Just over a month after the fire in United Silicon’s smelter, they started up the process once again last Sunday (21 May) in order to ensure that everything will work as it should do in future. In order to do so, they need to operate it for a month or so. The Environment Agency is keeping a very close watch on the company, receiving daily updates and sending staff to monitor it as well.
Nevertheless, it was shut down again on Tuesday after electrodes broke. “That sort of thing can be expected during start-up,” the company said. Once again, complaints about odour streamed into the Environment Agency and two residents sought medical attention. Most complaints arose after the furnace was stopped, and one resident said the odour was worse than ever before.
It was restarted on Thursday morning.
Consulting engineers have allegedly found the reason for the odours: the temperature of the exhaust gas was too low. Today, however, the company say that the odour is due to insufficient burning of woodchips. “When operating at full capacity, the chemicals should burn out and the odour will not develop, ” an official told a reporter today. Note the use of the word “should”. He also said that there were more irregularities than the Environment Agency had expected.
I suspect we’ll keep hearing about more problems. If so, I’ll keep blogging about the company.
Update: I didn’t expect to update this blog so quickly! A problem cropped up on Friday night (when the plant was supposed to be functioning normally, according to the above-mentioned official) which meant that they had to run the furnace at reduced capacity. Then on Saturday an axle broke at lunchtime, so they turned off the furnace at 5.30 p.m. to fix it. The process was supposed to take a few hours.
More complaints have been sent to the Environment Agency since the problem on Friday night. Residents are encouraged to seek medical attention rather than report ailments to the Environment Agency, but it takes time and money to do so.
Update: It is now June 12, about 3 weeks since the smelter was started up again for tests. Since then, 3 incidents have occurred which have meant that the plant was switched off again and started up with accompanying odours – which have still not been identified. THIS IS NOT ON. The plant should be shut down permanently.