EfW project takes flight as alliances link up

Partnership working is at the heart of an energy-from-waste project currently underway near Heathrow Airport. Maxine Perella visited the site to find out more

A Japanese flavour accompanies one of the most modern energy-from-waste (EfW) plants currently being built at Colnbrook near Slough. Principle contractor for the 33MW EfW plant is Itochu/Takuma, a Japanese consortium, which is overseeing the project in its first UK venture.

The plant itself is owned by Lakeside Energy from Waste - a joint venture set up by waste management firms Grundon and Viridor, who will each own a 50% share. The project, estimated to cost over £200M, is receiving financial backing from the Bank of Ireland.

"In terms of the marriage value, the Lakeside group was bankable," says Paul Wormald, estates surveyor for Grundon. He adds that the partnership approach will work well as the plant will be able to serve existing customer contract requirements from both parties when it becomes operational in the summer of 2008.

As well as established customers, such as Slough Council, Grundon is actively seeking new waste disposal contracts as the plant will have capacity to process 400,000 tonnes of waste a year. These will be mainly with local authorities, although some commercial waste will also be recovered by the facility.

Japanese expertise
According to Wormald, Takuma is a market leader in Japan and the company was keen to tap into its expertise for an energy-efficient solution.

"We did spend some time and effort getting the design of the plant much better than your standard one. The plant will employ cleaner technology to produce lower NOx emissions," he explains.

Grundon also benefits from having a MRF close to the site - about 250 yards away - which it will be able to utilise to aid throughput for the plant once it's up and running. "The MFR capacity is 130,000 tonnes and we would have the ability to take the by-product out of the MFR and put it in the EfW plant," says Wormald.

Since winning the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract, worth £120M, Takuma has sub-contracted £23M worth of civil engineering works on the plant to Edmund Nuttall.

Edmund Nuttall has spent a year on the site and is "ahead of schedule" according to George Gilchrist, assistant site manager at Nuttall. "We're roughly halfway through the main civil engineering work," he reports.

The main features which can be seen on-site at the moment are the towering chimney stack, with its striking circular rings, and the huge refuse bunker into which waste will be tipped.

Flight considerations
As the site is situated close to Heathrow Airport, the Lakeside group had to liaise closely with the airport authorities on the plant's design. The chimney rings, which lend a contemporary look to the stack, will help cut down on any unnecessary turbulence for overhead aircraft, as will the curved roof of the facility. The chimney will also be fitted with two warning lights for planes flying close by.

The refuse bunker, which is nearing completion, has been constructed without using any propping and relies instead on a reinforced capping beam. The walls of the bunker, which will total 31m in height, are shortly due to be slipformed.
In the main, feedback from the local community has been positive. Wormald says he's quite proud of the fact that the original application only had 12 objections - "this suggests we managed to get our sustainability message across" - and despite the formation of a local protest group, regular liaison meetings are held with community leaders to keep them informed of the latest developments.

Wormald says a visitor centre will also be built on-site. "We think there will be an educational demand for it, both from children and adults. The idea is to produce a focal point for communication."

He adds: "It's taken a number of years to get here, we first mooted the idea of this plant in the late 80s. But it will be worth the wait."

Maxine Perella is editor of LAWR

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