Defra seeks new hydrocarbon monitoring contractor

Three-year air quality monitoring deal worth between £1m and £1.35m being sought for measurement of benzene and VOCs

A three-year contract worth between £1 million and £1.35 million to operate the UK’s hydrocarbon monitoring network is being let by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The hydrocarbon network operator is responsible for the management of a national network of air pollution monitoring sites throughout the UK for the measurement and assessment of benzene (as non-automatic sites and automatic sites) as well as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) at automatic sites.

Defra online map showing locations of non-automatic benzene monitoring sites in the UK

Defra online map showing locations of non-automatic benzene monitoring sites in the UK

According to the contract notice published yesterday (February 19) the winning bidder will be responsible for “upkeep, collection, analysis QA/QC and transfer of automatic and non-automatic data to contractors who have responsibility for wider dissemination of the data”.

The three-year deal has the option of a 12-month extension and would commence on July 1 2015, although a one-month handover period with the current contractor — Ricardo-AEA — “will operate where necessary” to allow the successful bidder “time to get ready to take over the full operation of the networks”.

However, the notice states that “for the avoidance of doubt” the contractor, rather than Defra, will be responsible for contractor handover costs during the handover period.

As part of the procurement process, Defra will review a range of economic information to evaluate bidders’ financial standing, including annual turnover.

The procurement contract states that Defra expects the contractor to have an annual turnover for each of the last two financial years of at least £1.35 million.

In the case of a joint venture or a consortium bid, the annual turnover is calculated by combining the turnover of the relevant organisations in each of the last 2 financial years. In addition, Defra requires that the annual turnover of at least one of those organisations should be £2.7 million.

The deadline for submission of bids is March 17 2015 at 12pm.

Automatic hydrocarbon monitoring network

When first set up in 1992, the UK’s automatic hydrocarbon monitoring network was the first of its kind in the world, before it was ‘refocussed, redesigned and simplified’ in 2002.

The network included five sites in 2008, but the analyser in Glasgow was replaced with a non-automatic sampler in 2011, leaving the four sites of Harwell, London Eltham, London Marylebone Road and Auchencorth Moss. These sites are capable of measuring and reporting at least 29 hydrocarbons.

Measurements from all four sites are reported to the European Commission under requirements in the Ozone Daughter Directive for monitoring photochemical ozone precursors.

The benzene and 1,3-butadiene data are used for comparison with UK air quality objectives, while benzene data is aso reported to the European Commission under requirements in the EU Air Quality Directive.

Non-automatic hydrocarbon network

As well as measuring benzene through the automatic hydrocarbon network, the successful contract bidder will also be responsible for the measurement and assessment of this pollutant through the management of the UK’s non-automatic hydrocarbon monitoring network.

The non-automatic network measures ambient benzene concentrations at 35 sites around the UK in accordance with national objectives and the European Commission’s Air Quality Directive.


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