Breedon Planning App

As many will know, Breedon, who own and run the cement works in the Valley, have put in an application to the Peak Park to build a new facility for unloading wagons at their site, and an increase in the overall tonnage of material being brought on to the site, from 250,000 tonnes/yr max to 450,000.

This raises the question as to whether or not HVCA should object or comment.  The closing date for any such comments is the 14th December.

The application, all 165 documents worth, can be found on the Peak Park planning portal, here: https://portal.peakdistrict.gov.uk/result/YToyOntzOjE0OiJPYmplY3RfVHlwZV9JRCI7czoxOiI3IjtzOjE2OiJPYmplY3RfUmVmZXJlbmNlIjtzOjE2OiJOUC9IUEsvMTAyMC8wOTI5Ijt9. 

Although I cannot claim to have read them all, my assessment of the position is as follows.

The main driver for the application is that they want to reduce the amount of locally quarried shale used.  The currently used relatively low sulphur shale will run out by 2025, after which they would be on to using deeper shale with a higher sulphur content, leading to high SO2 emissions.  They want to reduce this, though whether that is a legal obligation or not, I am not clear. 

They have to date used pulverised fuel ash (PFA) as a substitute for shale, but want instead to use ‘alternative raw materials’ (ARM).  The amount of PFA available will be decreasing as it is a waste product from coal fired power stations, which are no longer in use.  By contrast, there appears to be a plentiful supply of ARM, also described as ‘unwanted conditioned PFA’.  As far as I can tell, the main difference between PFA and ARM is that the latter is wet (30% water by weight), so a) the tonnage needed is proportionately greater, and more significantly b) the mechanism for unloading PFA (a dry powder) from rail trucks won’t do, so they have to build a new offloading facility to cope with the wet materials.  Hence the planning application.

Breedon working with DB Cargo to move aggregates from Download Quarry near Buxton

The increase in upper permitted limit of tonnage imported is in order to accommodate both the substitution of ARM for locally quarried shale, but also the increased weight of ARM as compared to PFA (because of the water content).  Crucially, they state (in para 3.11 of the ‘Non-technical summary, document 79498225) that ‘There would be no increase in the amount of cement being exported from the site’.  I take this as meaning the overall amount of cement production will not increase (and cannot increase while sticking to the 450KT ARM import limit).  This is crucial when considering the overall CO2 emissions from the site, as it is the manufacture of the cement that is overwhelmingly the greatest cause of CO2 emissions, not the import of materials, by a factor of 1000:1.

The total emissions of CO2 from the plant in 2019 are stated to have been 1,180,385 tonnes.  Of this, the amount released from ‘transport fuels’ was 1,393 tonnes, i.e. about 0.1% of the total.  There is an analysis of the CO2 release attributable to different options for sourcing the raw material (shale/PFA/ARM), which gives a ‘worst case’ of 2,880 tonnes.  (As I understand it, there is a pay off between energy used in quarrying shale locally, and energy used in importing PFA/ARM.  The more of the latter, the less of the former, and vice versa.)  The ‘worst case’ is stated to lead to an increase in overall emissions of 0.12%, which is described, I think reasonably, as not significant.

I think the critical thing to note is that so long as the overall amount of cement manufactured does not increase the changes being proposed in the sourcing of raw materials do not lead to a significant increase in CO2 emissions.

It is also worth noting that they say that ‘Breedon has entered into an agreement with Haven Power in January 2020 and will be purchasing renewable electricity which will result in a saving of 46,366 tCO2e.’  (Time period not specified.)

This raises the question as to what HVCA might say (if anything) in a submission.  One possible stance might be to say that we would like to see the plant closed down as soon as possible, on the grounds that it is far and away the largest source of CO2 emissions in the County, and so we oppose the application because by doing so it will accelerate the plant becoming uneconomic, and closing.  (Breedon say, of course, that closing the plant would not reduce global CO2 emissions, since it would lead to cement being imported, at higher CO2 cost!)

