New player in thermal desorption of soils

Deep Green, the world's largest thermal desorption company, has entered the UK market - deciding the shortage of hazardous waste landfill has now made the process "competitive".

The Belgian company, which treats over 800,000 tonnes of contaminated soil a year, set up Deep Green (UK) in April. The company is a joint venture with Thermal and Chemical Soil Remediation of Bristol.

"We looked at entering the market a couple of years ago, but the demand wasn't there," said Andy Wheatley, the company's managing director. "But now with the landfill Directive, it's become competitive with landfill."

Thermal desorption involves heating soil to volatilise contaminants, after which they are either burnt off or condensed for further treatment. The treated soil can be reused.

With the waste acceptance criteria having put a 6% limit on total organic carbon for wastes going to hazardous landfill, demand for the technology is expected to increase.

It is a common practice on mainland Europe, but Deep Green is the first major company to set up operations in the UK.

Deep Green has yet to be awarded any contracts, but intends to import plant from Belgian as required. The company has nine plants capable of processing between 10 and 70 tonnes per hour of contaminated soils, all of which can be operated under the company's mobile plant licence.

It is looking for contracts with a minimum size of 5,000 tonnes and expects to charge between £40 and £140 per tonne depending on the level of contamination.

Unusually, the company intends to look beyond the "bread and butter" market of former gasworks. "We're looking more broadly than soils," said Mr Wheatley. "There are a number of large industries - chemicals and pharmaceuticals - whose waste isn't that dissimilar from contaminated soil. And we could act as a bolt-on to their process, making their waste non-hazardous."

The company's enthusiasm for the UK market has been dampened slightly by the Environment Agency's decision to allow wastes which cannot comply with WAC to be landfilled in exceptional circumstances (see p 17 ). "If the Agency decides there are many 'exceptional circumstances', it could cause us a few problems," Mr Wheatley said - but it still feels a "nice niche market" exists for the technology.