Peter Crowley prides himself on being an ‘old school’ engineer and is fascinated by the technical make-up of large-scale heat and power plants. At AMP Clean Energy he is responsible for the successful operation of two of our biggest and most complex biomass energy projects

Q. How long have you worked in biomass?

A. For the last eight years. My background is as an industrial heating engineer but I started my journey in biomass at Duncan Renewables in York in 2012 and I haven’t looked back.

Q. Describe the two sites you manage for AMP Clean Energy

A. Villa Nursery in Essex is a 15-acre English produce nursery which grows speciality tomatoes, sweet peppers and salads for supermarkets including Tesco. We designed, installed and now operate a 1.65-megawatt steam generating biomass CHP plant, a 1MW biomass heat boiler and a 3MW reserve gas peaking engine, which supplies heat and electricity to the nursery.

Inter Terminals in Immingham is a tank storage facility at one of the UK’s busiest ports. We funded, designed and now look after a 1MW and a 2MW steam boiler, fed by wood pellets, to provide steam to maintain storage tank temperatures.

Steam needs daily engineering intervention which make these plants unlike other biomass heat installations. These two sites are very different but the common factor is that if either biomass plants fail it would have a huge impact on both businesses.

Q. What is your typical day like in your current role?

A. Most days I will either be on-site or in the office remotely monitoring the plants or keeping up with administrative work. The beauty of this job is that you never know what might happen next or where you might be from one day to the next. Whilst we have an engineer based at both Inter Terminals and Villa Nursery if there are any major issues, I will put my tools in the van and get to site as quickly as I can!

Q. What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in your current role?

A. About a year ago I was called out to Villa Nursery as the biomass boiler had gone off. The crop of sweet peppers was at a critical stage and if they were without heat for the weekend the entire crop could have been ruined so time was of the essence. I got them up and running on a back-up gas boiler. I then got to work on the boiler and saw that a drive shaft inside it had broken. I removed it and welded it back together as a temporary fix. It was 11pm when I finished. It was very satisfying to fix it! I ordered a new part and returned to fit it the following week.

Q. What do you enjoy best about your job?

A. I genuinely love engineering and find both sites really interesting and challenging. Villa Nursery is quite a complex site due to the different technologies there. It is also rewarding to be able to trouble shoot any problems that may arise for the clients.

Q. What is the thing you enjoy least about your job?

A. The travelling! I live in Yorkshire but spend 2 or 3 nights a week away from the family with work.

Q. What has been your career highlight?

A. In 2014 I was promoted to the role of operations director at Duncan Renewables. I managed several teams of project managers and the design team to ensure that all of our installations were turnkey. The long-term goal with each and every installation was to maintain our client relationship so that we could provide them with a bespoke operation, maintenance and fuel supply contract for the life of the asset. Managing the diversity of customers was as challenging as managing the teams but that’s what drove me and the business to continued success.

Q. What keeps you awake at night?

A. The thing that worries me is not being able to get to work on a plant in time when things go wrong. Quite rightly there are health and safety procedures including risk assessments you have to complete at a site like Inter Terminals before you get a work permit. I have to go through this process every time I attend the site which can be quite a worrying time If something has gone wrong!

Q. What are your professional aims for the future?

A. About ten years ago I started the process of becoming an Incorporated Engineer (IENG) through the Institution of Mechanical Engineers – and I still have not had time to finish this! So that is something I want to try and re-focus on this year.