What is an Energy Recovery Facility?
The Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility is a Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant. It is designed to process refuse derived fuel, produced from non-recyclable wastes arising from local authority and local business customers, into energy and heat.
Fuel for the facility is delivered by road in covered HGVs, or by rail in sealed containers on freight trains. HGVs enter and leave the facility across a weighbridge that allows us to measure the vehicle weight on arrival and departure. Freight trains carrying fuel arrive at a dedicated railhead that was installed as part of the development adjacent to existing rail tracks.
Fuel delivered by HGVs is unloaded directly into the reception hall located in the main building. Deliveries by rail are unloaded onto smaller vehicles for transportation into the reception hall. Vehicles in the reception hall then unload the fuel into one of a number of chutes that lead to the main fuel bunker.
Fuel from the bunker is fed into one of four combustion chambers and heated at very high temperatures (850oC). This process is carried out under closely controlled and strictly monitored conditions. The heat this process produces is captured within the facility and in turn used to create steam, which drives turbines to produce electricity.
The facility incorporates a variety of technologies used to treat waste gases from the combustion chamber. These include: hydrated lime injection to reduce the emission of acidic components such as sulphur dioxide, hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride; activated carbon injection to adsorb TOCs (total organic carbons), heavy metals and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), and; a bag filtration system, in which bag filters are used to capture the lime, carbon and particulate matter.
The chimney stack is also fitted with its own emissions monitoring system. This system monitors the emissions coming out of the facility stack on a continuous basis, with reports produced every half hour and on a daily basis. These reports are provided to the Environment Agency for effective monitoring of our Environmental Permit.
Why was the facility needed?
After reducing, reusing and recycling as much as possible, energy recovery facilities can provide a means to efficiently recover energy from the residual, left over, waste. This waste would otherwise be sent to landfill. Under the EU Landfill Directive, which became law in the UK in 2003, all local authorities across the UK have been set targets by central government to reduce the amount of waste that they send to landfill. Energy from waste in all its forms already accounts for >1.5% of the UK's electricity supply. By 2020 it could account for 6% of total UK electricity, making a significant contribution to our energy security. There are over 400 similar energy recovery plants operating across Europe, where this technology is more commonly used. In Switzerland, for example, almost 50% of household waste is used for energy generation through similar facilities, compared to Britain where less than 10% of waste is currently used in this way. The Runcorn facility contributes towards reducing the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels, improving sustainability and achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn will help to reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.
Where does the fuel for the facility come from?
Fuel for the facility comes from non-recyclable wastes arising from local authority and local business customers; waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill. Refuse derived fuel is produced following pre-treatment processes such as Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) or sorting and shredding.
How is fuel delivered to the facility and when is it delivered?
The fuel is transported to the facility by road or by rail. HGV movements in and out of the facility typically take place between 7am and 11pm, Monday to Saturday. The facility is permitted to accept deliveries 24 hours a day, seven days a week but we aim to avoid HGV activity overnight and on Sundays to allow for routine maintenance to be carried out.
HGV traffic to and from the Runcorn facility is routed, by agreement, to the north of the facility (from the junction off the Weston Point Expressway), to avoid disturbance to residential properties to the south (e.g. Sandy Lane). HGVs are restricted from taking a right turn heading out of the facility on Picow Farm Road (or a left turn going in). Train movements taken place seven days a week, where possible between 7am and 11pm. If a train arrives after 11pm, no unloading takes place until 7am the following morning.
Why was the Runcorn site chosen?
The primary purpose of the Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility is to provide heat and power to the INOVYN Runcorn site to support its existing operations. As such, the site needed to be close enough and of sufficient size to allow the steam and power to be supplied at source, rather than transporting it over extended distances. The site on Barlow Way, off Picow Farm Road, was the only one available to meet these needs.
The site is also conveniently positioned close to the local transport network and has good links to a range of transport modes including rail, road and water.
How safe is the facility and will there be any health risks?
The UK Health Protection Agency has stated that 'modern, well-managed incinerators make only a small contribution to local concentrations of air pollutants' and that ‘any potential health impacts, if they exist, are likely to be very small and not detectable.'  The facility has been issued with an Environmental Permit in order to operate. Compliance with the conditions of the Permit will be monitored by the Environment Agency and this will ensure compliance with the requirements of all necessary standards protecting health and the environment.
 Health Protection Agency Position Statement (September 2009) “The impact on health of emissions to air from municipal waste incinerators” http://www.hpa.org.uk/ProductsServices/ChemicalsPoisons/IntegratedPollutionPreventionControlIPPC/ippcIncineration
What remains after the combustion process? How are waste products removed?
