Protecting Bacton gas terminal: Norfolk’s major sandscaping project
Image credit: Chris Taylor
Around 1.8 million cubic metres of sand has been shifted to a stretch of eroding Norfolk coastline in a scheme that will provide robust protection for the Bacton gas terminal and surrounding villages.
Five years in the planning, the 6km-long dune will protect Bacton Terminal – which supplies one-third of the UK’s gas – from erosion that has left parts of the site just metres from a cliff edge.
The £19m sandscaping project saw approximately 1.8 million cubic metres of sand placed and engineered on beaches at Bacton and the villages of Bacton and Walcott. The height and width of the beaches have been significantly increased, and access to them improved. Also, the sandscape ensures that the gas terminal and both villages will be better protected from the sea.
The idea of the project originated following the devastation caused by the 2013 tidal storm surge in which hundreds of homes were flooded in Bacton and Walcott, explains Angie Fitch-Tillett, North Norfolk District Council’s (NNDC) portfolio holder for the coast.
The scheme was designed by Dutch engineering company Royal Haskoning DHV. The firm’s coastal management adviser Jaap Flikweert said in July: “Once the sand has been shifted, a combination of wind, waves and tides will move the sands to where it needs to be.” He added that it is expected to provide 15-20 years of protection.
When Bacton Gas Terminal was built in the 1960s, it was situated more than 100m back from the sea.
By 2019, some parts of the gas terminal complex were just 10m from a cliff edge and the sea, as a result of coastal erosion.
The sand was extracted from licensed offshore dredging areas near Great Yarmouth and brought to the beaches by Dutch maritime company Team Van Oord’s trailing suction hopper dredger vessel.
The dredging vessel sailed to Bacton every six to eight hours each day, connected to a giant pipe, and pumped a mixture of sand and water onto the shore at a rate of 10,000 cubic metres per hour.
After the backhoe dredger, connected to the large trailing suction hopper dredger, pumped out sand on the beaches, bulldozers and diggers shifted the sand into place.
The collaborative team moved sand on a new stretch of beach each day, with the sand level being raised by up to 7m.
As the beaches towards Bacton village and Walcott were nourished, sections were closed for public use and then reopened as soon as possible, with an estimate of up to 240m of new beach completed each day.
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