Spencer Group delivers part of Humber Ports biomass investment

Engineering company Spencer Group has delivered the first project as part of a £150 million (€182 million) investment in biomass handling operations at the Humber Ports, UK.

As part of a 15-year contract between port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) and Drax Power, Spencer has delivered a facility at the Port of Hull – the first to be completed under the long-term deal. The facility will enable sustainable biomass to be transported to Drax Power Station at Selby, as part of an ambitious programme which will see Drax transform into a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator within a few years.

Under the contract, work on which started last year, Spencer is building biomass handling, storage and discharge facilities, as well as associated infrastructure.

Spencer has now handed over the port facility to ABP. The project was delivered on schedule and within budget, with Simon Brett, head of projects at Humber for ABP, commenting: 'The facility will be able to accommodate up to four trains per day, loading through a state-of-the-art system that complies with all environmental and safety standards.'

A key feature of the development is a silo tower which, at 50m tall, is one of the highest structures in the city of Hull. The facility will handle 1 million tonnes a year of biomass imported via barges from the US and Canada in the form of wood pellets created from sustainable forestry residues and thinnings. 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. The 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 45 minutes.

Spencer Group COO Gary Thornton says: '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. The facility we have constructed at the Port of Hull is a beacon for the Humber's growing reputation as the UK's renewables region.'

Philip Hudson, Drax director of corporate affairs, adds: 'The facility at the Port of Hull is an impressive feat of engineering, addressing successfully a number of operational challenges.'

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