The combustion process produces two types of waste by-product: Air Pollution Control residue (APCr) and Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA). IBA sometimes contains small amounts of recyclable ferrous and non-ferrous metals which are removed for recycling. Both remaining residues are taken off-site and currently disposed of at specially licenced facilities. The APCr residues are taken to the Bishops Cleeve landfill site in Gloucestershire, operated by Grundon Waste Management. The IBA is currently taken to Ballast Phoenix Limited where it is processed to create aggregate for use in many construction applications. The APCr residue leaves the facility in sealed powder tankers, as it is classed as a hazardous substance. The IBA leaves the facility in HGVs with a fine mesh cover. This ash is compacted and discharged from the Energy Recovery Facility through a water quencher, and remains in a fluid state throughout transportation. These measures ensure that the ash transported off site is safely contained throughout transportation to recycling or landfill.
How much energy will the facility generate?
The facility generates up to 70MW of electricity and up to 51MW of heat. By using the heat and power from the facility, INOVYN now takes around 20% less energy from the National Grid. The INOVYN manufacturing process is inherently energy intensive, with the Runcorn site alone using almost 1% of the total electricity supplied across the UK.
The Runcorn facility has been designed specifically to support INOVYN by generating heat and power from refuse derived fuel. It is a fully integrated CHP facility and a best practice local example of carbon reduction, efficient renewable power generation and heat utilisation. The CHP element provides a direct supply of steam for the industrial process at INOVYN. This results in a very efficient way of generating energy from waste.
How many jobs has the facility created during construction and how many permanent positions will there be?
The Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility provides a significant local investment. We currently employ 89 people on site and recruit two apprentices each year for our four-year apprenticeship programme. The facility also has over 60 local businesses on its supply chain, providing goods and services to the site, ranging from engineering to cleaning services.
Visit our careers pages for more information.
How will the local community benefit from the facility?
Under the existing planning consent, every tonne of refuse derived fuel processed by the facility will contribute money to the Environmental Fund. This arrangement will continue for the lifetime of the facility. The Fund will be fully managed by Halton Borough Council to ‘fund environmental matters as may be specified from time to time ... for the benefit of its residents generally and which may include measures to improve public transport, highway network improvements, travel plan monitoring, waste recycling and wider community improvements such as landscaping and nature conservation measures.’
Since operations began over £2million has been contributed to the fund – around £500,000 a year - for use by Halton Borough Council for the benefit of its residents.
Viridor, as operator of the facility, has an open-door policy at its sites. Whenever possible, site managers are happy to accommodate educational visits from schools, colleges and other groups at our sites.
Viridor has sponsored an exhibition at the Catalyst museum to explain the energy from waste process and is exploring options for providing education visits or resources, which would promote understanding of waste prevention, recycling, recovery and resource management
How will the local community be kept up to date?
The local community will continue to be kept up to date via the existing local liaison forum (LLF), established by Halton Borough Council, as well as through this website.
What lighting is required at the facility?
Lights at the Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility have been installed in full accordance with the planning consent granted for the facility. The facility operates 24/7 therefore lighting is required to ensure a safe working environment for all our staff. In response to feedback from local residents, we have visited specific locations near to the site to assess the impact of lighting from our facility. Where possible, adjustments have been made in a number of locations. The floodlights on-site now point further downwards to ensure this light is kept within the site boundary.
What is in the steam that comes out of the facility?
The steam that comes out of the cooling towers of the facility is pure condensed water and does not contain any pollutants. This has been confirmed by the Environment Agency. The water used in this process is purified, meaning that the steam produced is cleaner than the steam that comes out of an ordinary household kettle.
During operation, steam is continuously released from the main stack, as part of the controlled and monitored process emissions. The steam will be visible only under certain weather conditions.
What are you doing to avoid noise being heard from the facility?
As an industrial operation, it is to be expected that noises coming from the Runcorn Energy Recovery Facility will be heard from time to time by local residents. We do, however, make every attempt to keep noise to a minimum. The facility is also governed by strict planning conditions to ensure that people are not unduly disturbed.
In response to comments from some local residents, we have reduced the volume of the horns on the trains and cranes that are used to unload refuse derived fuel. The use of horns is a safety requirement in accordance with national rail safety standards. In response to the feedback received, we are looking at alternative warning methods. However, the safety of people working on the rail network and on-site has to be our primary concern.
What are you doing to avoid odour off-site?
An Odour Management Plan is in place as part of the Environmental Permit, this operates on a day to day basis and covers a number of odour control measures.
The reception hall for the fuel is kept under negative pressure, which is designed to keep any potential odour within the building. This means that as a door is opened air is sucked in to the building rather than being released externally. Fixed de-odourisers are also used where required throughout the facility, these neutralise rather than mask potentially odours particles and sink them to the ground to reduce dispersal.