'Hazardous substances' to be stored near villages as Somerset gigafactory takes shape

Thousands of tonnes of "hazardous substances" could soon be stored near two small villages as Somerset's new gigafactory slowly starts to take shape. Agratas, which is part of the Tata group, confirmed in late-February that it would be building its new £4bn gigafactory at the Gravity site between Puriton and Woolavington near Bridgwater, creating up to 4,000 new jobs.

Somerset Council has committed to spend up to £150m on delivering the infrastructure needed to unlock this new development, including the possible restoration of the rail link into the northern part of the site. Agratas has now submitted plans laying out the various chemicals which will be stored on site for use in the creation of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

The plans envision the creation of three large buildings within the centre of the site (prosaically named Building 1, Building 2 and Building 3), with a number of small structures around them to provide training, store transformers or other ancillary uses.

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The following chemicals will be stored at various locations throughout the site:

  • Carbonate lithium hexafluorophosphate mixture - up to 2,500 tonnes at any one time

  • Diethyl carbonate - up to 50 tonnes

  • Nickel manganese cobalt cathode active material - up to 7,800 tonnes

  • Petroleum products and alternative fuels, including petrol, kerosene, diesel and other fuel oils - up to 500 tonnes

Plans of the new gigafactory at the Gravity site near Bridgwater
Plans of the new gigafactory at the Gravity site near Bridgwater -Credit:Stantec

Jane Hurst of Stantec UK Ltd. (representing Agratas) said: "The construction of the battery facility will occur in phases. We confirm the maximum quantities of substances proposed as stated are for the operational requirements of all three production buildings.

"They are the maximum quantity of each substance to be stored and involved in an industrial process. Agratas Ltd. will be liaising closely with the local authorities, the police, fire and ambulance services regarding all relevant aspects of this development, including the need to prepare an emergency plan."

The diethyl carbonate will be stored in either 200-litre drums or intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), which will be stored in a controlled warehouse to prevent the formation of flammable atmospheres. The electrolyte will be transported to the site in 20,000-litre tankers, which will be connected directly to the assembly line upon arrival to minimise the risk of contamination.

A spokesman for Agratas said: "The production of batteries involves essential chemicals and minerals using state-of-the-art technology. The specialised processing of these materials generates the power within our batteries, which will be vital to moving to a cleaner, greener economy.

"All our materials will be stored safely on-site, in line with strict regulations, and we’re working closely with regulators to ensure they have detailed information about our operations."

The council is expected to make a decision on the proposals later in the year, ensuring that the plans comply with the local development order (LDO) which was put in place in December 2021 to speed up the delivery of the site. The council's corporate and resources scrutiny committee will meet in Taunton on Wednesday (May 29) to discuss the infrastructure needs of the Gravity site, including road and rail access for staff and material deliveries.