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Damning report on biomass plant plan

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AN ENVIRONMENTAL campaigning organisation has this week published a report on the biomass gasification power plant proposed by Egnedol in Milford Haven, claiming that it is a “highrisk, unproven technology,” and casting serious doubt on the company’s ability to successfully operate such a plant.

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Biofuelwatch’s report highlights how similar attempts to build gasifiers in the UK have failed, and outlines the health and safety risks associated with the technology. It also points to the fact that Egnedol has no track record with any power station scheme, anywhere, ever, and has provided no evidence of having any expertise in operating such an unproven and highly challenging technology.

Egnedol, a Cypriotic-Welsh company, has announced that they will submit a planning application to Pembrokeshire County Council for a 49.9 MW power station which would gasify around 400,000 tonnes of wood a year. This application forms part of a much larger project, which Egnedol estimate would increase the power station capacity to 350 MW and include a wide range of business activities, such as fish and prawn farms, using the waste heat from the plant. No gasification plant of this type and scale exists anywhere in the world, according to the campaign group. As Biofuelwatch’s report shows, another UK company’s attempt to use gasification technology, albeit on a smaller scale, resulted in hundreds of breaches of their air emissions permit, dozens of noise complaints, an explosion and a fire.

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch Co-Director and author of the report told The Herald: “Our briefing exposes Egnedol as a company with no proven track record of delivering any projects at all, let alone ones involving unproven and challenging new technologies. It is important that local residents, the planning department and Councillors fully understand the public health risks involved in trying to operate such a plant.”

Egnedol state that half of the power station’s energy will be generated from waste wood, which is usually chemically treated and emits dangerous pollutants into the air when gasified. They say the remainder will be imported “super trees,” grown in plantations in Morocco and Greece. However, the website of the company that Egnedol claims it will source these trees from, shows that they are still waiting for permission to plant such trees in Greece and have no current plans to plant any in Morocco.

Campaigners are calling for the proposal to be rejected. Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, Gareth Chubb said: “The people of Pembrokeshire won’t like being guinea pigs for an unproven technology with uncertain risks to human health using wood from nonexistent forests. Companies like Egnedol have talked up this type of proposal for a long time but we’ve never seen a successful venture of this nature in the UK. This proposal should be rejected.”

Biofuelwatch’s report which highlights Egnedol’s claims that hundreds of jobs will be created; may well come to nothing. The vast majority of the 560 jobs which Egnedol claim they will create would come from the additional business activities, are unviable without an uninterrupted supply of waste heat. Prawns and warm-water fish, for example, would instantly die if the gasifier had to be shut down for unplanned repairs – yet, as the report shows, frequent shut downs and repairs are the norm, not the exception, for gasification power plants.

Our questions to Egnedol still remain unanswered

THE QUESTIONS posed below were sent to Egnedol, the company claiming to be ready to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in Milford Haven, by The Herald.

At the presentation given at Milford Haven Town Hall on the evening of January 25, your spokesperson referred to feedstock for the plant coming from Morocco and Greece. I am informed that some two weeks after that meeting you still have not answered an enquiry as to how many hectares of land are under cultivation in those countries, nor identified the species of plant being grown there.

I noted that you also told the Town Council you will produce 2 million kilos of prawns a year at the site. Please advise what plans for transporting such a significant cargo to and from Blackbridge you intend to put in place.

In relation to the cheese plant, which also formed part of your presentation, bearing in mind the global fall in milk prices and the downward pressure on farmgate prices, what arrangements have you made to acquire contracts for the cheese wholesale and the arrangements you propose to make to transport milk and cheese to and from the site.

I note an article in the Cyprus Mail referring to Egnedol Ltd Mr Antoniades is reported to have said: “… garbage – plastic, organic materials, metals, and so on – is not garbage,” Antoniades explained. “To us, that’s energy. That’s profit.”

Please confirm whether the plant proposed at Blackbridge would be able to burn ‘garbage – plastic, organic materials, metals, and so on’. If it would, please confirm what mitigation arrangements Egnedol proposes to put in place for dioxin and heavy metals pollution from burning such waste.

Please identify the location in Wales of the 450m Euro contract Mr Antoniades told the Cyprus Mail Egnedol had obtained by October 2014.

Mr Antoniades is reported to have told The Cyprus Mail: “.. we asked for a confidentiality agreement before showing them around our UK facility,” Antoniades said. “We never heard back from them after that.”

To which UK facility did Mr Antoniades refer?

For the avoidance of any doubt on your part, please identify the location of the plant in the UK that Egnedol told the Cypriot Government it operated in Spring 2014.

As it is proposed to ship in plant material from the Mediterranean to Blackbridge to be burned as fuel, please confirm the carbon cost of shipping compared the carbon saving from consumption of the plant material.

We propose to provide ample space for your answers to all of the above.

I look forward to your full and prompt reply. As most of these questions refer to claims already made in public by your company, its directors and/or representatives, I do not anticipate that the answers will take long.

Please note: the questions will be published with answers if they are provided and without answers if they are not forthcoming.

If you are unable or unwilling to respond, please provide a statement to that effect

Without answering the questions asked, Steve Whitehouse, Director of Egnedol Ltd told The Herald: “Our proposed sustainable energy facility has been designed to comply fully with European and UK guidelines with respect to sustainable energy production.

“Both the UK and European Government agree that using short rotation biomass crops to create energy via advanced conversion systems, offers an excellent opportunity to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and to ensure energy security.

“We are looking forward to working with the community to bring this showcase development to fruition.

“A copy of the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project will be posted on the company website at www.egnedol.co.uk when the planning application is submitted. Feedback forms will be provided on the website to enable members of the public to comment on the application.”

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Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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