BGS logoMineralsUK logo

Industry news: May 2009

Carbon capture first for UK

Longannet power station, BGS©NERC

The first test of carbon capture and storage from a UK coal–fired power station was conducted this month at the Longannet power station, Scotland. A prototype carbon capture and storage (CCS) plant was installed to test the chemistry involved in capturing CO2 from power station emissions.The prototype is a small–scale replica of the proposed final CCS plant.The owners of Longannet, ScottishPower, hope this will enable them to reach government targets to deliver a full CCS demonstration project by 2014. The chief executive of ScottishPower, Nick Horler, said "The test unit uses the exact same technology that we aim to retrofit to the station for a commercial scale CCS project by 2014, and the leap from 1MW to 330MW is now within sight.There are over 50,000 fossil fuel power stations in operation throughout the world, and by proving that CCS technology can be retrofitted to existing stations, we can begin to address the carbon lock–in from these power plants."


Europe's largest wind farm to be expanded

Wind farm, BGS©NERC

Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, has announced plans to extend Whitlee wind farm in East Renfrewshire, currently Europe's largest onshore wind farm.The developer of the site, ScottishPower Renewables, has been given permission to add another 36 turbines to the wind farm, which already contains 140 turbines.The extension would give the wind farm a total power capacity of 452 MW, enough to power 250 000 homes. Mr Salmond made the announcement at a ceremony to officially connect the wind farm to the national grid and said "The planned extension, which I am delighted to announce today, will enable the wind farm to harness its comparative and competitive advantage in wind generated energy within Europe."


New aggregate sales figures highlight the construction depression

Construction materials, BGS©NERC

New figures released by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) continue to show the severity of the downturn in the construction sector. Aggregates, cement, ready–mixed concrete and asphalt sales volumes continued to decline sharply in the first quarter of 2009. In comparison with the first quarter of 2008 cement fell by 31 per cent, crushed rock aggregates by 32 per cent, sand and gravel aggregates by 27 per cent, ready mixed concrete by 33 per cent and asphalt by 19 per cent.

The first quarter volumes were also lower than the fourth quarter of 2008, cement by 14 per cent, crushed rock by 7 per cent, sand and gravel by 10 per cent, ready mixed concrete by 20 per cent and asphalt by 14 per cent. The figures indicate that construction activity is falling rapidly and, taking into account the sharp fall in orders for new construction work placed in recent months, the construction and aggregates sector will continue to struggle throughout 2009.


Enquiry finds in favour of new quarry

Lincolnshire Limestone quarry, BGS©NERC

A public enquiry into a quarry developement has found in favour of developing a new building stone quarry in Lincolnshire. The quarry will be at Hibaldstow near Brigg, North Lincolnshire, and will work the Lincolnshire Limestone Formation. Landowners, AM Borrill & Sons, were also awarded costs by the enquiry against North Lincolnshire unitary authority who opposed the development with concerns over increased heavy goods vehicle movements. The new development is on the site of an existing quarry which opened during World War Two as a source of aggregate. The site is predicted to operate for 15 years before being restored to grassland. About 75 000 tonnes of material is expected to be extracted per year.

Source: Natural Stone Specialist magazine, April 2009.

Temporary shutdown for kaolin operations

Kaolin processing, BGS©NERC

Imerys SA has announced temporary shutdowns of its UK kaolin operations due to a decrease in demand for the material, which is mainly used in the manufacture of paper. An 11–day shutdown took place in early April and now further shutdowns have been imposed during the May Bank Holiday period. A spokesperson for Imerys, which employs about 1200 people in Devon and Cornwall, has blamed the shutdowns on a lack of demand, commenting "the demand for kaolin in 2009 is anyone's guess. Production is dependant on the marketplace, and especially against the paper industry."

Source: Industrial Minerals magazine, May 2009.

UK aggregate company, Hanson, for sale

Construction materials, BGS©NERC

Hanson UK, a major UK aggregate and cement producer, has been put up for sale by its parent company, Heidelberg Cement Group, for over £1 billion. Heidelberg Cement purchased Hanson Global, of which Hanson UK is part, in 2007 for £7.8 billion. Due to the downturn in the construction sector, Heidelberg is now trying to reduce its level of debt. Hanson UK employs 6500 people at 350 sites across the UK and it is thought the company could be broken up as part of the sale. Potential buyers include building material suppliers CRH and Swiss–based aggregate and cement producer Holcim.

Source: [No longer available]

Cement plant sets alternative fuel record

Cemex cement plant, BGS©NERC

South Ferriby cement plant, owned by Cemex UK Ltd, located in North Lincolnshire has set a new record in April for replacing traditional fuels with alternatives for heating cement kilns.The plant replaced over 74 per cent of traditional fuels with fuels made from waste products such as paint thinners, inks, varnishes and household and commercial waste. Figures from the British Cement Association state that on average 19.4 per cent of traditional fuels are replaced by alternatives during cement production in Great Britain. By replacing traditional fuels the plant has also recorded declines in emissions of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide, by 20 and 43 per cent respectively, and has made large reductions in its carbon dioxide outputs. It has also diverted 9000 tonnes of waste from landfill in the last three months.

Source: [No longer available]

Slate quarry directors admit fraud

Penrhyn slate, BGS©NERC

During the court case into fraud at two North Wales slate quarries, operated by Welsh Slate and formerly owned by Alfred McAlpine plc, two former directors of Welsh Slate have admitted charges of fraudulent trading. Both men admit falsifying sales figures and misleading Alfred McAlpine about the amount of sales achieved by Welsh Slate. A third accused man denies charges against him. It was stated in court that there was no suggestion that the fraud was carried out for personal gain, but instead the intention was to make it appear that the quarries were meeting their sales targets. Welsh Slate has subsequently been sold to Rigcycle.


New mine pollution measures tested in Ceredigion

A new filter designed to stop the outflow of polluted water from abandoned mine workings has been developed for the disused Cwm Rheidol zinc mine, near Aberystwyth. The filter is made from compost, woodchip and the shells of whelks and is part of a pilot study to remediate polluted discharge from the mine.The new method was developed by researchers at Newcastle University and, if successful, could be scaled up for application to similar problems elsewhere. A spokesperson for the Environment Agency said "Newcastle University has been working on a way of purifying the water and has come up with a mixture of compost, woodchips, digested sludge and whelk shells, which reduce acidity in the water. We plan to put the university's mixture in a tank and pass the water from the mine through it to see if it works. If it does it could have implications for disused mines throughout the world."