World-leading science facility

2 November 2015

Most results and impacts can be calculated and solved as such, but nature is unpredictable, and figuring out how it adjusts to environmental changes is difficult. For the next ten years, the University of Birmingham's pioneering Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) will be investigating the effect of an elevated CO2 level on trees and the surrounding ecosystem in nearby Staffordshire.

The new research plant is considered one of the largest and most comprehensive Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) facilities in the world.

Professor Rob MacKenzie, Director of BIFoR explains: "About a third of all the carbon dioxide we release through burning fossil fuel is captured by land plants and locked away in wood and soil. This is impressive, but is not enough to stop carbon dioxide levels in the air rising faster than we have seen for at least a million years. As carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, will woods and forests continue to lock up the same proportion of our emissions of this gas?"

Ungoing scientific effort
Professor David Ellsworth from the University of Sydney, who spent the summer at the University of Birmingham as a distinguished visiting fellow, elaborates: “This summer at the BIFoR FACE Facility in Mill Haft, Norbury, Staffordshire, saw the first large contingent of scientists collected to study the properties of the woodland. We had colleagues from the UK and overseas all working alongside University of Birmingham colleagues. The scientific effort is ongoing, but this intensive campaign represented a baseline against which future changes induced by the Free-Air Carbon dioxide Enrichment (FACE) can be evaluated."

Union as appointed supplier
Through its main contractor, the Shaylor Group, the University of Birmingham has appointed Union Engineering as supplier of the CO2 system for their new forest research project.
Utilising Union Engineering’s more than 80 years of experience in storing, handling and controlling CO2, a complete detailed custom plant is designed and constructed for the specific needs and requirements of this type of special plant.

The complete installation is established inside the Staffordshire forest, meeting all of the crucial criteria: flawless installation, long operation time, easy maintenance and low power consumption.

Protection above all
Another crucial project parameter was that, after project completion, all equipment was to be removed, leaving no visible signs of its previous existence.

Therefore, it was necessary to design a solution that did not require a concrete foundation or any other parts that might leave “scars” in the forest.

See the video about the project on Youtube by clicking here.

Early involvement
As Union Engineering was involved in the project at an early stage, it allowed the supplier to bring forward several cost saving alternatives, reducing the overall project price without changing the general system performance.

Union Engineering’s Special Project department is set up to handle projects that lie outside Union's current projects and require 100% customised solutions.

For further information, please contact Union Engineering a/s at, or learn more at