A kiln capable of producing 24,000 tonnes of dried wood chips a year and boosting the local forestry and sawmill sectors is still a potentially-viable proposition.
That is the view of Scottish Borders Council, despite its recent decision to scrap a contract for a £26million advanced thermal treatment (ATT) plant for municipal waste at Easter Langlee near Galashiels.
In looking for ways to maximise the benefits of that plant – designed to use incineration to convert waste into gas which would then generate electricity – the council commissioned a study into the wood-drying kiln project in 2013.
It was predicated on the kiln, with its 12 huge drying bins, being powered by waste heat from the ATT.
The study, carried out over a year by three consultants including Buccleuch Woodlands, assessed that such a wood-drying facility would find a ready market from biomass users, both Borders-based and in Edinburgh, who currently had to import their fuel – chips and pellets – from eastern Europe.
Although 18 per cent of the land area in the Borders was devoted to forestry and timber production, the study revealed there were currently only two small drying kilns for logs in the region. The researchers also believed the carbon-saving kiln, costing around £1.2million, would generate “positive cash flows” and be eligible to access investment funding from Scottish Enterprise via regional selective assistance.
Despite that glowing endorsement, it was assumed the kiln project – along with £2million of council cash –had bitten the dust when, in February, the council pulled out of the ATT deal after it became clear the technology had not been adequately tested and the contractor – New Earth Solutions (NES) – had failed to attract the required private investment.
But a council spokesperson said this week: “The kiln drying feasibility assessment published last year demonstrates there is a viable opportunity for a business model based on energy from a stand-alone biomass boiler.
“The decision not to proceed with the contract to deliver the integrated waste management facility [ATT] does not affect the potential for a successful timber drying facility in the Scottish Borders.”
Meanwhile, it has been revealed in a Freedom of Information response that, by the time the council abandoned its deal with NES, the company had, since May 2013, tried and failed three times to obtain the required Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) permit for the ATT from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency.