Bunnahabhain Biomass Project


  • Bunnahabhain
  • Isle of Islay

Client Account Manager

Dan Leach

Projects Team Manager


Consulting on complex cargo requirements

Hemisphere’s involvement in this complex logistics project started out as a discussion with an existing client specialising in the design and installation of biomass plants. This specific plant was for the well known Bunnahabhain Distillery on the isle of Islay, the southernmost island of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. With the project utilising locally sourced biomass and incorporating waste distillers draff as the sole fuel. Islay is home to only 3,500 people, and is famous for its 8 working distilleries, including Bunnahabhain, Bowmore, Laphroaig and Lagavulin. However, the island’s ports and roads present an interesting challenge, especially for multiple oversize loads and full trailer loads! To further complicate matters, the cargo originated from a number of European countries, mostly Austria, but also Latvia, Poland and Germany.

Over the intervening 3 years while our customer obtained board approval, planning permission and funding, Hemisphere began researching shipping options and reviewing as the project started to take shape. Over this time, we addressed many issues, including: a narrow bridge in Ardrishaig all loads needed to cross; the best transportation method for the oversize loads; getting the standard loads onto Islay; how to negotiate the island’s roads with both oversize and standard loads, and of course Brexit, which increasingly became a factor as time went on and involved many consultations with the client.

Taking into account the global situation at the time, significant progress had been made on all sides. Our customer was in the final stages of signing off the build and Hemisphere had submitted our final proposal. Shortly after, we were awarded the project and it was time to put all that planning into action.

Attention to detail from initial planning right through to the final execution is what makes Hemisphere different. For both large and small projects, the reliability in finding solutions without leaving anything to chance, our experience over the last 10 years has been consistent. We will continue going back and recommend that others do the same.

Andrew Springett, Director, Dallol Energy Limited


Going where other operators dare not tread

The project started at the beginning of August, a busy time for tourism on Islay. This was far from ideal but our hands were tied as it needed to coincide with our client’s programme requiring completion before the end of March 2022. This date was set to meet a deadline required by the Renewable Heat Incentive programme, a contributing part of the project funding.

However, before we started we had a bigger challenge to overcome. Export customs had been discussed at length with our client and their supplier, and it was agreed the shipper would arrange. Yet, only days before the first load was due to move, the shipper declared they hadn’t prepared in time and were unable to arrange the clearances. The project was likely to fail unless Hemisphere could find a solution. To make matters worse, the collection points were 9 different factories.

We spent the next two days working on a way forward. Thankfully, Hemisphere’s tireless preparations for Brexit meant we already had a number of strong contacts to turn to. With only minimal disruption to the schedule, we found a solution – much to the relief of our client and the shipper. Hemisphere duly took control of the export clearances and were able to proceed.

The first moves were euroliners taking out standard equipment. With European operators unwilling to visit Islay, we’d already created a solution: unloading the euroliners in Dumbarton and transloading to flatbeds (required as the delivery point needed to offload the trailers by crane) for delivery onto the island. The customer had some concerns over this procedure as loads in all previous projects had been able to go straight through from collection point to delivery site. However, after delivering the first loads safely, we proved this solution’s suitability.

The route - and its challenges

In the weeks prior to commencement, we realised on our route survey that some of the European spec low loaders for the oversize loads ran too low to be suitable for transport on the island. Nor were they able to cross the Ardrishaig bridge. To get around this, we transloaded some of the oversize pieces in Rotterdam to trailers better suited before shipping to the UK. We worked further with the customer and supplier to reduce the dimensions of some pieces to enable safe crossing of the bridge and minimise risk.

However, another challenge arose when CalMac, struggling with the sheer number of vehicles making the crossing, revised our bookings from Port Askaig – 4.4 miles from the distillery – to Port Ellen – over 21 miles away! Fortunately, when on the island to survey the route from Port Askaig to Bunnahabhain, we had the foresight to travel back to Kennacraig via Port Ellen, so had actually travelled the new route. While it was far more complex, we knew what was involved.

We reworked the plan, changing the permits and liaising closely with the site manager. He involved the police to cordon off certain points, spoke with many of the locals to move parked cars and got local landowners to agree to take down a couple of stone walls! Despite the trip from Port Ellen taking many hours for each truck to complete, we delivered all cargo successfully.

It is fair to say we had to deal with a number of challenges critical to this project, yet we delivered all the cargo successfully, without damages and on time. We are very proud to have fulfilled this project to the satisfaction of the client after it being so long in the making, and it stands as a great example of what we can achieve regardless of the obstacles put in front of us.

As a result of the hard work on both sides, the project went on to win best Sustainable Development at the Scottish Green Energy Awards for its Biomass Energy Centre. Naturally, Hemisphere is very happy to be associated with this prestigious project.

As a result of the hard work on both sides, the project went on to win best Sustainable Development at the Scottish Green Energy Awards for its Biomass Energy Centre. Naturally, Hemisphere is very happy to be associated with this prestigious project.

Dan Leach

Projects Team Manager, Hemisphere

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