5 August 2010

Gasification plant remains closed after re-testing

 Energos has expressed hopes that its gasification facility on the Isle of Wight will reopen in mid-August after it was shut down following more tests in June due to a continuing breach of dioxins emissions limits, writes Marta Gala.

The £8 million plant, owned by Waste Gas Technology – a sister company to Energos – first opened in November 2008 to process residual waste on the island (see letsrecycle.com story) and has experienced a number of problems.

A view from outside the Energos gasification plant on the Isle of Wight

A view from outside the Energos gasification plant on the Isle of Wight

And, in the wake of the dioxins being released, the Isle of Wight council has commented on the health effects of the emissions, noting: “Thankfully the public health effects are thought to be minimal”.

A breach in emissions limits in April lead to waste processing being halted but after technical work, the process was restarted at the beginning of June but has again stopped.

The Environment Agency told letsrecycle.com this week (August 3) that the Waste Gas Technology site is directed to monitor dioxins in emissions to the air under the European Union Waste Incineration Directive.

It noted that: “the initial results from the Waste Gas Technology site received in April 2010 showed a breach of the permit limit: 0.86 ng/m3 against a limit of 0.1 ng/m3. We agreed a re-start plan with the operator, however further monitoring also breached the permit limit and the site ceased processing waste.”

The Agency added: “We issued an Enforcement Notice requiring the operator to submit a re-start plan and the plant started operating again at the beginning of June. However further dioxin monitoring showed results which breached the permit limit and the operator again ceased processing waste.”

Now, the Environment Agency has rejected the latest plan submitted by Energos saying “the information provided did not provide the assurance needed to justify the reopening of the plant. We have provided further guidance to the operator and have asked for additional information. We anticipate receiving a revised plan within the next week. Meantime, the plant remains closed.”

Residents

An aerial shot of the plant, which opened in 2008

An aerial shot of the plant, which opened in 2008

Concerns have been expressed by some residents and pressure groups about the impact of the dioxins. The local authority, the Isle of Wight council, has moved to reassure residents. And, in a report, the cabinet member Environment and Transport, Edward Giles, stated: “Thankfully the public health effects are thought to be minimal and it is hoped that the plant can be brought back into operation in August.”

Cllr Giles also commented on the financial impact of the closure of the plant on the council. He said: “The closure has significant impact on the proportion of waste which has to be landfilled, increasing our exposure to landfill tax.

“The cost of this to the Isle of Wight council is being offset by a cost sharing arrangement negotiated with Island Waste Services. The landfill tax cost is also being mitigated by reduced contractual bonus payments to Island Waste Services who we are putting under some pressure to resolve difficulty.”

Development of the plant was complicated because it was built on a site with some existing infrastructure at Forest Road, Newport and was constructed as a non-standard combination of new Energos gasifier technology with existing infrastructure.

The development was supported by Defra’s New Technology Demonstrator Programme which provided 35% of the start-up cost, investing £2.7 million. Under the programme one aim was for the gasification plant to enable more self-sufficient management of residents’ waste on the island.

Faulty filter

A spokeswoman for Energos told letsrecycle.com this week that the closure of the plant has been attributed to a “faulty bag house filter that was a legacy to the former energy recovery facility.” The gasification process in itself is said to be functioning as designed.

A statement from Energos confirmed that recent independent tests carried out during the reopening of the plant showed it was still in breach of limits. The statement said: “Latest emissions test showed dioxin levels of 0.261, 0.387, 0.186 ng/Nm3and 0.158 ng/Nm3 over four consecutive days, which while improving on the original 0.86 ng/Nm3 result, remained above the permitted limit value.

Inside the plant, which is due to re-open in mid-August

Inside the plant, which is due to re-open in mid-August

“This is an unprecedented problem. In 13 years and 400,000 plus hours of safe operation on eight sites that utilise the Energos gasification technology the company has maintained and continues to deliver exceptionally low dioxin emission levels. These are typically less than 5% of the stringent EU limit.”

Energos continued: “A new-build Energos two-line facility recently commissioned in Norway, and typical of all the company’s regular purpose-built plants, has just undergone its first full independent emissions test and the dioxin release has been measured at 0.001 ng/Nm3, which is below or at the limit of detection.”

Costs

In October 1997 the Isle of Wight council awarded the contract for the collection, recycling and disposal of all of the island’s household waste to Island Waste Services, a subsidiary of Biffa. Alongside recycling, a resource recovery plant on the island produces a fuel material for Energos.
The problems with the plant have seen considerable volumes of waste landfilled and the council has confirmed that costs negotiations are underway.

Stuart Love, strategic director for economy and environment at Isle of Wight council, explained: “Though the issues at the plant are outside of our control, they are unfortunately having an effect on the council in terms of the increased amount of waste we are having to commit to landfill.

“We have had discussions with Biffa and with Energos who have agreed to make a contribution towards the cost of the increased landfill activity. Naturally we hope that the issues at the plant are resolved as quickly as possible.”

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