Monthly Archives: October 2013

A new link for Asia and Europe as Turkey’s tunnel under the Bosphorus opens

Turkey Bosphorus tunnel

Tuesday 29th October 2013 has seen the inaugural opening of a new rail tunnel under the Bosphorus linking the Asian and European sides of Turkey’s capital, Istanbul. The 8.5 km tunnel is the first phase of what will eventually be the 76 km-long Marmaray rail transportation project from Gebze to Halkalı. Japan has provided $1 billion of Marmaray’s overall cost of $4 billion.

The tunnel aims to ease the infamous daily traffic jams on the two bridges that currently span the Bosphorus. It will carry up to 150,000 passengers per hour, with trains arriving as often as every 2 minutes. It is also hoped that the tunnel will one day enable the creation of a major new trade route between London and Beijing via Istanbul.

At some 60m below sea level, the 1.4 km immersed section of the tube tunnel is claimed to be the deepest in the world. Fire-resistant concrete developed in Norway was crucial for the safety of the project.

Furthermore, the tunnel lies just 18 km or so from the active North Anatolian Fault, which has posed great challenges for engineers and seismologists. The result is a tunnel now built to withstand earthquakes of up to 7.5. Its walls are made of waterproof concrete coated with a steel shell, each independently watertight. The tunnel will flex and bend much in the same way tall buildings are built to withstand earthquakes.

Heading up engineering services on the project is Avrasyaconsult, an international team made up of three partners from Japan – Pacific Consultants International, Oriental Consultants, and JARTS – and one local partner, Yüksel Proje Uluslararası. In addition, Parsons Brinckerhoff International is providing special expertise in immersed tunnels to the team, with Turkish firms TMM and SIAL advising on geotechnical engineering. New rolling stock is being supplied by Korean firm, Hyundai Rotem.

The idea was originally conceived in 1860 by Ottoman sultan, Abdoul Medjid, but was thwarted by lack of engineering know-how. Construction finally started back in 2004 but long delays have been caused by major archaeological finds. These include examples of Byzantine ships, and traces of the city wall of Constantine the Great.

Gail Taylor


Written By admin 
October 29, 2013 15:46 pm
Posted In Rail, TRANSPORT

EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant given go-ahead

hinkley point c

French energy giant EDF Energy has been given the green light to build Britain’s first nuclear plant in a generation. EDF will lead a consortium, including Chinese investors, to build the long-mooted Hinkley Point C plant at Somerset.

Hinkley C will be built by EDF, the firm holding a 45-50 per cent stake in the scheme. A further 30-40 per cent is held by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN), while another 10 per cent is held by French engineering company Aveva.

Subject to a final investment decision, key contract terms for the four chief suppliers to the project have been finalised. These are with Alstom for turbines; Areva for instrumentation and controls, the nuclear steam supply system and fuel; Bouygues TP/Laing O’Rourke for the civil work contract; and Costain for marine work.

The site’s proposed two reactors will offer lower generating costs, it has been claimed, during their operation span of 60 years. The scheme represents the UK coalition government’s shift away from fossil fuels and towards low-carbon energy. It is estimated the plant will cost £16b to construct.

The existing Hinkley plant currently generates around 1% of the UK’s total energy, but this figure is expected to rise to 7% once Hinkley C is complete in 2023. Construction of the new plant is expected to create around 25,000 jobs, with 900 permanent jobs forecast for the site’s 60-year operation.

Richard Greenan


Written By admin 
October 22, 2013 11:48 am
Posted In ENERGY

National Grid rebuffs criticism of diesel generators

national grid diesel generators

An article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph claims that “National Grid has been quietly signing up thousands of diesel generators, linked by computers to the grid, which can be automatically switched on at a moment’s notice to cover for any power shortage”. The report continues, “And their main purpose, although National Grid tries to deny it, is to make up for the unreliability of that ever-increasing number of heavily subsidised wind farms the Government wants to see built”.

It describes payments to companies involved in creating these ‘mini-power stations” as “so lavish that, in proportion, that [sic] they make the subsidy bonanza enjoyed by wind-farm operators look like chicken feed”.

