximisation of the value of all the equipment, materials and resources existing in our plants and the production of waste must be the minimum possible,” explains Beatriz Muñiz Baum, head of thermal generation projects. 

“The objective that we have set ourselves in the decommissioning projects is to execute them in such a way that the maximum result is obtained in terms of sustainability and circular economy.”

- Beatriz Muñiz Baum, Iberia Project Execution Leader - Thermal Projects

To put this circular approach into practice, we have incorporated the obligation to implement a Circular Dismantling Plan into the technical specifications for contractor companies. This establishes the priority of seeking a second life for the equipment, components and materials before undertaking any other management action, such as recovery as waste or ultimately its deposit in a landfill site. Likewise, in cases where the second life option is not viable, special emphasis is placed on the monitoring and traceability of the waste that is recovered.

Another important part of this plan is the incorporation of a series of indicators that will measure the circularity of the dismantling activity throughout the execution of the works. Among other factors, the total amount of waste avoided, the economic value of finding a second life for the assets and the raw material that has been saved in possible manufacturing processes will be measured for the company. An equivalence will also be made of the tonnes of CO2 not emitted into the atmosphere.

Litoral Power Plant (Almería).
Litoral Power Plant (Almería).

Asset reuse: economic savings and waste reduction

In addition to seeking a second life for the assets or their recovery as waste, work has been done on the reuse of equipment in other plants, as well as on the management of donations to social or cultural entities.

In the case of the Litoral plant in Almería, the project “Spare parts and equipment New Life” has been carried out, led by O&M Thermal, which has made it possible to reuse the catalysts from the Litoral plant in Spain and the La Spezia and Fusina plants in Italy, according to the operational needs of the Italian electrical system.

The catalyst is an essential piece of machinery that allows minimisation of the environmental impact during the period of activity of this type of power plant, since it reduces nitrogen oxides in gas emissions, converting them into compounds that are harmless to the environment, such as nitrogen and water vapour.

As a result of this initiative, the elimination of almost 227 tonnes of catalyst modules has been avoided and it has been possible to reuse equipment in perfect condition with a market value of around €600,000.

However, the circularity in this initiative is not limited to reuse and savings, it can also be found in the exchange of skills and collaboration between the Spanish and Italian teams.

 Alternadores en la central de Andorra, Teruel.
Alternators at the Andorra Power Plant in Teruel.

Another example of reuse of equipment can be found at the Andorra Power Plant in Teruel, where the synchronous alternators are to be reused for the photovoltaic plant being built there. This involves the avoidance of more than 1,200 tonnes of waste, as well as the reuse of the part of the infrastructure necessary for the construction and connection of the new renewable facility.

There is also a second use for the spare parts found in the central warehouses: 32% of the spare parts stored in Andorra will be reused within the company and more than 21% of those at the Compostilla Power Plant (León).


Waste recovery and selective demolition

In all the dismantling work, which lasts for several years, there is a treatment of the waste that has already been created and that is also part of the circularity of the process. In the case of concrete waste from this process, it will be used to fill the gaps generated in the works, as well as in the morphological remodelling of the land after the demolitions. Other types of waste that are recovered are ceramic materials, plaster, metals (iron, steel), uncontaminated earth and rocks and other construction and demolition waste.

The demolition is performed selectively, that is, in a gradual and coordinated way to ensure maximum use of the materials that constitute the demolition waste, thus minimising the fraction destined for landfill. Currently, work is being done so that the recovery of the waste generated can be above 90%.

In order to reduce the effects on the environment as much as possible, an environmental surveillance plan will be implemented, with special attention paid to emissions and discharges during the execution of the work.


Futur-e plans for a just transition

In order to mitigate the social and economic impact caused by the shutdown of these plants, we are carrying out Futur-e plans in the surrounding areas of the plants. The aim of these plans is to create shared value with all the local stakeholders affected and to apply the criteria of the circular economy so as to bring in new business models that will work in these different areas.

The Futur-e plans include the incorporation of local labor in the decommissioning and in the development of new renewable projects, training actions aimed at improving the employability of local professionals, measures to promote economic activity and employment in the area and initiatives to promote sustainability in the municipalities.

In the case of Compostilla, an international call for projects has also been launched to attract economic activity and employment to the area. Through this tender process, several projects have already been identified that could be developed on the site of the plant and that could turn Compostilla into a benchmark for sustainable mobility, social health services and circular economy on a national scale.

This reindustrialisation model also includes the circularity vector, both due to the reuse of part of the Compostilla site to host new industrial initiatives and due to the highly circular nature of the projects that will end up being implemented: reuse of wind turbine blades, recovery of waste, new uses for electric car batteries or production of hydrogen obtained from renewable sources.

This international tender model to attract reindustrialisation projects with circularity criteria will also be applied at the Litoral Power Plant in Almería from 2021.


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