An alternative would be to remain neutral overall on the application while supporting the emphasis placed on transportation of raw materials by rail, and pressing for the electrification of the line, and seeking a limit on the amount of lorry traffic.  We could also try to use it as a hook to try to get them to move faster on finding low emission cement substitutes or invest in carbon capture and storage.  However the likelihood of any large scale investment may be reduced by the fact that their current licence to operate ends, I understand, in 2042.  (This also clearly raises the question as to what happens to the site thereafter.)  

My personal view is that it would be remiss of us not to respond at all.  The HVCA ‘Support Group’ will be discussing the issue further on Wednesday 2nd December.  We are also keen to be consistent in our response with those of the Parish Councils (Hope with Aston, and Bradwell) most affected.

If you have any views on the matter, please contact me at jeremywight73@gmail.com

Jeremy Wight

Chair, HVCA

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4 Responses

  1. Dear Sirs
    I have read the Breedon application and would say that you have summed it up fairly, however you seem only to concentrate on CO2 emissions whether we like it or not there is a large demand for cement ,the localities for its manufacture are relatively rare which is why the works are here in the valley.Before cement it was lime that was the preferred building material this was quarried and manufactured on the White Peak side of the valley mainly in Bradwell because it was only small scale the results are barely discernable now but if you look at photos from the early part of the last century you will immediately notice how few trees there are, why, the trees were used as fuel .
    While the demand for cement remains as high as it is, it seems we are stuck with the cement works it is inconievable that the government would allow wholesale importation of cement for the construction industry let alone disregard its strategic value.
    We would only be getting rid of our co2 emissions to move them somewhere else in the world possibly with not as high pollution standards and the associated carbon footprint
    The works does generate a lot to the local economy and was welcomed with open arms in 1929
    We would do well to remember that ,we are not the only producers of CO2 although it is sometimes presented as such by the MSM many countries produce far more than we do and do less about it look at Germany,The USA, China etc

  2. Thanks for the historical info. I think there is a lot of room for new technology to reduce the carbon emissions from cement making. See for example here (Although I do not carry a flag for the IEA, they can be years behind the curve in some areas, underestimating for example growth in renewables, so read whatever they say with a bit of scepticism): https://www.iea.org/reports/technology-roadmap-low-carbon-transition-in-the-cement-industry

    And we should press Breedon to be at the leading edge of what is possible. If cement production gives rise to too much CO2, it will have to cease production, the as risks to us all and to the planet are simply too great. So being at that leading edge is essential for them to keep their social license to operate (SLO).

    Another path is to reduce the demand for cement and concrete. I know this sounds tough. However, firm policies to promote re-use or conversion of older buildings instead of reaching as so often for the wrecking ball, might help.

    I am made uneasy by the “other countries are worse than us over this issue” line. First our apparent quite good success in reducing our emissions has been due to just two things. One is wind power offshore, which we could and should develop much much faster, along with solar and onshore wind as well as heat pumps for domestic heating, which has replaced coal for electricity production almost entirely, and the other is by ceasing to be a great industrial power and outsourcing the making of most things we need to China. This is what underlies the “levelling down” which this country’s old industrial areas suffer from.

    Germany is dragging its feet over coal, and over their (mostly) backward looking car manufacturers, but the carmakers will just be forced to change, or go out of business, by the EV (Electric Vehicle) revolution, and coal – well let’s hope they are made to see sense by the kids! China is a mixed bag, and so too is the US.

    Every country must go as fast as possible, and drag the others along by their drive and ambition. We are all in danger, there are green shoots everywhere if you are alive to them, and the change is going to be unbelievably rapid.

  3. Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful analysis Jeremy.
    I support Daniel’s comments about encouraging them to be at the head of the curve in ‘green cement’, though a system wide shift of construction materials is also needed. I know, for example that my neighbours used ‘limecrete’ (https://limecrete.co.uk/limecrete/) in relaying their cracked concrete solid floor as it has (far?) lower embodied energy (hence CO2).
    Daniel’s latter comments about how UK has achieved lowered CO2 are also well made.

    On a more parochial note, living next to the railway line, the cement and aggregate trains do shake our house. Literally. The cupboards wobble and shake regularly as (railway) clockwork as the heavy trains pass – in the manner and rough amplitude of the most recent local earthquake 3.8 on the east coast). But that is for direct contact with network rail about the soil mechanics of the rail foundations.

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