Construction of the UK’s first waste plastic to hydrogen facility is well underway as it completes the Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) phase. Peel L&P Environmental and Waste2Tricity have received planning consent from Cheshire West & Chester Council to build the plant on the 54-hectare Protos site near Ellesmere Port. It will feature cutting edge technology never used in the UK before.
Construction Of A Ground-breaking Facility
The UK facility received planning consent in March 2020 and will use next-generation DMG (Distributed Modular Generation) technology. Developed by Powerhouse Energy Group (PHE) at Thornton Science Park, this technology creates hydrogen from waste plastic which could be used to fuel cars, buses and HGVs.
The construction of this facility is only the first of many as they are planning to build eleven across the country. That represents a combined investment of £130m with the first facility being valued at £7m. It will create 14 full-time permanent positions at Protos along with more than 100 jobs during fabrication and construction in the North West.
PowerHouse Energy’s chief executive David Ryan said: “Our technology is a sustainable solution for dealing with plastics that would otherwise end up in landfills, and because we’re generating hydrogen it’s much more efficient than other energy-from-waste processes.”
Sustainability And The Promise Of Zero Emissions
Construction of this innovative project is set to start in the autumn with plans to be operational by 2021. Considering the North West’s bid to become the UK’s first low carbon cluster by 2030, this project is merely the first step in the process. It is also part of Peel L&P’s sustainability pledge to help the UK reach net-zero emissions.
In addition to producing zero-carbon fuel, Peel L&P has committed to eliminating all single-use plastics across all business operations within the next five years. Fact is, Peel L&P is the first property company to achieve Net Zero Carbon status as per the UK Green Building Council’s 2019 definition for buildings in the UK.
Myles Kitcher, Managing Director at Peel Environmental, said: “The technology has been proven at Thornton Science Park and will now be commercialised at Protos, before being rolled out across the UK. This is hugely significant for Cheshire and the wider region, demonstrating how we’re rising to the challenge of being the UK’s first low carbon industrial cluster and setting a standard for others to follow.”
Protos Strategic Energy Hub
The Protos strategic energy hub is within the Energy Innovation District or EID spearheaded by the Cheshire Energy Hub. It brings together energy users, network owners, innovators and partners. The EID wants to develop a local, smart energy microgrid which could result in 25% energy cost savings and 34% less greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Ged Barlow, Chair of the Cheshire Energy Hub: “The UK is going to require plenty of innovation if it is to meet challenging net-zero targets. Projects like this show how in the North West we’re leading the way and it’s great to see yet another UK first project taking place within the Energy Innovation District. The technology is truly innovative and forms part of our plans to deliver local low carbon energy sources.”
John Hall from Waste2Tricity added that “securing consent for our first facility in the UK is a huge step forward and we’re delighted that Cheshire West & Chester Council has got behind the project. Working with Peel Environmental, we have plans to roll out the technology across the UK.”
How Does The Plastic To Hydrogen Plant Work?
DMG technology works by shredding plastic into small pieces before heating them. This process takes place within something referred to as a ‘thermal conversion chamber’. After the initial phase where plastics melt and vaporise into gases, more heating occurs reforming the molecules into synthetic gas. This is a mixture of mostly methane, hydrogen and a smaller amount of carbon monoxide.
The chamber operates without oxygen which means there is no burning. However, steam is added to control the process and the quality of the syngas. Once plastics go through the Conversion Chamber, the syngas is cleaned, leaving behind a few inert harmless residues. These are generally less than 5% of the starting volume of waste plastics. Powerhouse Energy confirmed that these residues can be reused for a variety of other purposes or safely disposed of.
With the Front-End Engineering Design completed during the lockdown, estimates a total project cost of £20 million. It is money well-spent as this facility will forever change the way plastic is dealt with regionally with hopes that the scheme will provide a blueprint for future projects on a national scale.
In addition to the construction of 11 facilities across the UK over the next few years, Peel L&P Environmental also has exclusive rights to the Powerhouse Energy technology in the UK. This could lead to the construction of more than 70 similar facilities. The company claims that it could revolutionise how the UK manages 4.9 million tonnes of plastic waste each year.
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