Fuel for thought

WHEN a pollution incident occurs in part of East Anglia, one of the first people on the scene is likely to be John Parish of the Environment Agency.

WHEN a pollution incident occurs in part of East Anglia, one of the first people on the scene is likely to be John Parish of the Environment Agency.

It might by the illegal dumping of cyanide, an oil spill or discharge of sewage into a waterway and the aim is always to limit the impact of the pollution and trace the source.

John, who is also involved in trials of a new kind of fuel, briquettes made out of waste that cannot ordinarily be recycled, said: “Our team deals with pollution incidents and a huge raft of environmental legislation.

“From sewage to illegally deposited cyanide, from oil spills to gas escaping from landfill sites we are likely to be the first officers on site.

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“I really enjoy my job because I like to think I'm at the sharp end and hopefully make a difference to the environment at a local level.”

Recently he has been trying to catch a rogue trader who dumped 30,000 tyres on his patch - in a warehouse at Colchester.

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John is based Kelvedon, and has always been an “Essex boy”. “It's the best place ever!” he said.

In his spare time he likes to sail the old Thames sailing barges and also enjoys photography, drawing and walking in his beloved Essex.

John, 59, joined the Environment Agency ten years ago when it was first formed, having left a job with trading standards because he felt he needed a new challenge.

He has a wife, Linda, two children and two grandchildren and is looking forward to the birth of another grandchild.

An interesting part of his work is involvement in trials of thermally treating waste that cannot ordinarily be recycled and using the heat to produce energy.

“This new system - called gasification - uses waste made into briquetted fibre pellets as the fuel in a special plant built by Sudbury firm Morecroft Engineering Ltd.

The briquettes are fed into the plant by gravity at about 1.5 tonnes per hour, firstly into a drying chamber where temperatures reach about 200oC.

After drying, the fuel enters the pyrolysis zone (pyrolysis means combustion without air - as in charcoal making) where temperatures can reach 400oC.

The gases given off are then passed into the oxidation zone where at temperatures of up to 1,200oC the wood tars and complex hydrocarbons are broken down into simpler molecules to produce further gas.

In the reduction zone any remaining solids are burned at temperatures of up to 800oC to release any remaining gas.

The whole process takes approximately four hours, the gas produced coming out of the plant at up to 550oC and passing through filters to remove particles.

It then goes through a series of water-cooled heat recovery units, which reduce the temperature further.

The heated water can be used in other industrial processes or in a district heating scheme.

The gas then goes into a generator which is capable of generating power in the range of 1.5 - 1.9 megawatts (MW) of electricity.

There are 1,000,000 watts in one MW so 1.5 MW is enough to keep 1,500 100-watt light bulbs burning continuously.

As John says: “This is cutting edge technology and it's great that a local firm from Sudbury has manufactured the plant.”

The plant itself, which will use wood as its fuel, will go into electricity generation in Scotland, where it will provide district heating as well as electricity.

John is passionate about the work he does, “The public needs to be aware that landfill is filling up fast. We all need to address new ways of doing things - using less energy and producing less waste.

“The rubbish on our highways and byways is a disgrace. Just take a look as you drive along the A12. It costs all of us thousands of pounds to clear up the waste left everyday and it is totally avoidable.

“As a car using society we need to sort our road system out as grid-locked traffic is far more polluting.”

“On a far wider scale population growth and growing industry in the world is damaging the planet we live in and that is scary. I worry for my grandchildren and their children and we all need to try and make a difference.

“East Anglia is a beautiful region but we must start from basics and educate our children in a far more environmentally focused way,” John said.

His top environmental tip is: “Buy only what is necessary. We all buy loads of

things we do not really need and the amount of packaging on goods is

really quite obscene.”

Environment Agency website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk

Customer services line: 08708 506 506

Incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60

Floodline: 0845 988 1188

E-mail: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

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