Frequently asked questions.

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About the Energy Recovery Centre

What will happen at the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will convert residual (black bag) waste into electricity and heat by burning it at high temperature, under tightly controlled conditions. Heat from the process is used to produce steam, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. Steam and electricity could also be used to heat and power neighbouring businesses.

What does energy recovery mean?

Energy recovery – or energy-from-waste (EfW) – refers to a type of waste treatment which can generate electricity by using general black bag rubbish, left over after recycling, as a fuel. Approximately 10 tonnes of residual waste processed through an energy recovery centre will produce enough electricity to power a typical household for a year.

Where will the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre be located?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will be built on the existing SUEZ resource recovery park on Lower Eccleshill Road. The resource recovery park has been handling waste and recyclable material for many years and has had a waste permit for over 15 years.

What will be treated at the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will treat residual waste from across Lancashire. Residual waste refers to general waste from homes and businesses that is left over after recycling. This includes household residual waste, non-recyclable waste from Household Waste Recycling Centres and street cleansing waste. The facility will not accept clinical, hazardous or radioactive waste materials which are dealt with through other processes.

How much waste will the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre handle?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will be designed to handle up to 500,000 tonnes of residual black bag waste each year – enough to fill Ewood Park five times over.

What will happen with what is left at the end of the energy recovery process?

After residual waste has been through the energy recovery process, ‘bottom ash’ is left over. Metals are extracted from the ash and sent for recycling. The remaining ash will be recycled as an aggregate in the construction industry.

Fly ash and Air Pollution Control (APC) residues are also produced which are also collected and safely disposed of or recycled.

What will happen to the facilities that are on the site now?

SUEZ already handles waste and recyclable material from homes and businesses across the region at the site on Lower Eccleshill Road. We operate a resource recovery and recycling facility on the site and support TerraCycle UK’s regional hub. The facilities will be upgraded and modernised and relocated within the immediate vicinity, playing a crucial role in improving the region’s recycling rate. All existing jobs will be protected.

When will the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre be open?

The construction of the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre is subject to securing a local long term contract to handle residual black bag waste. Once this has been secured, the centre will take approximately three years to construct and be tested before being operational.

Will the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre be open for visits?

Local residents, schools and organisations will be able to visit the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre and learn about the process once the centre has been opened and begins to accept waste.

Energy recovery and waste management

Does this process discourage residents from recycling?

When we talk about dealing with waste we often talk about the waste hierarchy: reduce, re-use and recycle. We actively encourage residents to reduce what they use, re-use it where possible and recycle it in a responsible way. If none of those options are available, or the material is not yet recyclable, we will recover energy from the material at the energy recovery centre. This process is designed to extract the maximum value from everything left over after recycling, re-use and waste reduction has taken place.

Does energy recovery simply mean incineration?

The energy recovery or energy-from-waste process is different from incineration. Old style incinerators disposed of unwanted material simply by burning it. A modern energy-from-waste facility such as the one proposed for Darwen is a power plant that uses a carefully controlled thermal treatment process to generate sustainable electricity. Emissions are also very tightly controlled, treated and monitored, while ash left over from the process is recycled as an aggregate in the construction industry. This means that very little, if anything, needs to go to landfill.

Why doesn’t this waste go to landfill?

Given that landfill generates significant greenhouse gases and the value of the resource is lost forever, landfilling is increasingly the option of last resort when disposing of waste. The proposed energy recovery centre will ensure Lancashire’s waste is diverted from landfill and put to good use as a valuable resource.

The benefits

How many homes will the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre power?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will generate enough electricity to power over 60,000 homes – enough to power every home in Blackburn with Darwen Borough. The electricity will be fed in to the National Grid.

Who benefits from the power and electricity generated?

The electricity will be put in to the National Grid and help reduce the UK’s reliance on fossil fuels. Electricity and steam can also be supplied to neighbouring industries providing them with a source of sustainable power.

How many local jobs will be created?

Once open, the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will create up to 50 skilled and semi-skilled engineering jobs, and also provide maintenance and administrative apprenticeship opportunities. With new supply chains and the potential provision of sustainable power to neighbouring industries, the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre could help to support many more local jobs. This adds to SUEZ’s existing presence in the area through its large regional office located on the same site. Typically, during construction, these facilities create hundreds of construction jobs, which has a positive impact on the economy of the surrounding area – particularly in the supply chain.

What will the economic impact be in the local area?

The £300 million+ investment in the facility would provide a significant economic boost to the local economy. With new supply chains and the potential provision of sustainable power to neighbouring industries, the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre could help to support many more local jobs. Typically, during construction, these facilities create hundreds of construction jobs, which has a positive impact on the economy of the surrounding area – particularly in the supply chain.

What benefits will there be to the local community?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will remove Lancashire’s dependence on landfill and ensure that residual waste from the area is put to good use to generate green and sustainable electricity.

