Helping Chile’s green power generators manage their industrial waste

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Helping Chile’s green power generators manage their industrial waste

Chile’s fleet of renewable energy plants is growing apace, with a 2050 decarbonization goal a key driver of investor interest. Green hydrogen production – which will require masses of cheap and clean power – is seen as a future growth seam.

In March, 210 non-conventional renewable energy (NCRE) projects, chiefly solar, for a total of 4,372MW were under construction, according to Chile's national energy commission. NCRE installed capacity today stands at just under 10GW.

This buzz of NCRE activity is generating opportunities for Chilean waste management and waste treatment services provider Hidronor. Power generators must provide authorities with a waste management plan and outline how they will implement it – which is where Hidronor steps in. The company has positioned itself as an environmental partner for the likes of Mainstream Renewable Power, Engie and Enel.

To find out more about the power generation sector and waste management, along with the regulatory and legal framework, BNamericas spoke with Luis Briones, business development engineer at Hidronor.

This interview was conducted via email.

BNamericas: What kind of waste is generated by renewable electricity generation plants in Chile at both the construction and operation stages?

Briones: In the construction and operation stages, clean energy generation industry projects in Chile generally generate the following types of waste: hazardous industrial waste such as residual oils – both lubricants and dielectric oils – solid waste contaminated with flammable products, toxic solid waste, reactive solid waste and corrosive solid waste; non-hazardous industrial waste such as demolition debris, wood, scrap, cardboard and paper; and household or biological waste, such as food scraps, greasy canteen wastewater, sewage and biological sludge.

The most important thing in the waste management service that a supplier provides to this type of industry is the response capacity and the breadth of requirements that it can offer, since, generally, the NCRE plants are located in places far from final disposal centers, sometimes with difficult access and complex communications, which requires the provider of these services to have the necessary flexibility to respond to the requirements of each project, guaranteeing compliance with current legislation with expert know-how.

BNamericas: Regarding waste management in the renewable energy sector, are there general regulations or do specific regulations apply?

Briones: In Chile, the legislation associated with the regulation of waste in terms of transportation, treatment, disposal and recovery is applicable across the board to all industries, and not to any one in particular. For this reason, there are general laws and regulations that establish general concepts and applications, which are complemented by specific regulations. However, Chile signed an agreement with OECD member countries for sound waste management, which is related to the legislation associated with waste management.

Regarding the legislation applicable to waste, Chile has the following:

- Law 19,300: Is the law of general environmental rules that establishes a general framework of regulation of the right to live in a pollution-free environment, the protection of the environment, the preservation of nature and the conservation of environmental assets.

- Supreme decree No. 148: Is the sanitary regulation on hazardous waste management that defines what is hazardous waste and establishes responsibilities for the generators, transporters and recipients of this.

- Supreme decree No. 298: Is the regulation for the transport of hazardous substances on public highways, which also applies to hazardous waste.

- Law 20,920: Is the law for extended producer responsibility and promotion of recycling (REP), which establishes the legal framework in terms of waste and promotion of recycling. The purpose of this law is to reduce the generation of waste and promote its reuse, recycling and other types of recovery, through the establishment of the extended producer responsibility and other waste management instruments in order to protect the health of people and the environment.

- Law 21,075: Its purpose is to regulate the collection and disposal of domestic wastewater in urban and rural areas, with the purpose of saving and reusing this vital element.

- Supreme decree No. 4: Is the regulation for the management of sludge generated in wastewater treatment plants.

- Decree No. 189: Approves regulations on basic health and safety conditions at landfills.

- Supreme Decree No. 594: Approves regulations on basic sanitary and environmental conditions in workplaces.

These regulations and others call for specific compliance with respect to the generation, transport and correct final disposal for each type of waste. In this regard, it is of great importance to have expert companies in the matter of responsible waste management so that they can support the different industries in compliance with legal requirements and, in turn, can advise them on this issue, finally becoming an environmental partner in this sphere.

At Hidronor, we provide an expert and effective response to these needs, offering comprehensive solutions in the management and treatment of industrial and hazardous waste for different projects. 

BNamericas: What kinds of services does Hidronor provide for these types of companies? 

Briones: At Hidronor we provide a wide range of services associated with the responsible management of industrial and hazardous waste that add value to renewable energy generation projects, such as:

- Transport, treatment and final disposal of waste
- Energy recovery, reuse and recycling of waste
- Remediation and sanitation of contaminated land
- Development of projects at customer sites (on-site services)
 - Consulting, analysis and characterization of waste

However, for projects that require comprehensive waste management attention, we have developed services associated with the transport and management of final disposal of household or assimilable waste; management and provision of chemical toilets; cleaning of sewage pits; biological sludge transport and management; transportation and management of greasy canteen wastewater; and provision of drinking water and industrial water.

This expansion of the service offer associated with the management of waste from projects in the energy area, added to the experience that we have managed to achieve, positions us today as a leading company in waste management in Chile.

BNamericas: It seems to us that the focus on the circular economy is going to increase with the new government. What opportunities and challenges could this trend bring for Hidronor?

Briones: At Hidronor we forecast that the strengthening of the regulations that today require greater compliance with responsible waste management, added to Chile's adhesion to the OECD agreement to reinforce the commitments associated with safe waste management, will add multiple challenges and new opportunities in the development of more efficient and innovative waste management processes in terms of treatment, recover, coverage and comprehensive care, which puts us on the right path to continue adding value to industries in terms of waste management.

For this reason, at Hidronor we are facilitators in the circular economy value chain. To make it possible, we work under the concept ‘from waste to resource’, using industrial waste to generate energy for use in industrial processes. We can highlight the production of alternative fuel based on waste with calorific value, which is used mainly in the cement industry. 

Also, there is the generation of clean energy, which we inject into the national electricity grid, from biogas from the domestic waste that we receive. From this point of view, at Hidronor we have always been very committed to the principles of the circular economy.

BNamericas: Finally, what other companies/projects do you think could generate waste in the future and could be a business focus for Hidronor? For example, PMGD distributed generation plants, electricity transmission, green hydrogen.

Briones: The current and potential NCRE projects in Chile project a promising future for the country, which goes hand in hand with the national commitment to move toward total decarbonization by 2050. This implies, in the first instance, taking diesel and/or coal-fired plants offline, followed by their dismantling and the remediation of the sites where they operate. In a second derivative of the investment in NCRE plants, it is estimated that investment in green hydrogen will also advance strongly in the country – an industry that also generates industrial and hazardous waste and that requires services such as those of Hidronor to meet legal requirements.

In addition to this positive outlook, there are other industries with strong investment and development and in which we have provided waste management services – and are projected to continue operating for much longer, which implies a continuous service in terms of responsible waste management – such as seawater desalination, mining, wood pulp and steel.

BNamericas: Any final words, key messages?

Briones: At Hidronor we have been promoting sustainability through the management and treatment of industrial, hazardous and household waste for more than 25 years. We have accredited laboratories, a sanitary landfill and three treatment and final disposal centers for industrial waste, distributed throughout the country.

Our proven experience has allowed us to acquire great speed of adaptation and response to the new challenges that industry demands today, which allows us to forecast strong growth in the country to continue meeting the needs of our clients.

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