WORKING TOGETHER – Fibre Supply Team Blog

Steve Bradley, Fibre Supply Manager 

The Tilhill Fibre Supply Team has been responsible for providing the fuel to power the UPM Caledonian CHP plant since May 2009. This supply is generated from a balanced range of forest and sawmill products  on a weekly basis to comply with the regulatory environmental permits. 

The story below highlights the advantages for UPM in engaging Tilhill in relation to organising the supply chain into the CHP plant as it illustrates an emergency situation that occurred that needed careful and skilled management in order to resolve. 

First though, a few facts to set the scene: 

  • The daily usage is approximately 1100 tonnes per day with a split between mixed biomass, sawmill residue, fuelwood and recycled wood. 
  • The system is basically run as a Just in Timesystem. This is because the environmental permits do not allow for stocks to be held on the yard as chipped material, just the roundwood can be stocked. 
  • The above blends are fed into the A Barn storage building (so named because of its shape) via a secondary crusher which separates any metals, stones, and oversize material before entering the A Barn. 


On the late evening of 16th February the fire services were called out to a fire in the secondary crusher building as a fire had started on a stationery conveyor belt. The swift response from the fire service saved the fire spreading but did put the secondary crusher out of action.

On the morning of the 17th the Fibre Supply Team of Steve Bradley and Shirley Smith were alerted to the issue.  With no means of getting screened and clean material directly into the A Barn the CHP plant had to be turned down to 50% of capacity,  resulting in a huge loss in the electricity production through the turbine. 

Working Together

Some quick thinking and a heavy dose of Working Together was required to solve the problem, due to the operations system of the A Barn – simply feeding a product through the doors was not an option plus we had to identify clean products. 

With collaboration from UPM it was agreed to remove some of the higher side panels on the building to allow a mobile chipper to blow fuelwood chips direct into the barn. 

By 14.00 hrs on the same day the Fibre Supply Team had sourced an Albach Chipper from TPH, Thompson Plant Hire that was was immediately transported to site, set up and commenced with providing fuel into the A Barn once more. 

TPH have worked closely with Fibre Supply for the last 10 years providing a yard service down at the  Shotton Mill CHP plant on a daily basis and chipping at UPM Caledonian during sawmill holiday periods. 

It was quickly agreed that what we had in place was a workable solution so the next task was to find operators to work the chipper 24/7 which would enable the plant to ramp up the production of  electricity back up to almost 100%. 

So now to the final part of Working Together and this is where the harvesting team from Tilhill enter the arena. Coming off the back of the worst spell of winter weather for a good few years we had been using most of the accessible fuelwood stocks in the forests meaning we were suffering from low stocks, this created some nerves regarding how to supply the 24/7 working. 

Again those words Working Together were required as the hauliers went the extra mile and some material was delivered by sea along with using all our winter stock at the off site holding area. 

To summarise, from a standing start on the Wednesday morning until Saturday morning working around the clock 4700 tonnes of fuelwood had been sourced, delivered and chipped direct into the A Barn, this enabled the Boiler to operate through the weekend as normal to produce electricity. 

Truly a good result which would not have been achievable if it was not for the considerable experience and Working Togetherby all the parties mentioned above.