Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 3



  1.  Castle Cement Ltd started using Cemfuel at its Ribblesdale plant in 1991. It was the first application of such fuel in the UK. Cemfuel is a cement kiln fuel manufactured by solvent recovery companies from used solvents, which are classed as hazardous wastes. It is a fuel manufactured to a very tight specification that is agreed with the Environment Agency, from the residues of solvent recycling and from waste solvents that are not possible to recycle or are uneconomic to recycle.

  2.  In 1991 Castle Cement consulted with its local liaison committee, whose membership included members of the Town, Borough and County Councils, and consulted with HMIP who gave permission to commence trials using Cemfuel. Following successful trials, HMIP gave permission for continuous burning. Some two years later, the Company made application to re-activate a quarry. At this point the number of odour complaints increased dramatically, with 70 per cent coming from just three people. The protesters attributed the odour to the use of alternative fuels. Considerable extra testing, by both the company and the Environment Agency, demonstrated that the odour issue was related to sulphur dioxide emissions resulting from sulphides in the natural limestone strata being used as raw materials at the plant. At no point has there been any evidence that the odour issue was as a result of the fuels in use. It is clear, from both Castle's tests and those of the Environment Agency, that there is a net reduction in emissions at Ribblesdale when using these fuels compared with using coal alone.

  3.  Castle Cement and The Environment Agency both concluded that the at times poor dispersion from the Kiln 7 stack, along with the high sulphur dioxide emissions, was the main cause of the odour problem.

  4.  After trying to extend the stack and provide a better plume dispersion situation, without complete success, Castle Cement completely resolved the matter by investing some £5 million installing a state-of-the-art gas scrubber on Kiln 7, reducing the main source of sulphur dioxide by over 90 per cent to practically zero.

  5.  There are two other, older wet process kilns at Ribblesdale which still occasionally cause a detectable odour. Castle Cement has an investment programme to build a new kiln at its Padeswood plant in North Wales which will have the capacity to allow the closure of these two older kilns at Ribblesdale. The initial design, evaluation and capital approval for this new kiln followed by the planning process has taken five years, including two years taking the project through the appeal process after it was called in by the Welsh Assembly following approval by Flintshire Council. Construction is due to start shortly. On completion of the building and commissioning of this new kiln, the two older kilns at Ribblesdale will close down and the remaining modern technology, calciner kiln, with its scrubber, will provide Ribblesdale with amongst the lowest emissions of all the cement plants in Europe.

  6.  Throughout all this period, Castle Cement has consulted intensively with the public. This has been through "an open door policy" using the conventional liaison committees, local councils, public meetings, exhibitions, site open days, site visits, publications and newsletters of significant events sent to 10,000 households in the area, through the media and through contacts at Central Government.

  7.  Ribblesdale has continued to use Cemfuel and has successfully had Cemfuel operations permitted on its Kiln 7, applying the Environment Agency's "Substitute Fuels Protocol" and using all the consultation and communication systems set out above. This is being followed by an application for using waste tyres as a fuel at Ribblesdale and, while the process of obtaining permits is currently held up by the IPPC process, the public consultation has been completed very successfully.

  8.  Since the last Environment Committee visited Ribblesdale when that Committee was critical of some aspects of the Environment Agency's performance, Ribblesdale Works has been one of the most tightly regulated sites in the UK. The management at Ribblesdale now consider themselves to be at the forefront of the fields of regulatory and environmental control systems. Since the time of the last visit, continuous monitors covering a wider range of gases have been installed complementing the scrubber technology; the site has achieved the ISO14001 environmental management system; and the Hazardous Waste Incineration Directive has been implemented. The company has continued to make investments in environmental improvements.

  9.  Castle Cement remains proud of its works at Ribblesdale and would welcome a return visit by the EFRA Committee to observe and discuss the improvements made since the last visit.

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Prepared 26 July 2002