Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Where now for Borders kiln-drying facility?

Yet another potential development project for the Borders, assessed and proposed by a trio of consultancy firms for the council at considerable cost, now stands little or no chance of delivery in the short term following the collapse of the planned waste treatment facility at Easter Langlee.

Only 10 months ago the findings of a 160-page study report confirmed the viability of kiln-drying timber from the Borders forests at a £1.2 million plant alongside New Earth Solutions' combined Mechanical Biological Treatment and Advanced Thermal Treatment (ATT) centre. The kiln was to use power generated by the ATT which would also supply heat and electricity for hundreds of homes and public sector buildings and business premises at Langlee and beyond..

But the council's shock decision to terminate SBC's 24-year £65 million contract with New Earth after just four years appears to have scuppered a project heralded as 'doable' by timber producers, processors and potential customers for the end product.

According to consultants Enviro Centre, Buccleuch Woodlands and Nevin Associates, who between them conducted the 12-month long assessment, the proposed 12-bin wood kiln was capable of producing 24,000 tonnes of dry wood chip per annum or 4,000 tonnes of dried logs.

The carbon saving potential was considered to be significant. The facility would produce 2,804 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually compared to natural gas and LPG which would generate 13,336 and 15,440 tonnes of CO2 respectively.

The detailed report claimed: "The financial forecasts indicate the project will generate positive cash flows and be able to meet all obligations placed upon it in terms of taxation, debt service obligations and dividends paid to shareholders."

Scottish Enterprise indicated they could provide support for further assessments, and possible project funding sources were identified by the consultants including Regional Selective Assistance.

"Ownership of the project could be transferred to an entrepreneur who would design, build, finance and operate the facility", according to the report. "Legal protection might have to be built in to any agreement to ensure the facility continues to operate or the council has step-in rights in the event that the owner becomes insolvent".

The Borders proposals were also compared to similar studies in Revelstoke, British Columbia and Burchkirchen, Austria.

SBC's enthusiasm for the idea was illustrated when they organised a seminar for interested parties in June 2014, only a month after the report was made public. There were upbeat presentations from a number of specialist speakers, and it seemed only a matter of time before the plans were progressed to the next stage.

Now, it would appear SBC's mishandling of the flawed New Earth contract and the subsequent decision to abandon it completely means the Borders kiln-dried timber centre may have gone up in smoke.

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