Kevin Sutherland, who heads up Diageoâ€™s operations on Islay, hosted a series of meetings in Port Ellen on Tuesday 24th March to outline to residents the companyâ€™s position and plans following the collapse of the grain silo at Port Ellen Maltings on 14th November 2008. Also in attendance were Michael Alexander,who is head of Diageoâ€™s Corporate Relations in Scotland, and Malcolm Chattwood who is the Environmental Protection Officer at Argyll and Bute Council responsible for the monitoring of air quality. Prior to the meetings, the Diageo officers spoke to the Ileach. The company said that the collapse was caused by corrosion in the vertical members of the silos but that visual inspections had not indicated that there was a problem. The silos were of a standard design and a type that they had installed in a number of other locations. The Port Ellen silos were not particularly old, the company has subsequently inspected other installations which have been installed for over thirty years, but no similar problems had been found. It has been concluded that the maritime position of the Port Ellen plant had been the major factor the the accelerated corrosion.
The company had considered three alternative sites within the Maltings complex for rebuilding the silos: 1) To replace on the same site, 2) to reposition at the other end of the building, and 3) to rebuild as a flat store on the site currently occupied by the peat sheds which would themselves have to be re-sited. They have decided to replace the silos on the same site, with essentially the same design because this was the best solution in terms of visual amenity while minimising CO2 emissions. The materials used would however provide better corrosion protection this time, with thicker steel, higher quality galvanising and the use of a military specification powder coating used by the Royal Navy on warships. There would also be an enhanced inspection programme incorporating the ability to periodically remove the verticals for examination. Continue reading....The question of Kiln emissions from the Maltings was discussed. The company claims that it has never breached National Air Quality Standards and that carbon monoxide levels have been continually monitored for many years. In 2007 it had installed what it knew could only be a temporary fix, a cowal to the existing chimney which improved the exit velocity of the emissions. It claims that conditions close to the plant had demonstrably improved since that time, but that a long term solution would have to be found because while the stacks remain lower than the surrounding buildings there would always be the risk of turbulence and poor dispersal.
The company claimed however, that the dust issues that residents living close to the plant complain of are not related to combustion, but to offloading. The â€œlong term fixâ€ to the emissions problem at Port Ellen is almost certainly the erection of a chimney. Following â€œeven greater emission problemsâ€ at Glen Ord Maltings north of Inverness where the plant is located in a hollow at an inland site with relatively little wind, a chimney was installed in December 2008. The project cost was Â£900,000. The company intends to evaluate this installation for a year and, if the results are positive, instigate a similar solution for Port Ellen. This will therefore not happen until 2010 at the earliest.
In the meantime, Diageo have already commenced an engineering evaluation of the Port Ellen site to move the process on. The company is proposing the creation of a Liaison Group at Port Ellen so that local residents have a clear route for communications with the company. Progress from the engineering evaluation will be reported to the Liaison Group which which is also intended to provide a forum for any issues about the Maltings which are of concern to residents. The Company has announced a significant investment of Â£1.5 million at Port Ellen to replace Kiln 2 at the Maltings. Diageo are keen to underline their commitment to the long term future of the plant which they consider central to the supply of not only their own Islay distilleries, but also to other iconic Islay brands.
This story was published with kind permission of the Ileach local newspaper.