Amager Bakke: leader in waste-to-energy

A 10-year partnership between Ramboll and Copenhagen-based utility pushes the envelope for carbon capture, circular economy, and energy from waste, at the world's most efficient waste-to-energy plant.
view of Amager Bakke waste-to-energy plant with harbour and boats in the foreground

According to the World Bank, the world’s population generates above 2 billion tonnes of municipal waste annually “with at least 33% of that—extremely conservatively—not managed in an environmentally safe manner.”

While the best way to avoid waste remains the three ‘Rs‘ – reduce, reuse, recycle – we also urgently need more sustainable solutions for the waste we do generate.

One answer to the problem is Amager Bakke, a state-of-the-art waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen. With an energy efficiency of 107%, it delivers low-carbon electricity to 550,000 people and district heating to 140,000 households in Denmark’s capital region.

“We need to recycle as much as possible, but we have to acknowledge that a lot of products are non-recyclable. All this residual waste comes to Amager Bakke, where we can turn it into good and green energy,” said Jacob Simonsen, CEO of Amager Resource Centre (ARC), an inter-municipal company, which owns and operates Amager Bakke.

“We wanted this to be the best waste-to-energy plant in the world, which means the best environmental performance and the lowest emission limit standards,” he adds.

Amager Bakke has fast become an iconic addition to Copenhagen’s skyline, sporting a ski slope designed by world-renowned architect Bjarke Ingels of BIG, which is open to the public all year round.

Ramboll advised Amager Resource Centre for more than 10 years on Amager Bakke. As the owner’s engineer, Ramboll helped ARC boost the energy output to record-high levels and reduce emissions to far below limit values.

“Ramboll has contributed in a great way to making Amager Bakke a reality. They have been our chief technical advisors throughout the entire process, and it would have been very hard to see Amager Bakke standing here without the contribution from Ramboll,” said Jacob Simonsen.

Capturing Amager Bakke’s carbon

Taking Amager Bakke’s green profile even further, Amager Resource Centre together with Ramboll, the Technical University of Denmark, and water treatment company Pentair, developed a carbon capture pilot plant, which began operation in 2021.

The facility, which is Denmark’s first carbon capture pilot plant, paves the way for large-scale carbon capture at Amager Bakke. By 2025, the ambition is to capture 500,000 tonnes of carbon annually from the plant, thereby reducing the total carbon footprint by 95%. In practical terms, that is equivalent to replacing 250,000 petrol cars with electric vehicles.

This CO2 can either be safely stored underground or, in the slightly longer term, be used to produce e-fuels through Power-to-X.

Waste is a resource in the circular economy

Amager Bakke can treat more than 400,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste every year. This waste is incinerated in two large waste-to-energy lines that each have a capacity of up to 42 tonnes of waste per hour. For every tonne of waste, Amager Bakke generates 2.7 MWh district heating and 0.8 MWh low-carbon electricity.

After incineration, non-flammable materials such as ash and metals are collected and processed for reuse. For instance, bottom ash from Amager Bakke can be reused in road construction. This reduces the need for other natural resources such as sand and gravel, while also contributing to the circular economy.

Amager Bakke’s flue gas treatment system is one of the most advanced in the world and is the first waste-to-energy plant in Denmark with a catalyst to remove harmful NOx particles.

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  • Nils Christian Holm

    Global Spearhead Director, Energy from Waste and Carbon Capture

    +45 51 61 86 48