However, when we spoke to Gemma Stokes, Corporate Media Relations Manager for National Grid, she told us, “Short Term Operating Reserve is not a tool we have created to manage wind power intermittency. The key driver for the bulk of STOR is to manage our single largest potential loss on the system, which is currently up to 1,320MW (what we would lose if Sizewell nuclear power station went down). And STOR has been around long before we were managing wind generation on the network.

“It is a very important tool for us. As system operator, it’s important to be prepared for any eventuality on the network. There are occasions when power stations – coal or nuclear – break down, or demand is higher than forecast, so it’s important we have generation held in reserve to manage these unforeseen circumstances.

“There have been some misleading reports about the cost of STOR and prices increasing. STOR is a £100million a year service and is procured through a competitive tender process – we do three rounds a year – which is pushing down prices. We publish detailed market information reports after each tender round. The current feedback is that costs are not forecast to increase in the near future. As to diesel, it is a small part of STOR overall.”

She also told us that National Grid would soon be publishing the findings of its STOR fuel type analysis, which, she said, would highlight that diesel makes up quite a small percentage of what National Grid buys. The report should make interesting reading when it comes out.

Gail Taylor


Written By admin 
October 17, 2013 15:38 pm
Posted In ENERGY

Salford goes global as bridge shortlist revealed

riba salford comp

Architects from a record-breaking 31 countries around the world have submitted their plans to build a new pedestrian bridge in Salford across the River Irwell.

Overall, the contest, run by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Competitions Department, received 172 submissions from 31 countries, with architects and engineers from as far afield as China, Australia, Chile, and India coming forward with a range of different designs. The entries have now been whittled down to a shortlist of four.

The shortlisted teams (in alphabetical order) are:

• Atelier Zündel Cristea, Paris
• Mott MacDonald with Moxon Architects, Altrincham and London
• Toby Savage Design Limited with Wolfgang Buttress Studio and LDA Design, Stockport
• Tonkin Liu Limited with Arup, London

Held jointly by Salford City Council and RIBA, the competition looks to open up the untapped green space at the Meadows to local residents and students. The site for the new bridge – The Meadows – covers around seven hectares and forms the northern section of the Irwell River Park (IRP) project.

IRP is set to be an international destination involving a partnership between Salford, Manchester and Trafford councils and will be the catalyst for major economic expansion in the area. The bridge is the next step in the IRP project, and is expected to be an iconic creation linking The Crescent (A6) with The Meadows.

IRP will be an international waterfront destination. The project, involving a partnership between Salford, Manchester and Trafford councils, will be the catalyst for major economic expansion in the area as it seeks to link up £3 billion of investment through greater use of the River Irwell and the Manchester Ship Canal.

And three new bridges have already been built across the Irwell and the Manchester Ship Canal, as part of plans to improve direct connections at key sites across Salford such as MediaCityUK and Greengate, alongside a bridge link to Manchester at Spinningfields.

The new bridge will play a crucial role in connecting these areas of Salford to the £650 million redevelopment of Salford Central near to the University of Salford, including the £10 million transformation of Chapel Street, and some of the city’s beautiful green spaces.

The Judging Panel included Renato Benedetti, McDowell + Benedetti acting as the RIBA Adviser, and Salford City Mayor Ian Stewart.

Stewart said: “The amount of entries we had and the range of countries they were from is a testament to Salford’s reputation as a modern global city. Professionals from around the world want to make a contribution to Salford’s growth.”

They Mayor continued, “the entries we have chosen are truly visionary for what they could offer to Salford. The bridge we hope to build here will be a crucial part of the area’s future. Huge investment is going into Salford Central and the Chapel Street area – an iconic bridge with a global reputation will sit perfectly with that.”

Benedetti announced, “We were overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of the submissions received, especially with the international nature of the response and the wide variety of approaches taken. This made our job as Judging Panel members more interesting and challenging and the four selected schemes are certainly worthy examples of Salford City Council’s aspirations for the project and the wider urban context.”

The shortlisted teams will now meet the full judging panel at a final interview in November after which an overall winner will be selected.


