SPIE Develops Unique Engineering Solution for the Shell Centre; Protecting the River Thames Aquatic life

Published on 08 January 2018

The firm devised a pioneering river filtration engineering solution within Shell’s below ground areas helping to lower the building’s carbon footprint, whilst looking after protected river species.


London, January 8th, 2018 – SPIE UK has invented a bespoke engineering solution whilst carrying out works on the cooling infrastructure and capital plant replacement works at the Shell Centre in the South Bank, London. Specifically, this unique mechanism makes use of the adjacent River Thames for heat rejection through the development of a distinctive filtration and pumping system. As Principal Contractor and designer, SPIE's solution significantly lowered client costs, reduced the buildings carbon footprint, safeguarded the programme and secured a major eco-friendly solution for Shell's corporate operations.

The main challenge was to invent a new engineering arrangement for the use of high volumes of river water for specialised vessels and river filtration arrangements whilst protecting the aquatic life in the River Thames, principally the eels, which are an internationally protected species. However, to provide a traditional filtration solution would have added an extra £1m and a further year to the project, causing disruption to the River Thames’ flow of nautical traffic.

Demonstrating the firm’s engineering excellence, SPIE devised a new mechanism to provide the river filtration land side within Shell's below ground areas. This involved developing a unique filtration and pumping system with very high-quality engineering standards made to SPIE’s specifications and designs. Within the design solution, SPIE also provided increased capability to deliver enhanced "free cooling" at certain times of the year to reduce the total energy consumption of the overall system.

All solutions had to be inspected by the UK Environmental Agency, which confirmed its agreement to SPIE’s distinctive solution. Darryl Clifton-Dey, Senior Technical Specialist, from the UK Environmental Agency, commented, “We were extremely impressed with SPIE’s professional approach to the works and the innovative solution they delivered in a difficult situation. The eels in the Thames are a critically endangered species and any damage to them from the intake would be an offence. SPIE not only fulfilled their promise to the Agency by protecting the aquatic life, but simultaneously reduced the building’s carbon footprint.”

SPIE UK was responsible for the removal and replacement of the cooling and heating infrastructure, including the river water heat rejection system and associated electrical power installation, as well as the commissioning of the complete package. All the works were carried out in a live building environment.

The multi-million-pound contract began in November 2016 and was completed in August 2017. SPIE's appointment builds on a long-lasting relationship with Shell, established over seven years ago.

Commenting on the latest engineering solution, George Adams, SPIE UK’s Director of Energy & Engineering, said: “SPIE prides itself on its flexible approach to our clients’ challenges, and our work for Shell is a proof in point. Our river filtration engineering solution saved the firm over £1m, kept the entire programme on track, and protects aquatic life in the River Thames, whilst assisting in the reduction of carbon emissions.”