The chance of being struck by lightning is calculated as a one in 30,000 year event. Having been recently hit, Agrivert is pleased to report that we have survived without any injuries or damage to our local environment. So what happened and what lessons can be learnt?
At 5.20pm Thursday 16th June 2016 our Wallingford AD facility suffered a direct lightning hit during an aggressive storm. It instantly ignited c.1200m3 of flammable gas stored in the roof creating a spectacular 45 metre flare which was captured on camera by a local resident who was filming the storm (BBC News footage). This burnt out quickly leaving smaller fires burning until the roof membrane had burnt out. All were extinct by the time the fire brigade arrived 15 minutes later.
The remaining digesters were still producing approx. 1000m3 of gas/hour, so continuing to consume this was the safest course of action. Once explained, the fire brigade teams agreed to restart the engines which had tripped out during the event.
Benefiting from more digesters than the industry average, we isolated tank 3, whilst using the others to help the site to keep operating. One of the isolation valves were heat damaged resulting in a slight gas leak which we sealed this within 3 hours; most of which were spent sourcing appropriate parts which we didn’t hold in stock.
We ordered a new roof immediately, using the remaining 3 tanks to process normal feedstock volumes whilst we awaited its arrival. Normal waste acceptance was resumed the morning after the strike and we were back up to our usual 97% power output just 24 hours later. By day 14 repairs were completed and we are back to usual operating standards.
We draw two significant lessons:
- Our extensive emergency plans are written for an internal audience. Simplifying these for an external audience could have expedited handovers to the fire crews and between their shifts/brigades.
- A more comprehensive array of seals in our stocks would have been an inexpensive way to expedite our recovery.
We are now reviewing lightning risk assessments at all sites but this is complex and there are various approaches to protecting a plant. In addition, on this occasion, the fire brigade’s opinion was that the lightning bolt missed 2 nearby taller metallic conductors due to the sheer volume of atmospheric water providing a conduit to the top of our digester roof; demonstrating that the incident was largely unavoidable regardless of the type of protection we had in place.
In summary, whilst this was not a welcomed test, the experience has proved that our emergency procedures work well and our plants can remain safe and resilient; keeping our staff, the environment and the local community safe whilst providing continuity of waste acceptance and maintaining healthy power production in even the most unexpected of circumstances.
“I am very pleased with the outcome of what could have been a far more serious incident. Our staff performed fantastically, our customers, neighbours and regulators are happy and this can now become a great case study demonstrating the resilience of our plants” Alexander Maddan, Chief Executive.
Our West London AD facility was recognised as the industry’s “Best food waste AD plant” for a second year running and our dedicated operations and maintenance team was awarded “AD team of the year”.
According to Ofgem data, our three AD plants are the top performing food waste plants in the UK. Over the past year each site consistently achieved over 96%+ efficiency in power generation (% of base load capacity). This compares with an industry average of 71%. All three sites combined have an availability rate of 99.9%, with just one of the facilities being unable to accept waste for an afternoon over its 5 years of operation. This level of plant performance is due to Agrivert’s well-designed and resilient plants combined with the dedicated and experienced team that ensure the seamless running of the plants.
Agrivert’s next phase of growth will see a further 2 plants added to our infrastructure portfolio; North London AD (London Colney) and Stormy Down AD (Bridgend in Wales). Both plants will be open to accept food waste deliveries in the last quarter of 2016, adding a further 100,000 tonnes to our annual food wast processing capacity.
“We are delighted our performance has been recognised by wider industry and we look forward to showcasing our next phase of growth in the coming months”. Harry Waters, Commercial Director.
Agrivert’s Wallingford AD facility is awarded PAS110, making Agrivert first in the country with two PAS110 sites.
Just 6 months after receiving the first waste through its doors and less than three months after completing commissioning, Agrivert’s Wallingford AD plant in Oxfordshire has received PAS110. The 50,000 tonnes per annum AD plant, which was officially opened by Lord de Mauley in May, is the second Agrivert AD plant to receive PAS110 and makes Agrivert the only company in the UK that operates two plants holding PAS110.
Harry Waters, Agrivert’s Commercial Director commented, “Agrivert considers PAS110 to be an essential hallmark that we and our many stakeholders automatically associate with best practice. PAS110 is not easily achieved and less than 20% of the AD operators in the UK have been able to achieve this standard so we are naturally delighted to be awarded PAS110 on a second plant.”
Mr Waters continued, “Agrivert has always been a strong supporter of the PAS standards. We were the first company to hold PAS100 at an ABPR composting site back in 2005 and are now the only company in the UK to hold both PAS100 and PAS110.”