£1b earthquake bill for Spanish gas plant

escal ugs gas earthquakes

Operations at a Spanish gas plant have been linked to over 500 mini earthquakes registered in Spanish towns on the Catalonia-Valencia coast since September. The tremors – the largest of which clocked in at a magnitude of 4.2 – have caused threats of a £1.1b compensation bill to be levelled at the Spanish Government for reported negligence at the offshore site.

Researchers claim that warnings of potential earthquakes at the plant, majority owned by Spanish firm Escal UGS, were ignored by the Spanish authorities in the run-up to the operation’s approval. It is now thought that gas injections into a depleted oil reservoir a mile under the seabed were responsible for the tremors, which occurred in an area not known for its seismic activity.

The Spanish energy and industry minister, José Manuel Soria, has now admitted there was a “high probability of a relationship between the injections of gas and the seismic movements on the coastal zone facing the facility.” Activity has since been halted at the plant, which was operational for a mere two months.

Soria continued, “This halt will continue in force until there is an absolute guarantee of 100 per cent safety for the whole population.” While investigations into the plant’s future safety are now underway, it is feared that permanent closure of the site will mean a hefty compensation bill to be footed by the Spanish Government.


Written By admin 
October 10, 2013 09:24 am
Posted In ENERGY

First Crossrail Tunnelling Machine Completes Journey

85432_Crossrail tunnels between Royal Oak and Farringdon

The first Crossrail train tunnel has been completed, as the tunnelling machine Phyllis finished the Royal Oak to Farringdon tunnel in London. The tunnel construction marks the half-way mark in Crossrail’s 26 mile excavation marathon.

It has been 17 months since Phyllis commenced her 4.2 mile journey from Royal Oak in west London. In what Crossrail hails as “the most significant addition to London’s transport in a generation”, Phyllis and six other machines have collectively passed the 13 mile mark in their mission to build major new underground train tunnels in the UK capital.

97109_Image of final rings being installed on TBM Phyllis tunnel drive_ October 2013

Currently in the Holborn area, Phyllis’ sister machine, Ada, is due to complete tunnelling during the winter. Six other machines will finish their routes in 2014. Phyllis will be dismantled over the coming weeks, and her 130 metre long trailer system removed from the tunnel via the recently completed Fisher Street shaft.

104666_Image of final rings being installed on TBM Phyllis tunnel drive_ October 2013

Crossrail Programme Director Andy Mitchell said: “Crossrail’s construction continues to move ahead at a significant pace. Crossrail has not only completed the first Crossrail tunnel under London but has reached the half-way point for our tunnelling machines with a phenomenal 13 miles of train tunnels constructed to-date. A further six tunnelling machines are currently hard at work constructing over 100 metres of new tunnel each day with major tunnelling due to complete next year.”

The final concrete rings for the western tunnels at Old Oak Common will be cast at Crossrail’s temporary concrete segment factory this week. The rings are erected by the tunnelling machines as they excavate the earth and advance forwards.

104609_Tunnel gang celebrate completion of TBM Phyllis_ tunnel drive_ 8 October 2013

More than 1,000 people are working on Crossrail’s western tunnel section, building new train tunnels between Royal Oak at Farringdon, and new passenger, platform and service tunnels for Crossrail stations at Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road and Farringdon. A further 9,000 people are working across the project.

Following its opening in 2018, it is estimated that upwards of 200 million passengers will travel on Crossrail each year. The system promises to transform train travel across London and the south east, boosting London’s rail capacity by 10%, delivering faster journey times and bringing an additional 1.5 million people closer to the capital’s business centres.

Richard Greenan


Written By admin 
October 09, 2013 13:29 pm
Posted In Metro, TRANSPORT

WS Atkins Wins £75m Saudi Metro Contract

atkins saudi metro

In a project tipped as the world’s largest public transport scheme, WS Atkins has secured the contract to construct part of Saudi Arabia’s £14b Riyadh Metro. As part of a joint venture with Spanish consultancy Typsa, and for the FAST consortium, UK firm Atkins will lead designs for three of the 111-mile network’s planned six lines.

Leaders of the consortium, Spanish firm FCC will be in charge of lines four, five and six. The entire network will encompass 85 stations, and is expected to utterly transform the Saudi capital’s congested transport system. Samsung, train construction firm Alstom, civil engineers Freyssinet and infrastructure group Strukton make up the remainder of the consortium.

