Musings, politics and environmental issues

Archive for February, 2017

Iceland’s Environment Agency starts getting harsh with United Silicon

Here’s an update to the blog I wrote about on the article I’d written about a shaky start to the silicon metal industry in Iceland. The focus of both was the United Silicon plant that started up in November.

Since the article was published, the Environment Agency (EA) issued another operating licence for the plant, as the previous one had been revoked due to an administrative bungle. In the licence, special mention was made of the need to minimise odour coming from the plant, as local residents had complained hotly about both the burning odour and health effects resulting from it.  No mention had been made of the possibility of a burning odour in the environmental impact assessment for the plant, and as burning odours are uncommon in silicon metal smelters, there was no mention of it in the original operating licence.

Eventually four furnaces will operate, though at the moment only one is functioning. In a letter sent to United Silicon yesterday, the EA said that until the trace constituents of the emissions from the plant have been analysed, no more furnaces should be brought into use. They consider that the design, working procedures and training of personnel is wanting and that the problems are ongoing. Given that the operation is located very close to residential areas [1.27 km from the nearest house], they say that an engineering appraisal must be carried out on the design and operation of the smelter and that the operation be restricted to one electric arc furnace until the appraisal is complete. The EA is going to put the appraisal out to tender and conceivably might put a stop to the United Silicon operation until the appraisal is complete.

It takes a lot to irritate the EA. But United Silicon seem to have done so.