‘Market forces’ see Suez apply for AD plant in Blackburn

Suez has applied to Blackburn with Darwen borough council for planning permission for an anaerobic digestion (AD) facility as the company’s energy from waste (EfW) project awaits a move forward.

Suez now hopes to build an AD plant at the site which could also house an EfW plant in the future (pictured, an impression of the proposed EfW plant)

In 2019, Suez received permission to build an EfW plant capable of processing 500,000 tonnes of residual municipal and commercial and industrial waste per year on Lower Eccleshill Road in Darwen (see letsrecycle.com story).

Suez already owns and operates the site, which currently comprises a waste transfer station, ancillary infrastructure and regional offices. Each would be relocated to make way for the EfW plant.

However, a spokesperson for the company told letsrecycle.com that building the EfW plant is contingent on Suez securing a contract to process the whole of Lancashire’s residual waste. With the county currently reviewing its procurement plans, Suez has now also opted to seek permission for the AD facility, which could be built instead of the EfW plant.

According to a scoping report submitted with Suez’s application for the AD plant on 16 June, “due to market forces, it is unclear whether the EfW facility will be developed.

“If the EfW is not constructed then Suez would still wish to develop a suite of modern energy recovery facilities at the site, and phase one of this masterplan would include a 100,000 tonnes per annum anaerobic digestion facility.”

AD plant

John Wilkinson, regional director at Suez, said his company was “proud” to operate in Blackburn with Darwen and keen to invest in the Lower Eccleshill Road site, “not only to protect existing jobs but to also create new jobs.”

If planning permission was to be granted for an anaerobic digester we would then be well-placed to move forward quickly
– John Wilkinson, Suez regional director

“Whilst we have planning permission for an energy recovery centre on the site, we are also working on plans for an anaerobic digestion facility to process food waste,” he said.

“If planning permission was to be granted for an anaerobic digester we would then be well-placed to move forward quickly when government policy and market conditions are clearer to build the most appropriate facility to meet Blackburn with Darwen’s future needs.”

The Suez spokesperson told letsrecycle.com that Suez would build whichever facility was “the right thing for the local area”.

Should the AD facility go ahead, Suez says the plant would provide a disposal point for 100,000 tonnes of wet food waste generated in the North West each year.

It is anticipated the delivery of the food waste would result in around 20 HGVs visiting the site per day.

Blackburn with Darwen

Representing an estimated population of nearly 150,000, Blackburn with Darwen council had a household waste recycling rate of 29.8% in the 2019/20 financial year, the latest available data.

The council awarded Suez a three-year contract worth an estimated £27.5 million to dispose of local authority-collected municipal waste in June 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story). Suez was the previous holder of the contract, which covers the receipt, onward transfer and thermal treatment of around 45,000 tonnes of kerbside-collected residual waste per year.

Currently, food waste in Lancashire forms part of residents’ residual waste, the scoping report says, and most is sent to Suez’s landfill site at Whinney Hill, near Clayton le Moors.

Suez’s contract is “short”, the council says, because Blackburn is in discussions with Lancashire county council about a county-backed contract to treat 300,000 tonnes of residual waste. Lancashire held an “early engagement” day with a focus on the proposed contract for interested waste management companies in February 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).

However, Lancashire put its procurement process on hold in March while it looked to review its waste processing strategy (see letsrecycle.com story).

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