A project to develop a major energy from waste plant in Essex has been dealt a blow after the Environment Agency refused an environmental permit for the facility.
But, the developers are set to review the options and are expected to return with revised proposals to resolve the issues raised by the Agency.
The decision, confirmed yesterday (21 December), centred on the height of the chimney stack at the Gent Fairhead & Co facility which is in development at Rivenhall Airfield near Braintree, and has a planned capacity to treat up to 595,000 tonnes of residual waste per year.
The decision is a further setback to the Herefordshire-based company, which has been attempting to develop a waste facility for the area since the 1990s.
The latest iteration of this project – the Integrated Waste Management Facility – has been designed to burn solid recovered fuel (SRF) while also incorporating a mechanical biological treatment (MBT) plant, an anaerobic digestion plant and a recovered paper pulping facility.
Essex county council has already given planning consent for the 1.2 million tonne capacity plant, including a revision to specifications to increase the amount of waste available for incineration but to decrease its demand for MBT, AD and recovered paper feedstock (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, in its permit decision yesterday, the Agency said Gent Fairhead & Co failed to show how they would use Best Available Technique (BAT) to minimise emissions from the facility.
In particular, the Agency added that the company did not provide detailed BAT nor a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed stack height, which under planning conditions would have been built at 35 metres above ground level. The Agency argued that the stack height should be equivalent to those of similar-sized facilities – a minimum of 70 metres.
In its submission to the Agency, Gent Fairhead & Co had said that the additional capital cost for a larger stack would have been around £500,000 for the first 10 metres, and increasing for each additional 10 metres as the foundations and design became more expensive.
It also voiced concerns over additional costs for new planning and permit applications as well as a potential second planning Inquiry ‘which could be of the order of £2 million’.
The company also claimed that a new planning and permitting window for a revised stack height would lead to a delay for the project. As a Contract for Difference supported facility, the company needed to meet a ‘clear deadline’ by which the plant needed to be commissioned, it added.
But the Agency concluded: “We reviewed the response from the Applicant. No additional information was provided to substantiate the additional capital cost for a revised stack height, only that any increase in the stack height above 35 metres was not available due to planning constraints.”
It added: “The stack height of plants of similar size are in the region of between 70 and 120 metres which we regard as the BAT range for plants in the UK. The proposed stack height is significantly less than the minimum height that we would consider to represent BAT for a plant of this size.”
“While the impact of NO2 with a 35-metre stack will not cause air quality standards to be breached, the Application and our own modelling show that ground level concentrations of NO2 from the installation would be significantly lower if emissions were via a stack of the normal height range for an incinerator of this size.”
Preparation works on the Gent Fairhead facility have already begun, and the plant is expected to reach financial close in early 2017.
“Obviously the Environment Agency’s decision, and its timing, is very disappointing. We are considering options to resolve the issues.”
Gent Fairhead & Co. spokesman
Responding to the Agency outcome today, a spokesman for Gent Fairhead said: “Obviously the Environment Agency’s decision, and its timing, is very disappointing. We are considering options to resolve the issues.”
The decision has been welcomed by local opponents to the plant, including James Abbot, a Green Party district and county councillor, who said that a local campaign group – Parishes Against Incinerator (PAIN) – will continue to fight the proposals.
He said: “Controversially, Essex County Council granted that application but have refused to release to me or anyone else the legal basis on why they accepted such a major change to the plans as a “variation”. I intend to continue to ask to see that document.
“In addition to all that, the applicants have several times changed the sourcing of waste, with now the ability to truck in certain types of waste from anywhere – that is a major concern given pressure on the local road network, particularly the A120.”
Nick Unsworth, the lead campaigner at PAIN, added the decision was a “massive Christmas present” for the “2,000-strong” campaign.
Source: letsrecycle.com Waste Managment