28 August 2013

SEPA revokes Scotgen gasification plant licence

By Michael Holder

A 20 million Dumfries energy-from-waste gasification plant gutted in a fire last month is set to have its licence revoked by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

A revocation notice was issued by SEPA to the operators of the Dargavel plant, Scotgen (Dumfries) Limited, on Friday (August 23) after the facility consistently failed to meet any reasonable expectation of environmental performance.

Scotgen's gasification facility in Dumfries, prior to the fire which broke out in July

Scotgen’s gasification facility in Dumfries, prior to the fire which broke out in July

SEPA also said that the predicted level of energy recovery at the plant of approximately 3% was particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory.

The notice follows a blaze which severely damaged the plant in July as it was going through its commissioning phase (see letsrecycle.com story).

An estimated 70 firefighters were at the scene after waste stored inside the processing building caught fire, damaging the building and equipment.

As well as revoking the permit, the notice requires that certain steps are taken to avoid pollution and to return the site to a satisfactory state. This includes a requirement for an estimated 800 tonnes of waste left at the site after the fire to be removed.

Scotgen was issued with an enforcement notice to remove the waste on 26 July 2013, which the firm has failed to comply with. This notice and its conditions are still in force.

Appeal

The environmental permit revocation notice comes into effect on September 23, until which date Scotgen has the right to launch an appeal to the Scottish Government against the notice.

According to SEPA, if there is an appeal the revocation notice would be set aside until the outcome had been determined. This would mean that the plant could in theory carry on operating until the Scottish Ministers make a decision, although the facility has not been in operation since the fire in July.

‘The facility has consistently failed to meet any reasonable expectation of environmental performance and the predicted level of energy recovery at approximately 3% is particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory’

Ian Conroy, SEPAs technical support manager in the south west of Scotland

The revocation notice was issued to the company for the following reasons:

  • Persistent non-compliance with the requirements of the permit.
  • Failure to comply with an enforcement notice.
  • Failure to maintain financial provision and resources to comply with the requirements of the permit.
  • Failure to recover energy with a high level of efficiency.

Designed to process 60,000 tonnes of hazardous and non-hazardous waste and treat 15,000 tonnes of solid recovered fuel (SRF), the plant was first issued with an environmental permit in 2009 and was described as Scotlands first batch gasification plant (see letsrecycle.com story).

Consistent failures

Ian Conroy, SEPAs technical support manager in the south west, said that while he recognised the importance of such plants in helping to deliver Zero Waste Scotland targets, the firm had failed to demonstrate that the facility met national and European environmental requirements.

He said: The facility started operations more than four years ago, and in that time has never achieved a level of compliance which would give SEPA any degree of confidence that future operation would be any different. The facility has consistently failed to meet any reasonable expectation of environmental performance and the predicted level of energy recovery at approximately 3% is particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory.

He added: SEPA has taken this serious and unusual action of revoking the permit following careful consideration and assessment of the regulatory options available.

However, when contacted by letsrecycle.com, Scotgen declined to comment.


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