22nd June 2020

Redcar biomass company sets out coronavirus plan


The CEO of a Redcar biomass company has spoken about the changes the business has made after staff returned to work following the coronavirus pandemic.

Nova Pangaea Technologies: Biomass Processing Experts is based in Wilton, is a cleantech business that has created a revolutionary process called REFNOVA.

The company converts discarded plant biomass into feedstocks for natural biochemicals and biofuels.

Sarah Ellerby, chief executive, said: “We went into lockdown on March 25 – we’ve been going through quite a rigorous assessment to return back to the site. The team was staggered coming back to site throughout April.”

Miss Ellerby is originally from Malton in North Yorkshire but worked in America for 18 years as a chief executive within different industries.

She started working for Nova Pangaea in 2019 after she was head-hunted for the role.

Miss Ellerby said: “I’ve been working as a chief executive for 15 years, I’ve been through quite a bit, I’ve never been through a pandemic like this before but I will say this, we’ve got some resilience on this team, we’ve really had to owe some creativity in order to keep things ticking along. It really hasn’t impacted the business that’s a positive for us.”

The Wilton plant converts plant residue into feedstocks for products such as ethanol.

Miss Ellerby said: “Our site is locked down. We don’t have visitors on site unless it’s critical. Each person goes through some basic checks. Their temperature is taken and they are questioned whether they have symptoms. We also have initial health questions – we’re hoping that will help us.”

The company has also done a risk assessment for all of the team.

“We’ve done a complete risk assessment so that we can move forward,” Miss Ellerby said.

Nova Pangaea has also supplied staff with full PPE.

Miss Ellerby said: “If you can’t do a piece of work where the staff are back to back or side by side they’re wearing masks, chemical gloves at all times – it’s a rigorous change.

“Certain places and certain doors we consider high risk – these are being cleaned down. As well as checks – no one comes on-site without a temperature check.”

Nova Pangaea furloughed six of their staff – on 100 per cent pay – but they have now all returned to work if they cannot work from home.

Miss Ellerby said: “They’re a part of the discussion-making it’s really a collaborative effort.”

“It’s been really difficult to source PPE, we don’t want to take medical PPE out of the NHS’s hands,” Miss Ellerby said, “it has been sporadic, it’s been problematic, for example sourcing hand sanitisers. We’ve changed materials as well as providing masks and gloves – we’re trying to do it that way on a weekly basis in order so that we don’t go short.”

Miss Ellerby returned to the site on Monday 1 June.

She said: “I always look for a positive it’s given us the time to do some desktop work that we needed to do anyway and provided time to reflect.”