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Statement: Beddington Energy Recovery Facility – recent emissions exceedances

13 July 2022

The South London Waste Partnership (via Croydon Council) has written to Viridor (operator of the Beddington Energy Recovery Facility) about the relatively high number of emissions exceedances at the plant during May and June 2022. This follows a 12-month period where there were no exceedances at all. The Partnership has formally requested Viridor to provide a Rectification Plan setting out how performance of the plant will be brought back to 100% compliance.

The Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) is a state-of-the-art energy from waste plant that treats residual waste (‘rubbish’); most of which (c.200,000 tonnes per year) has been collected from households in the four South London Waste Partnership boroughs (Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton). The treatment process generates 26 MW of electricity which is fed into the National Grid and powers around 57,000 homes. The Beddington ERF offers a cost-effective, safe and environmentally sustainable alternative to landfill.

Responsibility for monitoring and regulating the environmental performance of the Beddington ERF sits with the Environment Agency (EA). The EA has set strict emissions limits that the plant must adhere to. Emissions samples are taken every 10 seconds and these are used to calculate 10-minute, 30-minute and daily averages. Any exceedance of the limits must be reported by Viridor to the EA within 24 hours, who then investigate and award financial penalties – in the form of ‘Compliance Assessment Scores’ – if that is deemed appropriate.

Through its contract with Viridor, the South London Waste Partnership is also able to request Rectification Plans and apply penalties for any breaches of the EA permit. Andrea Keys, Partnership Director for the South London Waste Partnership, said: 

“During May and June 2022, there were a total of six exceedances of the emissions limits at the Beddington ERF, five of which were breaches of the EA permit**. This is disappointing as the facility had previously gone 12 months without a single breach of the permit. We have written to Viridor to make it clear that contractual penalties will be applied for each of the breaches and we have formally requested a plan from Viridor that sets out what they are going to do to ensure environmental performance is improved. From the monthly reports (that Viridor publishes online) it would seem that many of the exceedances have been caused by pressurised gas bottles going through the treatment process, so this is an issue we are particularly keen to explore further.

“On the whole, the Beddington ERF continues to perform well. Even in the two months that we have raised concerns about (May and June 2022), compliance remained high (see table below). But the SLWP boroughs expect 100% compliance with the EA permit 100% of the time, and will use all of the mechanisms available to us in our contract with Viridor to ensure those high standards are met.”

Emissions limit compliance at the Beddington ERF during May and June 2022

MAY 2022 JUNE 2022*
Compliance level   Compliance level  
Particulates 100% 100%
Volatile Organic Compounds 99.96% 99.93%
Hydrogen Chloride 99.96% 100%
Sulphur Dioxide 100% 100%
Oxides of Nitrogen 100% 100%
Ammonia 100% 100%
Carbon Monoxide 96.4% 100%

More details on the Beddington ERF and how it treats waste and generates electricity can be found at Copies of the monthly emissions monitoring reports can also be downloaded from this site.


* Emissions data for June 2022 is provisional

** One of the six exceedances (of Hydrogen Chloride on 3 May 2022) occurred during a period of ‘Abnormal Operations’; a technically unavoidable stoppage, disturbance, or failure of the abatement plant or the measurement devices. During this ‘abnormal operations’ period the operator has four hours to respond to emissions exceedances relating to the abatement systems. If the issue is not rectified within the four hours the plant has to be brought offline and this is classified as a breach of the permit. On this occasion, Viridor was able to bring the emissions back to normal operating levels within the four hour period so a breach of the permit did not occur. The reason the operator is permitted the four hour period is due the amount of diesel required to bring the plant back online and the relative environmental impact that shutting down the plant would have. The facility is allowed a certain amount of hours per calendar year to be in ‘abnormal operations’.

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