SUEZ would set up a Community Fund of up to £50,000 each year to support local groups and projects.

It will provide a number of skilled and semi-skilled new engineering jobs whilst supporting many more in the local area. There will also be a number of maintenance and administrative apprenticeship opportunities for local people.

It will also be available to local schools, colleges and organisations and provide unique STEM learning opportunities to the local area.

SUEZ already works closely with local schools and voluntary organisations. A larger workforce in the area means that we will be able to increase voluntary and sponsorship opportunities in the local community.

SUEZ will also be working closely with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council to make improvements to Lower Eccleshill Road and adjoining roads to improve traffic flow in the area.

Protecting the environment

How safe is the energy recovery process?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre has been designed based on proven and reliable technology and has to meet the highest environmental standards. The process is permitted and closely regulated by the Environment Agency and there are numerous real-time safety controls which prevent safety hazards. In the UK alone, SUEZ currently operates eight thermal treatment facilities (with a ninth in construction) and has done so successfully for over 20 years. SUEZ has an excellent safety and regulatory track record and is a responsible, expert operator of these facilities.

Energy recovery centres must meet strict emissions limits set by the EU Waste Incineration Directive in accordance with local conditions and operators must submit detailed annual performance reports to the Environment Agency as well as real-time data. Emission data is monitored in real-time and safety controls are designed to shut the plant down should it exceed permitted levels.

Are the emissions dangerous?

Energy recovery is a highly regulated and tried-and-tested waste treatment solution used in most developed countries.

The UK Health Protection Agency has stated any effect on air pollution is likely to be very small and not detectable. There is no evidence to suggest that energy recovery facilities have an adverse impact on health.

Do Energy Recovery Centres emit particulates?

An Environment Agency Report recently showed that 0.03-0.05% of particulate matter in the United Kingdom comes from energy recovery centres, compared to 4.96-5.35% from traffic and 22.4-34.3% from wood fires and stoves in people’s homes. The particulate matter impact on pollution in the United Kingdom is negligible.

What will the impact be on local roads?

Deliveries to the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre would arrive via road. The site has good access to the motorway network, with Junction 4 of the M65 at a driving distance of approximately 1.5km, accessed via Lower Eccleshill Road and Paul Rink Way.

A thorough transport assessment will be submitted to the council with the planning application. The findings of the assessment will be discussed with Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council to agree what impact the proposals will have on key junctions on the road network.

It is estimated that the energy recovery centre will generate an additional 266 waste vehicle movements per day – 133 in and 133 out. There are currently 13,500 vehicle movements per day along Lower Eccleshill Road. The proposals therefore represent approximately 2% of the existing traffic on the road.

What will the visual impact be?

The Darwen Energy Recovery Centre will be located on the Lower Eccleshill Road Industrial Estate, with many existing industrial buildings. The topography of the surrounding area provides natural screening of the site from many nearby roads, however, the facility will be visible from some public areas and distance views. The tallest element of the proposal would be envisaged to be approximately 90 metres.

The design and colouring of the facility has taken account of key views nearby. The building has been broken down into the key process functions, with roofs sloped to the external facades to limit the visible height. The façade cladding wraps up and over the roof, breaking down the mass from long-distance views looking down onto the facility. Colours have been carefully considered and selected from a palette that reflects the local moorland environment allowing the facility to blend in with the landscape.

A landscape and visual impact assessment will form part of the planning application and environmental statement and the planning application will also detail how the design has been developed to take account of these factors.

Will there be an odour at the Darwen Energy Recovery Centre?

As a responsible operator, being a good neighbour is of the utmost importance to SUEZ and, while odour is often associated with waste activities, our role is to minimise it and ensure it does not have any impact on the communities we serve. The plant and our processes are designed in such a way that odour is carefully controlled to stop it leaving the plant.

Waste will arrive in vehicles, which will enter the tipping hall where fast-acting roller-shutter doors minimise the amount of time the tipping hall is open to the outdoors. The tipping hall operates under negative air pressure as the process draws air from the tipping hall into the furnace. This prevents the escape of air and odour while vehicles enter the building. Deodourisers are placed at the doors to further neutralise any odour present. The emissions from the stack do not create an odour as the majority of what is released is water vapour. The emissions will be dispersed into the atmosphere from a stack at a high level

We will have odour-acuity trained members of staff on hand at the plant to investigate and diagnose any external odour complaints.

Will there be any impact on local wildlife?

A range of ecological assessments will be undertaken as part of the planning application and consultation will be undertaken with Natural England throughout the planning process. SUEZ has a strong track record of promoting and protecting nature across its facilities. SUEZ energy recovery centres around the UK provide a variety of measures to protect and enhance biodiversity including accommodating owl and bird boxes, managing bee hives and developing wildflower gardens.

New soft landscaping of the boundary and the route between the existing offices and the new facility will also enhance the on-site ecology.