Biomass UK No.2 Ltd - What you need to know

What has happened up until now?

On 7 February 2018, we announced that we had granted an environmental permit for Biomass UK No. 2 Ltd to operate a gasification facility on Woodham Road, Barry. The decision followed an extensive assessment of the company’s plans, and several consultations with local people and professional bodies including Public Health Wales and South Wales Fire and Rescue.

We are regulating the site in accordance with the conditions of its environmental permit and our officers will be monitoring these activities by carrying out checks, visits, and technical audits on all aspects of site operation to ensure the operator meets the stringent controls in its permit.

While the site operations have been paused, the operator’s plant preservation procedures and records have been reviewed, which did not identify any vulnerabilities. In October 2023, we reviewed Biomass UK No.2 Ltd’s start-up and commissioning plan to ensure that the environment is suitably protected should they start up in the immediate future.

Copies of our decision document and the conditions which have been set for the permit are available to view on the Biomass UK No. 2 Ltd permit decision page. The conditions set appropriate legal limits for things like emissions from the facility, and dictate the types of material it can process, and how it stores waste. 

Pre-commissioning and commissioning works

Since receiving the permit, the site has undertaken a number of tests to ensure that components of the plant are working properly and that it is able to generate electricity. In March 2018 they carried out pre-commissioning works.

During this time, we received a number of complaints relating to dust, smells and noise. Our officers investigated these thoroughly and identified several breaches against the conditions of its permit. As a result, the company received a formal warning in line with our Enforcement and Prosecution Policy, and was required to take action to rectify the breaches to further prevent recurrence.

As part of this, the operator has introduced new measures to reduce noise levels. This has included the installation of new fans, and sound insulation.

Next steps

Should the site start operating again, the next phase is referred to as cold commissioning and it involves further testing to ensure each part is operating and working as expected. At this stage, it does not involve the use of wood as fuel.

During the cold commissioning the new fans installed to reduce noise impacts are being tested, and noise monitoring will be undertaken throughout to ensure acceptable levels are not exceeded. We will assess the noise levels achieved to make sure that they do not exceed those set within the site noise management plan. 

We would then expect the site to continue from the cold commissioning to the hot commissioning phase. This will involve the gradual introduction of wood to the plant to begin the main operations. This activity is carried out gradually to ensure the plant is being run efficiently, effectively and within the conditions of its permit. We will only allow this activity to begin once we are satisfied with the outcome of the cold commissioning monitoring.

Minor permit change

On 14 March 2019, we allowed a change to the company’s permit which allows them to change the way they monitor hydrogen fluoride emissions from the site. This means that they will now check hydrogen fluoride emissions every three months in the first year, instead of continuously.  

The short and long-term impact of these emissions will not change, and measures remain in place to ensure that hydrogen fluoride levels stay within legal limits. This may then be altered to one measurement every six months after an annual review.

The facility is using acid gas removal equipment to control emissions of hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen chloride and sulphur dioxide. This means that if hydrogen chloride emissions are below the legal limit, then hydrogen fluoride emissions will inevitably also be below the limit. Continuous monitoring of hydrogen chloride emissions will ensure that it doesn’t exceed half hourly and daily average limits.

The original permit conditions set a daily average limit of a 1.5 milligrammes of hydrogen fluoride per cubic metre, and an average of no more than 6 milligrammes of hydrogen fluoride per cubic metre in a half hour period.

The alternative method limits emissions to no more than 3 milligrammes of hydrogen fluoride per cubic metre in a series of short-term tests every three months in the first year.

This type of request is not unusual, many other energy recovery sites in the UK already use this method. Regardless of which method is used, the expected levels for hydrogen fluoride remain significantly under the Expert Panel on Air Quality Standards (EPAQS) guideline values for the protection of people’s health.

View the revised environmental permit.

What will it do when it is operating fully?

The development is a renewable energy generation facility which has been designed to recover energy from pre-prepared mixed waste wood using a process called gasification. This process produces a combustible synthesis gas, which is then used to raise steam and generate electricity using a steam turbine. 

The technical name for the gasification process is Advanced Thermal Treatment (ATT), and this process is classified as co-incineration, under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

The plant could process up to 86,400 tonnes of pre-processed non-hazardous mixed waste wood per annum and generate an export capacity of up to 10MWe of electricity. 

It is designed to process shredded mixed waste wood from households’ and industry, which will include items such as pallets, fence panels, cupboards etc. These items are chipped elsewhere and brought to site to be fed into the process. This wood is not recyclable for other uses as it is lower grade material. It will not be allowed to accept hazardous waste wood or burn general waste or other recycled materials.

How we will regulate the facility

We regulate industrial sites in a variety of ways, using the conditions of the permit to ensure compliance. 

This will include spot checks and unannounced visits, as well as detailed technical audits of the operation. Our audits can focus on all aspects of site operation to ensure that the plant is operated to meet the stringent controls in the site's permit. This will include the assessment of monitoring results to measure the performance of the plant.  

The operators are also required to carry out both continuous and periodic monitoring of their emissions to air and provide the results to us. We ensure all monitoring is carried out in accordance with accredited MCERTS standard to provide confidence and will audit those systems to ensure compliance. 

We take any breach of permit seriously, and act proportionately based on likely impact. This can involve non-compliances scored against the operator’s permit, which can result in a financial penalty. For more serious breaches, we act in line with our Enforcement and Prosecution policy.

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