SELCHP visit for Oil and Gas Management Students
Written by Tonisha Tagoe – Oil and Gas Management student.
Somewhere in between South Bermondsey and New Cross Gate but clearly visible from London Bridge is SELCHP – the South East London Combined Heat and Power Plant – (pronounced sell-chip) and what a wonder it is!
The amazing lecturers at GSM London were kind enough to organize a tour of the waste incineration plant operated by Veolia as part of the Level 5 Environmental Management module on the Oil and Gas Management degree.
Although the original concept design for the advanced Energy Recovery Facility was established in the 1980s, the plant itself was built through a partnership between the public and private sectors in the early 1990s, and the network was finally completed in 2014.
It is hoped that the plant will play an invaluable part in allowing London to reach the 20/20 carbon reduction goals with an expected 7700 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year reduced through this process. Initially the site was set up to be CHP ready however fortunately there was a dramatic shift in the gas price and so local owners and the builders found it was no longer economically viable, however, this has since been implemented.
The visit started with the mandatory sign-in, teas and coffees and exchange of appropriate safety gear – hi-vis vests, a helmet and goggles. Following this, we were given an extremely detailed breakdown of how the plant functions, from the moment waste transfer services deliver it into the refuse chute, through to how the steam turbine turns it into electricity before it then leaves the building.
The process of combusting the waste is mechanical, allowing full combustion required by the Environmental Agency. Once the waste is fed into the chamber, it is immediately combusted in a continuous process. The heat from this process creates steam which runs the turbine, powers the generator and then feeds electricity out to the national grid. The heat which is not able to be used to generate energy is converted in heat exchangers to send out to the community tofeed other boiler houses around the Borough of Southwark.
The ash which is produced from the process is placed into a pit once the ferrous and non-ferrous metals have been removed by a rotating magnetic separator. The remaining ash is sent to second plant processor be converted into a viable aggregate to be used for construction purposes such as road and building foundations.
Many students on the tour were naturally curious about the methods used to generate energy to run the process and it was good to know that a minimal amount of bio-diesel is used to initiate the process of combustion. However, aside from this, the plant powers itself using the energy generated within it.
Another important topic for us was understanding the amount of water used in the process. As Lewis (our extremely knowledgeable tour guide) explained, the water used in the plant is provided by Thames water and kept to a minimum. However, before it can be used, it is cleaned of its impurities such as Sodium and Chloride to ensure that these substances don’t pollute the process.
Questions were also asked about the feelings of the nearby residents in response to having a waste incineration unit right next door – especially one was such a prominent chimney chute. However it was clear to see why such a plant would be accepted by the residents another said it was clean, is absolutely no smell, the process was efficient, and the tour was actually quite inspirational considering we talking about waste here.
The most surprising aspect of the visit was the fact that there was absolutely no smell from the waste aside from in the chute. In fact, the plant itself was extremelyclean – possibly cleaner than many homes I’ve had been in. As we walked around the facility not only was it clean, but there was absolutely no waste or rubbish or even out of place.
All in all, the tour was extremely informative and enlightening. We would like to say a huge thank you to Dr Najib Altawell and Baba Sheba for planning the event and for hosting us and helping us contextualise our Oil and Gas Management degree.