Construction on the scheme, which is forecast to generate some 15,000 jobs, is due to begin in the first quarter of 2014, with a completion date set for 2018. FAST’s component of the project will include 25 stations, seven park-and-ride stations and two depots, totalling £5b of capital cost. Atkins, who saw shares rise 4p to £11.14 following the news, plan on sourcing around 200 staff from offices in the UK, Hong Kong, Bangalore, the UAE and Riyadh to tackle the project.

Key factors in the appointment were Atkins’ involvement with other metro projects in the region, including Doha and Dubai, together with work on Jedda’s King Abdulaziz International Airport and the London 2012 Olympics. Atkins chief executive Uwe Kruger has described the development as a “landmark project, which will raise standards of living and support long-term sustainable development throughout the city”.


Written By admin 
October 09, 2013 08:52 am
Posted In Metro, TRANSPORT

Battle lines drawn as ‘Big Six’ lash out at Miliband’s planned energy price freeze

miliband 1

The UK’s Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband has promised to freeze gas and electricity prices for 20 months if Labour is voted in at the next general election in 2015. The controversial pledge was made in response to soaring bills from Britain’s ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers, at a time when many individuals and businesses are already struggling to make ends meet.

Those facing the choice to ‘heat or eat’ this winter would doubtless welcome such a price fix. And there is widespread feeling in the general population that the Big Six may well be guilty of profiteering, even though the average figure usually quoted is a fairly modest 5% or so.

However, with a combined figure of around £2 billion being slashed off the value of two of Britain’s biggest suppliers Centrica and SSE the morning after Miliband’s announcement, the Big Six are predictably up in arms and determined to defend their position. Some claim that if it happens the price freeze could lead to blackouts; others warn that if energy companies can’t make a reasonable profit they will quit the UK altogether.

They cite world fuel prices and the onerous cost of investment in new energy infrastructure as reasons for rising bills. However, coming in for particularly heavy battering are the so-called ‘stealth taxes’ levied by the government to fund development of green energy to meet its targets on lowering carbon emissions.

What the energy suppliers say

We asked British Gas (owned by Centrica), SSE, npower, E.ON, Scottish Power and EDF for their comments. Not all have been able to respond as yet, but here’s what they’ve said so far.

Let’s start with SSE’s chief executive, Alistair Phillips-Davies who asked, “Why doesn’t Labour commit to removing the stealth taxes from customer bills? This would go further than a simple price freeze. It would immediately cut customers’ bills by over £100, potentially rising to as much as £200 in the future.

“It is the great unsaid in this debate that we are all paying for successive governments’ environmental and social policies through our bills. And that is everyone, rich and poor, regardless of their ability to pay. A recent survey showed that nine out of 10 people don’t know or understand this is happening. Perhaps it’s little wonder when politicians conveniently forget to mention them, and the fact that they backed them.

”If Labour removed these stealth taxes from bills and paid for them through taxation, not only would it reduce bills, it would have the progressive effect of shifting the burden of paying from those who can’t afford to pay to those who can.”

Paul Massara, CEO of RWE npower emphasised other reasons for rising prices, saying, “It’s very easy for politicians to come up with simple-sounding solutions to difficult problems. But in reality, there are three main factors that influence prices: fixing inefficient housing stock, the investment required to replace the UK’s energy infrastructure and the cost of buying energy on the global market.

“If the Labour Party can commit to reducing policy costs on household energy bills, stopping the smart meter roll-out, preventing commodity cost increases and accept that there won’t be any investment in new power stations and infrastructure, then we could freeze our prices. But will this make things better for Britain?”

Reaction from the energy trade bodies

EDF referred us directly to trade association for the energy industry, Energy UK for comment. It’s chief executive, Angela Knight had this to say about Ed Miliband’s proposed price freeze, “Freezing the bill, may be superficially attractive, but it will also freeze the money to build and renew power stations, freeze the jobs and livelihoods of the 600,000 plus people dependent on the energy industry and make the prospect of energy shortages a reality, pushing up the prices for everyone.

