Singapore’s world-first integrated waste and water treatment facility hit by construction delays

The Tuas Nexus plant promises to cut the carbon footprint of waste and water treatment and boost recycling rates. The delay could affect plans to cut food waste and puts pressure on Singapore’s ageing incinerators as domestic waste volumes continue to rise, industry watchers say.

An artist's impression of the Tuas Nexus integrated waste and water treatment facility, the first of its kind in the world.
An artist's impression of the Tuas Nexus integrated waste and water treatment facility, the first of its kind in the world. IWMF refers to the Integrated Waste Management Facility, TWRP refers to Tuas Waste Reclamation Plant, which will be colocated in Singapore's industrial western district of Tuas. Delays to the completion of the multi-billion dollar facility could affect plans to improve recycling rates in the city-state. Image: PUB/NEA

The launch of Singapore’s Tuas Nexus waste management facility has been delayed, pushing back plans to improve the country’s poor domestic recycling rates and cut the carbon footprint of waste and water treatment.

The multi-billion dollar state-of-the-art, integrated waste management facility (IWMF) was promoted as a sustainable solution to Singapore’s waste and water treatment needs, by centralising nationwide waste operations, thus reducing land use and boosting energy efficiency and recycling rates. 

Tuas Nexus is to also be the first waste management plant in the world to treat used water and solid waste in the same location.

Its first phase was slated to be launched in 2025, but “it is not expected to be progressively completed only from mid-2026 onwards due to the Covid-19 pandemic and construction delays”, Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) told Eco-Business.

Phase one of IWMF is the construction of a 2,900 tonnes per day (TPD) waste-to-energy plant, a 250 TPD materials recovery facility, a 800 TPD sludge incinerator and a 400 TPD food waste treatment facility. The companies contracted to complete the project include Keppel Seghers, China Harbour Construction, ST Engineering Marine and UES Holdings.

Manpower issues have been key to construction delays, according to sources familiar with the project.

Gin Keat Ong, director of sustainability and business development at waste management firm Envcares, said he expected the plant would not be completed until 2028 or later, and the delay puts pressure on the ageing incinerators the new facility was supposed to replace.

Tuas Nexus waste and water treatment facility

Tuas Nexus is the world’s first facility for treating waste and water at the same site [click to enlarge]. Image: NEA

Singapore has four incinerators that process the majority of the island’s domestic waste. The trash ash is landfilled on Pulau Semakau, a purpose-built island that is projected to be full in about a decade as Singapore’s domestic waste burden continues to grow. Once completed, Tuas Nexus is projected to incinerate about 5,800 tonnes of trash a day. Singapore is aiming to reduce the volume of trash sent to Semakau by 30 per cent per person by 2030.

Tuas Nexus is seen as key to managing the impact of waste regulations that took effect this year. The Resource Sustainability Act (RSA) mandates businesses that generate large amounts of food waste to segregate it for treatment. Tuas Nexus will be an option for converting food waste into biogas. 

“Businesses which had timed the implementation of their food waste segregation policy with the roll out of the IWMF will have to find alternative treatment methods until the facility is up and running,” said Huileng Tan, executive director of Zero Waste Singapore, an advocacy group.

Lip Teng Ho, co-founder of sustainability consultancy Thriving Weeds, noted that the delayed completion of the co-digestion plant could impact Singapore’s emissions reduction targets. The plant is projected to make emissions savings of more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, partly through a co-digestion system that uses biogas from food waste and water sludge to power the facility. 

The high cost of the integrated facility has been flagged over the last year. National water agency PUB cited higher construction and manpower costs for the second phase of the water treatment component of the plant, which is estimated to cost around US$3 billion to build. 

Tuas Nexus’ water treatment facility is expected to be completed by 2026. It will treat up to 800,000 cubic metres of water a day and use technologies that enable the plant to generate 80 per cent of the energy required to treat used water, an improvement on Singapore’s other water reclamation plants.

PUB is aiming to recycle all used water in Singapore as water consumption is projected to nearly double by 2065.

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