The £4.3 billion Terminal 5 development at Heathrow was one of the most exciting developments and Vital Energi was chosen to bring their three decades of experience to the project and install the District Heating Network.
Heathrow Airport is the largest in the UK with around 75m passengers and 474k flights per year, making it the busiest European airport and 7th busiest globally. There was a great necessity to expand to increase both terminal and airfield capacity, and ultimately ease congestion whilst maximising the use of existing runways. A new terminal was proposed which was designed to cater for 35m passengers per year making it the busiest terminal in the airport, and was to be the largest free standing structure in the UK.
BAA began construction on the new T5 terminal in 2002, and as they are committed to reducing greenhouse gases at their seven airports, they wanted to make it as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible. This led to the desire to invest in energy efficient technologies, not only to reduce on fuel costs but to lower their carbon emissions. We were contracted to design, supply, install and commission the energy solution with work taking place from November 2005 to June 2006. We installed a 2.5km trench with 5km of district heating pipe work which was connected to the existing World Cargo CHP Energy Centre and would supply T5 with heat and power.
A robust design and good coordination was key to agreeing the network route with the client and achieving the successful installation of the district heating scheme. We designed the network to coordinate with existing services on site, minimise disruption and take the shortest possible route from the energy centre to the terminal.
Avoiding existing infrastructure through extensive planning
We have installed 5km of 250mm Logstor series 1 pre-insulated district heating pipe along a 2.5km trench. During the excavation process, we had to take extra care due to the amount of existing critical communications and power services that serve the airport. We collated information of all buried existing services prior to installations taking place, which was fundamental to ensuring the safe installation of the pipework.
Because we were working on a live site within close proximity to busy roads and aviation fuel tanks, thorough planning was key. Using close communication, we coordinated with the fuel depot to ensure the section of pipe along the perimeter fence could be installed safely. Careful planning was also required when installing a section of the network adjacent to the Southern Perimeter Road to ensure our workforce were kept safe at all times, as this is a busy duel carriage way. Furthermore, some installations were completed at night to keep disruption to a minimum.
Utilising supply chain to overcome challenges
As the district heating network went through several staff car parks, close coordination with the Airport was required so that we could fulfil the planned schedule and the car park could return to regular functioning in a timely fashion.
Installing the pipeline in the airside sections at the end of the southern runway proved challenging as the majority of the works were completed whilst the runway was live, and required the use of heavy plant and machinery, along with the welding and jointing operations.
To overcome the intricacies of working in an airside environment, we utilised the services of a civil engineering company who had a proven track record of working on Heathrow Airport. This specialist airside contractor made a significant difference to the install as they already had the registered plant and machinery required for the works, along with a trained work force with the necessary clearances.
Developing strong relationships being the key to success
The successful installation of this district heating network relied heavily on close liaison with the airport through regular meetings. We needed to have a good understanding of the airports requirements and regulations so that we could work within those guidelines.
On initial review of the project, there appeared to be a number of difficult challenges to overcome, such as the presence of existing infrastructure, and working in close proximity to busy roads and live runways, but through close consultation with the client, we installed the scheme with little fuss and no delays.