Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Harper Adams University Biogas Plant Explosion and Tank Collapse Produces 2nd Spill of Liquor at Troubled Green Power Facility

This is appalling news for a flagship UK anaerobic digestion plant which was put into operation less than 3 years ago.

As far as can be seen from the Shropshire Star report referenced below, there was an explosion which resulted in a digester tank collapse and that led to the contents of the tank being dropped on the ground around the plant.

We found the short video below on YouTube, briefly showing the clean-up:



There was also previous spill at the plant last year, which appears to be beset by incident.

Thankfully, we don't think there were any injuries on either occasion, but there may have been some of the biomass which entered the local stream, again the articles referenced below don't make it clear just what the effect was on the local water quality. Hopefully, there would not be expected have been any significant loss of liquor outside of the bunded area for the plant, and therefore the clean up will adequately remove any future risk of pollution.

Sludge power plant collapses in Shropshire

"A power plant using farm waste today exploded at Harper Adams University, spilling tonnes of slurry. A 200-metre exclusion zone was today put in place by police, who described it as a “chemical incident”."
The incident took place on Friday 30 May, and the following further article was published on Monday 2 June:
"The clean-up operation continues at the HarperAdams University anaerobic digestion plant today. The access road to the AD plant was fully cleared over the weekend. Digestate is now [contained]."


 Credits: Clean-up continues at Harper Adams anaerobic digestion plant - shropshirelive.com (press release)

Today the Farmers Guardian had more to say, as the staff worked on at the clean-up:
THE clean-up at the Harper Adams anaerobic digestion (AD) plant is continuing today (Tuesday) with specialist contractors working on limiting the impact of the spill on the environment. The university has been working to tackle the major leak since one ...

 Credits: Harper AD plant clean-up continues after major spill - Farmers Guardian


It is clear that this was a major explosion to cause this degree of damage, and from the articles the presence of watercourse pollution remains unknown while tests are carried out:
"A Harper Adams spokesman said: “The Environment Agency is also conducting routine monitoring of the local watercourse. No release of pollution has been detected so far.”
I would predict that the University will carry out an inquiry into the cause, and that in due course there will be lessons to be learnt for the UK biogas industry.
We have previously highlighted the potential for explosions at Anaerobic Digestion Plants on this blog, and the need for this to be heeded at all times both during design and construction, and throughout biogas plant operation.
In this case there does not appear to have been anyone present at the automatically operated plant when the incident took place simply because there is no mention of a staff, or maintenance contractor's presence at the time, so we would guess that an equipment failure of some sort is the most likely cause.
In the video below we see the biogas plant in happier times, on opening day in 2012:

1 comment:

Harper Adams Communications Office said...

The latest information on this incident is published at www.harper-adams.ac.uk where there is also an image of the site as it looks now (June 4, 2014)

Contrary to some reports, the majority of the digestate was contained within the AD plant. A small percentage reached the site access road and adjacent field (which belongs to the University). The road was cleared over the weekend.

Press@harper-adams.ac.uk