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Biomass and drying systems

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Alastair Nicol BSc CEng MEI (a director of Element Consultants), was called on to give expert opinion on the under performance of a biomass fired timber drying system (English Law prevailing). Alastair was appointed to this formal role under the Civil Procedure Rules Part 35 and associated Practice Directions (MoJ, 2014), where he provided expert and impartial advice to the Court.

The performance of a Timber drying system was the cause of concern for the Purchaser who having agreed a performance standard with the Contractor, disputed the performance of the plant.

The design was intended to dry a specific quantity of timber over an agreed time period, rendering the timber suitable for use as firewood. In practice the plant did not achieve the performance required. The dispute between the Purchaser and the Contractor escalated and expert opinion was sought to assess the ability of the system as designed and installed to meet the agreed performance standards.

Alastair Nicol provided an Expert analysis and report with a schedule of documentation and a schedule of assumptions where data he considered relevant was missing or open to interpretation and a statement of truth.

After careful psychrometric evaluation and design analysis Alastair Nicol was able to demonstrate:

  • The design could never achieve the agreed performance standards
  • The total heat input was too low
  • The required rates of water removal could not be achieved
  • The airflows required could not be achieved
  • The performance of heat recovery components had been overestimated
  • The design was conceptually and practically flawed
  • The installation did not meet basic UK design health and safety standards
  • The installation failed to meet Essential Health and Safety Standards (ESR)

The expert report was prepared for the Court and provided these conclusions together with calculations demonstrating the deficiency of the design.

Alastair J Nicol provided additional support and explanation for Queens Council during supporting communications.

In this case the case was settled out of court with both sides agreeing to absorb some costs. The principal difficulty for the Purchaser was the lack of a formal Specification and Contract – a failing that was inevitably going to lead to difficulty. The principal failings for the Contractor were a lack of technical knowledge and a lack of Health and safety Knowledge.

Alastair J Nicol BSc CEng is a professional Engineer with over 30 years experience and has undertaken Courtroom Cross examination training provided by Bond Solon and has provided expert opinion or reports for HSE on Biomass system, Boilers, Smoke explosion. Health and safety in design.

  • Project: Type Expert Witness
  • Our Role:
  • Customer:
  • Year: 2016