“No other industry is facing the investment challenge of the energy sector. Last year alone the energy industry invested £11.6bn – the equivalent of building the Olympic stadium twenty times over. We need to invest £110bn over the next ten years to build and renew the power stations, the wires and the pipes everyone in the country needs to keep the lights on, our homes warm and to supply the power for British business to compete, to recover and to grow.

“And as for breaking up the energy companies or banning them both making and selling electricity – that is not the way to bring greater competition into the market or to provide the range of services which domestic and business customers want. What is does is send a clear message to overseas investors that the UK is closed for business when just today the World Energy Council said the UK has one of the world’s fairest and most secure systems for supplying energy.

“Energy companies have already simplified the tariffs they offer. The energy companies are already regulated and fully open about what they make, what they pay and the amount they are reinvesting. Today’s announcement is not the adult debate the industry has long been calling for and that customers deserve.”

Next, Maf Smith, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, a not-for-profit renewable energy trade association, put the green case, warning, “Politicians need to ensure that they send positive long term signals to the energy sector in order to encourage the growing level of investment in renewables. If they set the right framework, it will bring down costs for the consumer, guarantee us all a secure supply of clean energy, and help companies to roll out the development of low carbon sources such as wind, wave and tidal power for decades to come.

“We welcome Labour’s commitment to decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply by 2030 and Mr Miliband’s aspiration to create a million green jobs. In order to do that, it’s crucial that we should continue to attract investment into the clean energy sector – and we need to ensure that’s not jeopardised or disrupted”.

And in the aftermath…

This isn’t a subject that’s going to go away anytime soon, with every day bringing fresh twists and turns in the UK press. For example, it seems that some energy companies are focussing not so much on getting mad as simply getting even.

German-owned npower rather cheekily launched on-line advertisements saying, “Why wait for Ed? Fix your energy prices until March 2017.” EDF has already been offering a price-fix deal since last July, while Scottish Power has changed the terms since the Opposition Leader’s announcement so that new customers will have their prices fixed until November next year.

But might they have scored an own goal? Caroline Flint MP, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary pointed out in response, “The fact that three of the Big Six energy companies are now advertising deals to let people fix their energy bills until 2016 or 2017 shows that all the warnings about blackouts were nothing more than scaremongering.”

And then came the news in The Daily Mail about a jaw-dropping pay rise. Its article states, “The boss of British Gas has seen his pay soar by nearly 40 per cent in five years – while customers’ bills rose at almost exactly the same rate.

“Sam Laidlaw, chief executive of Centrica, which owns the gas firm, was paid £1.73 million in 2008. However last year his salary had shot up to £2.35 million – an increase of 36 per cent. His full pay package, which included bonuses for reaching long-term targets, totalled £4.97 million.”

Meanwhile, the British winter draws ever closer…


Written By admin 
October 07, 2013 14:31 pm
Posted In ENERGY

Latest figures show UK is on track for 2020 renewables targets

UK energy targets

According to a recent report in The Times, Britain is “more than halfway to hitting its 2020 green electricity targets after a sharp rise in the amount of power being generated from renewable energy projects”.

The article goes on to state that latest official energy statistics show that “about one in six electrons running around Britain’s homes come from wind turbines, solar panels, hydro plants or burning wood chippings”.

On its website, the Department for Energy and Climate Change states:  “Renewables’ share of electricity generation was a record high of 15.5 per cent in 2013 Q2, up 5.8 percentage points on the share in 2012 Q2.”

But where are these increases principally coming from? Fastest growing is one of the nation’s most intensely controversial forms of renewable energy: wind farms – as the DECC’s statistics show.

It reports, “Electricity generated from onshore wind rose by 70 per cent between 2012 Q2 and 2013 Q2, from 2.2 TWh to 3.8 TWh, while generation from offshore wind increased by 51 per cent on a year earlier, from 1.6 TWh to 2.5 TWh, due to much increased capacity, as well as high wind speeds.”

The burning of biomass was up by 60% – another considerable growth spurt. This figure includes combined firing with coal in conventional power stations. Both solar and hydro’s contributions were up by about 25 per cent.