Waste-to-Energy ramps up

ME Prospects for 2024

Hot on the heels of COP28, waste management and its role in supporting countries’ net-zero efforts has a renewed focus across the Middle East in early 2024. New projects, greater ambitions and higher inflows of foreign investment all amount to a buoyant situation for waste-to-energy (WTE) development across the region.

This month, we’re taking a look at some of the latest project announcements, developments and associated government targets that are influencing the overall pace of progress for WTE rates across the Middle East.

WTE Roundup – New projects and developments for 2024

UAE: The first phase of the $1.09 billion Dubai Waste Management Centre (DWMC) was launched in July last year. Currently, Dubai Municipality believes that the facility will be completed on schedule before the end of 2024. While its initial operations allow the centre to process 2,000 tonnes of solid waste to produce 80MWh of renewable energy, this will jump to a generation rate of 220MWh once complete, making DWMC the world’s largest waste-to-energy project.

Saudi Arabia: 2024 is set to be an ambitious year for Saudi Arabia regarding its national recycling and waste management rates. This month saw the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture unveil plans for a massive leap from current recycling levels of 3-4% to 95%, providing 100,000 new jobs for the waste management sector while adding an estimated $32 billion to the economy. Part of the overall plan is to hit a target of generating 3GW of waste-to-energy capacity by 2030, with various projects currently in the MoU or feasibility study phases.

Oman: US-based H2-Industries is currently building a $1.4 billion waste-to-hydrogen project along the Omani coast. Once fully operational, it should be able to process 1 million tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with a yield of 67,000 tonnes of green hydrogen and 1 million tonnes of valuable carbon dioxide.

Egypt: Keen to tackle municipal waste while positioning itself as a global hydrogen player, Egypt is also collaborating with H2-Industries to build a waste-to-hydrogen plant at East Port Said/Suez Canal Economic Zone. Preliminary approval has been granted, and once complete this will 1GW waste-to-hydrogen hub will be the first of its kind in the world. It is expected to handle 4 million tonnes of organic waste and non-recyclable plastic each year, while producing 300,000 tonnes of green hydrogen.

Iraq: October last year saw the National Investment Commission (NIC), Iraq’s primary investment regulatory body, announce that it is seeking investors for the country’s inaugural WTE project. To be sited just outside of the capital, Baghdad, this will be a crucial step in strengthening Iraq’s energy infrastructure while doing so in an environmentally sustainable manner. This month saw confirmation that the project will be awarded in the first quarter of 2024 to global firms with the relevant experience.

Bahrain: Despite its small size, Bahrain still produces 1.8 million tonnes of waste annually, with much of it going to landfill. Key global WTE firms are eyeing the country with interest for new tenders in 2024. Currently, the leading WTE project is the Askar 25MW biopower project that’s currently owned by the Ministry of Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning. The facility is likely to begin construction works in 2026, with commercial operations starting the following year.

Drive to Survive allows WTE to Thrive

In each country’s case, we’re seeing WTE taking up an increasingly important position as an enabler of better municipal waste management, improved public health and greater national sustainability overall. In the context of the global climate crisis, the atmosphere in the Middle East is right for embracing circular economics and the broader understanding that current waste levels are unaffordable, both economically and environmentally. This acceptance has led to increased speed and confidence for WTE projects regionwide. As 2024 unfolds, we can expect WTE to remain in the headlines and in the minds of decisionmakers looking to produce the “double win” of lowering waste levels while generating cleaner energy.