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Biogas Explosion and Tank Collapse At Harper Adams University Produces 2nd Spill of Liquor

This is appalling news for a flagship UK anaerobic digestion plant which was put into operation less than 3 years ago. As far as can be seen from the Shropshire Star report referenced below, there was an explosion which resulted in a digester tank collapse and that led to the contents of the tank being dropped on the ground around the plant.

We found the short video below on YouTube, briefly showing the clean-up:

There was also previous spill at the plant last year.

Thankfully, we don't think there were any injuries on either occasion, but there may have been some of the biomass which entered the local stream, again the articles referenced below don't make it clear just what the effect was on the local water quality. Hopefully, there would not be expected have been any significant loss of liquor outside of the bunded area for the plant, and therefore the clean up will adequately remove any future risk of pollution.

 

Sludge power plant collapses in Shropshire

"A power plant using farm waste today exploded at Harper Adams University, spilling tonnes of slurry. A 200-metre exclusion zone was today put in place by police, who described it as a “chemical incident”."
 
 

The incident took place on Friday 30 May, and the following further article was published on Monday 2 June:

"The clean-up operation continues at the HarperAdams University anaerobic digestion plant today. The access road to the AD plant was fully cleared over the weekend. Digestate is now [contained]."

 

 Credits: Clean-up continues at Harper Adams anaerobic digestion plant – shropshirelive.com (press release)
 

Today the Farmers Guardian had more to say, as the staff worked on at the clean-up:
THE clean-up at the Harper Adams anaerobic digestion (AD) plant is continuing today (Tuesday) with specialist contractors working on limiting the impact of the spill on the environment. The university has been working to tackle the major leak since one 
 Credits: Harper AD plant clean-up continues after major spill – Farmers Guardian  

It is clear that this was a major explosion to cause this degree of damage, and from the articles the presence of watercourse pollution remains unknown while tests are carried out:
 
"A Harper Adams spokesman said: “The Environment Agency is also conducting routine monitoring of the local watercourse. No release of pollution has been detected so far.”
I would predict that the University will carry out an inquiry into the cause, and that in due course there will be lessons to be learnt for the UK biogas industry.
 
We have previously highlighted the potential for explosions at Anaerobic Digestion Plants on this blog, and the need for this to be heeded at all times both during design and construction, and throughout biogas plant operation.
 
In this case there does not appear to have been anyone present at the automatically operated plant when the incident took place simply because there is no mention of a staff, or maintenance contractor’s presence at the time, so we would guess that an equipment failure of some sort is the most likely cause.
 
In the video below we see the biogas plant in happier times:
 
THE Biogas Digester Blog
 

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One Response to Biogas Explosion and Tank Collapse At Harper Adams University Produces 2nd Spill of Liquor

  1. admin June 25, 2014 at 5:36 pm #

    Update: The tank collapse seems to have been limited to the plant’s digestate storage tank. It was not a digester tank that dumped its load. The digestate tank would have been much smaller.

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