Mark Attwood FCCA
- Advisory and Assurance Partner
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N+P, headquartered in Nieuw Bergen in the Netherlands, turns non-recyclable industrial and commercial waste into alternative raw materials and innovative fuels that power energy-hungry industries. Waste that would otherwise go to landfill now has value and for example provides electricity for our homes and keeps steel furnaces burning.
N+P was founded some 30 years ago in the Dutch living room of Karel Jennissen, primarily trading in wastepaper products, then used in the brick industry and as a biofuel in powerplants. That pioneering spirit of turning waste into new products has been at the heart of the business that has seen it grow and expand across Europe, including Teesside in Yorkshire.
Whilst recycling rates of industrial and commercial waste have increased dramatically over the past two decades, it remains a fact that considerable amounts of waste is sent to landfill. And, as they say in Yorkshire, ‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’.
In the early 2000s, a new refuse-derived fuel, RDF, was developed that turns industrial waste into fuel that burns with a sufficiently high calorific value to provide a credible alternative to fossil fuels.
10 years ago, N+P opened its first operation in the UK, collecting and exporting waste to its manufacturing plants in mainland Europe, such was the demand for RDF.
“We take what cannot be recycled and turn it into an entirely new product,” explains Jan Giepmans, Reporting, Tax and Insurance manager at N+P. “When the recyclables have been removed, we take what is left and turn it into innovative new alternative fuels. We create value from waste.”
Five years ago, N+P acquired the patent to a new product called SubcoalÒ, a refined form of solid recovered fuel, or SRF, that in pellet form has a high calorific content, burning at a much higher temperature, and offering a high-quality alternative to fossil fuels with lower CO2 emissions.
“SubcoalÒ is attracting considerable attention from large global industries such as cement and lime manufacturers and steel blast furnaces,” says Jonathan Lucas, Marketing & Communications Manager at N+P. “They are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels to reduce their CO2 emissions.”
In 2019, N+P opened its first Subcoal manufacturing plant in Teesside. The Teesside plant will eventually produce between 110,000 and 160,000 tonnes of SubcoalÒ a year, working alongside its manufacturing plant in the Netherlands that produces 110,000 tonnes each year.
“The demand is there,” says Jan Giepmans, “and we are looking to develop new manufacturing plants in the UK and Europe. Our next big manufacturing site is developed in the middle of the UK and others are developed in France and Germany.”
The potential market for SubcoalÒ is vast – a power plant can, for example, use up to 1.000,000 tonnes of fuel a year, which saves more than equal that amount of CO2 emissions. But so too is the waste generated by industry. Summer festivals in the UK alone can create many thousands of tonnes of waste, most of which is sent to landfill.
“By giving waste value, it encourages greater recycling,” explains Jan Giepmans. “We only buy the waste we can use – non-recyclable plastics for example – that are then put to a good and environmentally sound use.”
N+P remains a family-owned business and is now in a significant growth stage. It needs new SubcoalÒ production plants across Europe to meet demand.
In April this year, Mercuria Energy Trading and N+P announced a strategic partnership that will see a significant injection of cash into the company to enable the development of new SubcoalÒ production facilities.
“Our aim for the next five years is to be the market leader for these types of fuel products and to develop new alternative fuel products,” explains Jonathan Lucas. “For example, we are looking at a pulverized version of SubcoalÒ that would open up many new applications and markets.”
N+P is also working closely with industry to help re-engineer machinery to handle SubcoalÒ pellets or to modify SubcoalÒ into a form that works with existing equipment. It can be a time-consuming and expensive process for energy users, says Jan Giepmans.
“Our customers are very large businesses operating across Europe. If they can use SubcoalÒ in one plant, they will use it across all their plants. They want this product to work as well as we do and are investing considerable sums of money to allow us to test the product in real working environments.”
But it is not without its challenges.
SubcoalÒ and waste-derived fuels are seen across Europe as a waste material and not a product in its own right, meaning that expensive waste permits are required.
“We are lobbying politicians and regulators to change the status of SubcoalÒ so it is recognised as a product in its right,” says Jonathan Lucas. “That unfortunately takes time.”
The COVID pandemic has also been felt by N+P with industrial waste products in short supply.
“It is a paradox that we all want to see less waste generated,” says Jan Giepmans, “and the COVID pandemic has helped to achieve that, but our business and our customers rely on that waste. As we emerge from those lockdowns, waste levels are once again returning. We are, sadly, a long way away from a waste-free world but we are confident that our solutions significantly contribute to the current situation.”
N+P is well on its way to becoming a cornerstone of the energy market, providing an alternative to fossil fuels that will keep the wheels of industry turning. Its focus, for the time being, is on European markets, but will eventually look to a franchise model to creating Subcoal manufacturing plants across the globe.
N+P has worked with Kreston Reeves for over a decade, first with its recycling and collection plant in Grimsby and now with its plant in Teesside. The firm has played a key role in its continued growth and expansion to 50 people in its Dutch headquarters, 35 people in the Subcoal Plant in the Netherlands and almost 50 people in the UK Subcoal plant and UK headquarter and approximately 15 people across the rest of Europe.
“Our business remains a heavily regulated environment and it is important we have advisers with deep knowledge and expertise,” says Jan Giepmans. “And Kreston Reeves is that firm.”
Kreston Reeves provides the full range of advice, from tax and VAT, audit, payroll and pensions. The firm has supported the business through the restructuring of the companies in the group and on valued R&D tax credit claims.
“The firm’s advice on R&D tax credits has been invaluable,” explains Jan Giepmans, “successfully demonstrating that the processing adopted in our UK plants is a sufficient improvement on our European processing making the claim possible”.
Kreston Reeves works closely with the management team in the Netherlands and is now working closely with N+P’s recently appointed Head of Tax, Chris Rodgers, who is responsible for ensuring the business grows in a tax-efficient and compliant way.
“Mark Attwood and his team advise across the board,” says Jan Giepmans. “They provide open and proactive advice that helps guide our decision making – we trust them.”
This year Kreston Reeves is celebrating 200 years of history. We are using the significant milestone as an opportunity to celebrate our clients, our colleagues, and our communities! Find out more.
"Mark Attwood and his team advise across the board. They provide open and proactive advice that helps guide our decision making – we trust them."
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