Spencer Group delivers first part of £150m Humber Ports biomass investment

Engineering firm Spencer Group has delivered the first project as part of a £150 million (€190 million) investment in biomass handling operations at the Humber Ports, UK.

The facility is the first to be completed to support a 15-year contract between port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) and Drax Power to enable sustainable biomass to be transported to Drax Power Station at Selby. It is part of a programme which will see Drax transform into a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator within a few years.

Work began in April 2013, with Spencer constructing biomass handling, storage and discharge facilities, as well as associated infrastructure.The port facility has now been handed over by Spencer to ABP.

At the heart of the development is a silo tower located close to the main road from Hull's docks. At 50m tall, it is one of the tallest structures on the city's skyline.

The facility will handle 1 million tonnes a year of wood pellets imported by sea from the US and Canada. The biomass is stored in warehouses before being delivered by truck to the new facility and unloaded into feeders which take it to a 250m conveyor, carrying it to the top of the silo.

The silo is capable of storing up to 1,800 tonnes of wood pellets and is filled by 60 truckloads of biomass over a three-hour period, twice a day, loading at the rate of 600 tonnes an hour.

Technology ensures an even load as the biomass is discharged into rail wagons which pass through the base of the structure at crawling speed. The automated system is capable of loading up to 30 rail wagons with 1,500 tonnes of material in around 45 minutes.

'The Humber Ports are becoming a major gateway for biomass shipments into the UK and a strategic asset driving the growth of green energy industries along the estuary,' says Gary Thornton, COO of Hull-based Spencer Group. 'The facility we have constructed at the Port of Hull is both a showcase for our engineering capability and a beacon for the Humber's growing reputation as the UK's renewables region.'

The port investments are generating about 100 jobs during construction, with an additional 100 jobs created once all the facilities become fully operational. The largest is an investment of around £125 million in a dedicated import facility, the Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal (IRFT), which is due to be completed later this year. IRFT will handle bulk carriers bringing up to three million tonnes of wood pellets a year into the port, destined for Drax Power Station.

The new facilities underline the Humber's reputation as the UK's Energy Estuary, with a quarter of the country's energy needs generated in the region, or supplied through it.

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