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Peel defends Bilsthorpe gasification technology

Bilsthorpe EfW Peel Environmental

Peel Environmental has defended the technology it is proposing to use for its Bilsthorpe gasification plant, after concerns were raised by the communities secretary.

Greg Clark delayed his decision on Bilsthorpe because of concerns that its 95,000 tonnes a year plasma gasification plant uses similar technology to Air Products’ Tees Valley project, which was scrapped on 4 April.

Clark’s letter, sent on 12 April, told the projects’ supporters and critics they had until 26 April to comment on any implications that Air Products’ withdrawal could have for the Nottinghamshire site (pictured) so that he could make a “fully informed” decision.

Now Peel has sent a letter to Clark’s department outlining the differences in technology used at the two sites, and saying that Air Products’ decision to exit the energy-from-waste (EfW) industry was for commercial reasons not because of operational issues.

The letter, written on behalf of Peel and Bilsthorpe Waste Limited by consultancy Axis associate Martin Pollard, claims Air Products had “segmented and marginalised” its EfW business in 2014 to focus on its core industrial gases business.

“In light of this objective, it seems likely that Air Products would, in any event, have divested their EfW segment in the future,” it says.

It says only Bilsthorpe’s plasma gasification unit and the gas clean-up method would be in common with the Tees Valley scheme. It adds that there is “no public information” on whether these elements caused Air Products’ operational challenges.

The Westinghouse plasma technology, which both facilities proposed to use, has been tested at a demonstration plant in Pennsylvania, US, with a throughput capacity of 45,000 tonnes a year, according to Peel’s letter.

Bilsthorpe’s plasma gasification unit, it says, would be “effectively the same physical size” as Westinghouse’s trial, but “through design development” would now be capable of a 95,000 tonnes a year throughput.

The Air Products gasification units were much larger at 350,000 tonnes a year each.

But UK Without Incineration Network national co-ordinator Shlomo Dowen criticised Peel for failing to mention “publicly available statements from Air Products expressing concerns regarding the technology proposed for Bilsthorpe”.

As reported by MRW, Air Products’ press release announcing its withdrawal from the EfW industry said testing and analysis indicated that “additional design and operational challenges would require significant time and cost to rectify”.

Chief executive Seifi Ghasemi said the company “pushed very hard” to make the technology work.

Now Dowen says his organisation would provide Clark with a robust response to Peel’s submission that details its “numerous errors and omissions”.

Meanwhile, Nottinghamshire County Council’s submission to Clark said it would withhold its recommendation either way before hearing more evidence of the technology used, despite being lobbied to oppose the planning by Newark & Sherwood District Council.

“If it was shown that the plasma arc technology was not viable, this would have implications to the overall planning balance on the basis that the waste and energy benefits of the development originally identified in the council planning report and considered by members of planning and licensing committee in reaching their decision may not have been delivered,” the county council’s letter says.

Along with the district council, Bilsthorpe Parish Council said in its letter that it had always opposed the facility’s planning.

It proposed a clause, if planning were to commence, to be put in place to ensure the village would not be left with a partially constructed empty facility were it to fail.

The application was originally called in by former communities secretary Eric Pickles in December 2014.

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