Welcome to the blog of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at the University of Northampton. This will keep you up to date with both student and staff activities.

The Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences includes staff with interests in biological sciences, conservation, ecology, environmental sciences, environmental statistics, geography and waste management. We offer a range of degree programmes and have a number of postgraduate research students. For more information about studying with us please visit http://www.northampton.ac.uk/.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Student Site Visit – Coventry Energy from Waste Plant

On the 26th March 2014 a group of undergraduate and post graduate students visited the Coventry & Solihull Waste Disposal Company (CSWDC). CSWDC is an independent waste management company whose main business is extracting energy from municipal and commercial solid waste. The energy from waste (EfW) plant is based to the south of the City (Coventry) and has been operational since the 1970s. The 250,000 tonnes per annum facility produces electricity (used for powering site operation and export to the national grid) and exports excess heat energy (heated water) to business premises off-site.

During the tour of the site
Mick Schilling (CSWDC’s Environment, Health and Safety Advisor) provided an overview of the EfW plant operation prior to a tour of the site. The 3,500 tonne bunker that receives the waste in the waste vehicle tipping area would be able to sustain operation of the site for six days (from the bunker being full until empty). The EfW plant uses three incinerator units each of which is capable of incinerating 12 tonnes of waste per hour. Two steam turbines produce a total of 17.6 Mw of electricity. Flue gas cleaning ensures strict emissions limits are met. Emissions to atmosphere are through a 92 m high chimney.

Site visits provide students with the opportunity to discuss a variety of wastes management treatment processes directly with facility operators. This enhances knowledge and understanding for all those that attending, providing further areas for discussion in lectures. 

Monday, 17 March 2014

Student Site Visit – Fernbrook Bio Anaerobic Digestion Plant

On 12th March 2014 students studying environmental science and environmental management courses at the University of Northampton visited the Fernbrook Bio anaerobic digestion (AD) plant at Rothwell in Northamptonshire. The tour of the 30,000 tonne per annum facility was led by Shaun Cherry (Managing Director) and Naz Ladumor (Technical Manager). The visit gave students the opportunity to view a commercial facility in full operation.

The AD plant treats biodegradable waste, which includes food waste collected from households in Northampton and Daventry. The by-products of the AD process are a methane rich biogas and nutrient rich digestate. The biogas is sent to a gas turbine to generate green renewable electricity sufficient to power 2000 homes. AD is currently the best system for recovering energy from food waste. The pasteurised digestate (organic fertiliser), which contains nitrogen, phosphate and potassium can be applied to farmland. Highlights of the tour were the on-site laboratory where samples from the process are analysed to show compliance with relevant permits. Students also viewed the inside of one of the large sealed digester reaction vessels through a viewing window. The biogas could clearly be seen bubbling off the top of the pulverised feedstock (food waste mixed with slurry).

This is one of a number of site visits that allow students to see processes discussed in lectures in the real world. It is also an opportunity for interaction and questioning of facility operators enhancing knowledge and understanding for all those that attended. 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Mojave Desert Field Trip

Nick, Felicity and Kate

In November 2013 the University of Northampton provided the opportunity for us to travel to California to study arid environments in the Mojave Desert and Death Valley.  We departed from Gatwick airport on the 2nd, travelling with us were 14 students from the University of Leicester who we would be working with throughout the trip. The majority of our time was spent at the Desert Studies centre in Zzyzx, located in the Mojave National Preserve; however we also spent 2 days studying in Death Valley National Park.

After a hearty American breakfast at the grand hour of 6am, we would depart each day to different locations around the Mojave National Preserve and Death Valley. There we would study the climate and the formation of desert landforms. Within the two weeks we completed 2 assignments in the field, which comprised of a topographic map and a group presentation. These methods of assessment were useful as they enabled us to enhance our time management, presentation and communication skills. Although these 10 days in the field proved to be challenging work, it was worth the effort in the end, as after the two weeks away we had finished the module. This allowed for more time to concentrate on our remaining modules knowing one was already completed. 

Overall the trip was a fantastic experience; we had the chance to learn about a completely different environment whilst seeing these fantastic landscapes at first hand. At the same time, being under the instruction of enthusiastic lecturers, who made the trip informative and exciting.

There was also the chance after the 10 days were over to spend 3 days on in America independently; we chose to spend 2 days in San Francisco and the last in Las Vegas before returning to the UK.

We would like to extend a big thank you to everyone who made the trip possible, but a special thank you to Professor Ian Livingstone for organising and making the experience so enjoyable.