SUEZ site-seeing | Part 12 | Suffolk energy-from-waste (EfW) facility
23rd April 2018
Posted by Dr Adam Read.
The energy-from-waste facility, located in Great Blakenham, Suffolk is one of our newest sites which began operating in December 2014. The facility manages residual waste from Suffolk households in partnership with Suffolk County Council, though a 25-year partnership agreement.
The site can process 269,000 tonnes of waste per annum, with 175,000 tonnes coming directly from Suffolk County Council, and a further 40,000 tonnes a year coming from Norfolk for the next two years.
Before being procured to be an energy-from-waste (EfW) facility the site was previously a Suffolk County Council highways depot, with 300 lorry movements a day. Whilst there is a landfill next door, the switch to an EfW was positively received by residents as it cut the lorry movements by half.
The site looks great aesthetically, it was designed by Grimshaws who also designed the Eden Project in Cornwall. Some of the most distinctive aspects of the site are the reflective louvre windows, aligned with the wild grasses in the meadow, the water recycling lagoon, and translucent wall panels bringing light indoors and reflecting nature from all angles (check out the photos). The site has achieved a BREEAM outstanding rating for its environmental performance too, which is terrific!
The site has been operating for over two years and the performance is excellent, generating 20MW output, enough to power 30,000 homes. It is operating at 28 per cent thermal efficiency (which is pretty good as EfW facilities go). The site is capable of delivering 65 per cent heat, if offtake could be secured, SUEZ continues to explore possible off-take opportunities locally.
There are four shifts of five people working the control centre, plus three per shift in the tipping hall and nine in total on the maintenance team. Many of the team joined during the construction period (six years ago) and the team has developed together, creating a close group of people who are very proud of the plant and their own personal development. A significant budget for training has been put aside year-on-year to build the capability of the team, and that was evident during my visit with everyone helping out their team mates and being more than able to answer any curveball questions the external affairs director might throw at them.
The waste pit has six bays (there were nine on lines one and two in Teesside), but this doesn’t hinder operations in Suffolk. The automatic weighbridge controls the flow of incoming vehicles (the site receives approximately 70 refuse collection vehicles per day) with an expected turnaround times of only 15 minutes.
However, pretty much everything else on site is similar (or identical) to the equipment and facilities at Teesside applying the lessons learned from recent projects.
Suffolk benefits from on-site ash recycling, via our subcontract with Ballast Phoenix (60,000 tonnes per annum or 20 per cent of throughput) using shredders, trommels, eddy current and over band magnets etc.
Perhaps the highlight for me was the visitor centre, which unlike some of our sites was a major requirement from the client, providing education on all aspects of waste. We have had over 5,000 visitors touring the facility, from key stage two school children to community groups and open days. There are two large rooms where visitors (like me) learn about what happens to their waste through interactive sessions and activities to get you thinking about consumption, recycling and energy management, whilst enabling views across the plant at key stages.
I would recommend this site to anyone in terms of great operations, great people and a great visitor experience. This could be a top visitor attraction for Suffolk and a deserving one for all the hard work and great design that is on show every day!
Well done everyone, a thoroughly enjoyable tour, with some really knowledgeable people, and a team desire to develop, learn and share.