2oc was featured in a recent article in the Guardian on the current fight against fatbergs…
Extracts from the article by Ian Wylie:
Thames Water, faced with an estimated cost of £1m every month to keep its 109,000km of sewers fatberg-free, has perhaps the most innovative plan of all.
I saw their hopes firsthand. Following the Thames eight miles east of Westminster, beyond City Airport, will bring you to Beckton. The area here was marshland until the “Great Stink” of 1858, after which civil engineer Joseph Bazalgette built sewage works in Beckton to process the effluent from his new sewer network. The Beckton sewage works, managed by Thames Water, is now Europe’s largest – and right next door is the world’s first industrial-scale plant run on FOGs.
Shiny silver pipes criss-cross the outside of the building, resembling pneumatic tubes. Inside the plant sits a monster: an 800-tonne, two-stroke, 19-megawatt diesel engine of the kind normally found in battleships.
The plant, developed by green utility company 2OC in a 20-year, £200m deal with Thames Water, provides renewable power and heat to the Beckton sewage works. When fully operational this month, it will supply 130GWh of electricity a year – more than half of which comes from urban fat, 30 tonnes a day, collected from restaurants and drains then liquified. (The rest of the power plant’s fuel will come from tallow – animal fat – and waste vegetable oils; no virgin oils from field or plantation-grown crops are used.)
It’s innovative, efficient and effective. Yet plans to build another seven plants around the UK have foundered for two reasons. First, a European directive on energy transmission and generation forced National Grid to leave its joint venture with 2OC. Second, although the Beckton plant has been accredited with a Renewables Obligation Certificate – the main support scheme for renewable electricity projects in the UK – the Conservative government’s retreat from subsidising all but offshore wind projects means it won’t be replicated.
“We have been roadkill in the government’s downsizing of its renewables programme,” says 2OC chief executive Andrew Mercer. “I used to know every energy minister, up to and including Ed Davey, but our dialogue with government is zero now. This plant is a showcase example of the efficient use of waste, and plants like this ought to be embedded in the country’s energy network, not left to entrepreneurs to finance.”
Meanwhile, the fatbergs under London continue to metastasize. “For many cities, it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind,” says University College Dublin’s Tom Curran. “But with increasing urban populations around the world, the problem of fatbergs is only going to grow.”