Frequently Asked Questions

We will continue to add questions and answers to this page throughout the planning process. If you have a question which is not listed please contact us and we will endeavour to respond or add additional questions below.

  1. Why do you need to use a shale substitute at all?
    The blend of materials in the raw mix must be tightly controlled – each material has differing and variable properties, depending on geology (for shale) and source (for replacements). Blending allows us to produce a balanced mix, resulting in lower SO2 emissions, cleaner manufacturing and a quality end-product. This also means an industrial by-product is transformed into a vital building material.
  2. Why can’t you remove sulphur during the process?
    We already retain a substantial amount of sulphur within the process but there are limits to how much can be captured, given the levels of sulphur in the local shale. It is generally recognised that getting the raw mix right in cement manufacturing is the best way to control the emissions that may arise during the process.
  3. What are these Alternative Raw Materials?
    Because there is no single source of alternative material, ARM is a catch-all name for a range of materials, mainly by-products of other industries, and includes slate quarry fines, fireclays and marl. One particular alternative material is ‘conditioned’ PFA – power station ash from previous decades (before it was recognised as having shale-like properties). Discarded in ‘lagoons’ at former power stations, this material is an excellent low-sulphur option.
  4. How does ARM help you achieve the right blend?
    Making cement is a complex process and requires the right chemical constituents to ensure the cement we produce is of the highest quality and emissions are minimised. Having access to alternative raw materials with slightly different chemical profiles gives us the flexibility to blend in exactly the right proportions. For example, by adding certain low-sulphur materials to the raw mix we can ensure sulphur dioxide emissions are kept within the latest emission limits.
  5. You're proposing 450,000T of annual imports? Even taking moisture into account that’s more than you actually need, isn’t it?
    By having the ability to import up to 450,000 tonnes of ‘wet’ ARM each year we would expect to have up to 350,000T of useable material (once the moisture is driven off). In round numbers, around 2 million tonnes of raw mix goes into the process each year, and around 20% (400,000T) of that is shale or dry shale replacement (ARM). To keep sulphur dioxide emissions below current limits and to accommodate future limits, we expect to use 50% to 75% ARM in the raw mix (up to 300,000T). In addition, the different types of ARM have variable properties so to ensure flexibility we would need enough of each different type to be able to maintain product consistency over time.
  6. Is the site running out of shale?
    Although there is a finite supply of shale – and using ARM eases pressure on natural mineral resources – the main reason we have been importing PFA is to achieve the right blend to reduce SO2 emissions in line with the latest limits. We now need more ARM because the sulphur content of the local shale is increasing and the availability of the alternative we have been using until now (‘run-of-station’ PFA that’s a dry powder) is declining.
  7. How long will the shale from the local quarry last?
    The current consented shale reserve is 6 million tonnes, but we estimate that less than 2 million is currently useable without the addition of a significant quantity of ARM. Used on its own that shale would last about 5 years.
    Using local shale is actually the best option economically but by blending with imported ARM we can achieve our sulphur dioxide emissions limits. When the local reserve is exhausted we would need to consider various options. Given the local and national importance of Hope cement works it is incumbent on us to plan ahead.
  8. What time would trains arrive and unloading take place?
    Our proposal is for up to nine train deliveries per week. The works operates 24/7, and some trains do operate at night currently, but the proposed trains would only use the branch line in daytime hours (without displacing any more trains into the night). There would be no additional rail movements between 11pm and 7am.
  9. Would you still bring in materials by road?
    Our strong preference is to use trains to import alternative raw materials – trains are more efficient, better for the environment and would reduce the impact of lorries running through the local community. The only circumstances which might prompt consideration for road use would unplanned problems on the broader rail network but our proposal is designed to allow us to store a large ‘buffer’ of material to prevent the need for road imports.
  10. How big are the new facilities?
    We are proposing a new structure at  the rail sidings (15m tall x 16m wide x 60m long) to allow unloading, a new conveyor (275m long) rising to a new storage building (16m tall x 72m long x 37m wide). The new facilities would fit well within the current site and are modest relative to many of the other structures at the works.
  11. Why do you need such a big storage building when you already have storage for 250,000T of PFA?
    The ARM we are proposing to import cannot be stored in silos used for PFA because of its moisture content and flow characteristics. PFA is a fine powder that can be pneumatically unloaded (aerated and pumped) whereas ARM is a heavier, lumpier material which requires mechanical handling and new storage facilities.
  12. What is the environmental impact of these proposals?
    We have commissioned a comprehensive set of environmental assessment as part of the development, from visual impact and transport to air quality and ecology. The new facilities, designed with the core aim to avoid any environmental impact, would be well within the current site and designed with government-stipulated ‘Best Available Techniques’ (BAT) in mind.
  13. How will the shale replacement be unloaded?
    Due to the nature of the material, unloading rail wagons would be by an enclosed fixed ‘grab’ system onto the conveyor belt feeding the material storage hall.
  14. How will the shale substitute be stored?
    The proposal includes a storage building so the material is never stockpiled outside.
  15. How many jobs will be created?
    During the construction of our new proposal, a significant proportion of our spend would be within the region with up to 80 jobs supported over an 18-month period. Once running proposal would help to secure existing jobs and create an equivalent of one permanent role. Hope already directly employs more than 200 people (and many more through our supply chain). We’d like to ensure the long-term viability of all those who depend on Hope works for their livelihoods, directly and indirectly.
  16. If you didn’t get planning permission for this proposal what would happen?
    We would need understand the reasoning behind a refusal and consider the best course of action. One thing we would have to explore is to increase the use of road transport to bring materials in.

Additional questions and answers will be added periodically. If you have a specific question please don't hesitate to contact us.

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