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Vac ex shows quality at Teesside brownfield site, the UK’s 1st and largest freeport

21st Nov 2023

Vac ex successfully exposing buried services at Teesside Freeport

Vac UK, Vac ex successfully exposing buried services at Teesside Freeport  brownfield site where our team has been uncovering an existing water main and an 11kv power line.

In mixed ground conditions comprising fair soil, sand and clay, we excavated to a depth of 1m to allow new drainage to be installed. When exposing live utilities vacuum excavation is the default choice because, from a health and safety point of view, suction excavation massively reduces the risks and costs associated with a service strike.

Hiring a suction excavator also generally works out more cost effective than alternative means of excavation. Over a day’s work and depending on ground conditions, it typically comes in at around 60% of the cost hand digging and will remove more than ten times the material.

On this job the VAC UK team was able to excavate the required 10m trench (two full loads for the self-contained skip) in around four and a half hours.

Environmental benefits of vac ex

In line with the environmental benefit that wind power will provide, vacuum excavation also provides strong sustainability credentials. Fewer machines are required than traditional mechanical digging approaches; the working area is reduced by a third; the vac ex is able to work around tree and shrub roots without causing damage; and, because excavated material is self contained in the body of the truck, the site is kept cleaner.

For more information of the environmental benefits of vacuum excavation check out Vac UK’s blog 10 compelling reasons why vacuum excavators are better for the environment. 

The work is paving the way for SeAH Wind’s new turbine base factory which will be largest facility of its kind in the world. Once complete it will manufacture the huge monopiles of up to 120m in length, 15.5m in diameter and weighing 3,000 tonnes which are used to support offshore wind turbines such as those earmarked for wind farms like Hornsea Three in the North Sea.

It is being carried out at the Teesside Freeport site – the biggest in the UK – which covers approximately 4,500 acres at multiple sites including Teesside International Airport and the ports of Hartlepool and Teesport.

VAC UK General Manager Sean Gallagher believes that vacuum excavation comes into its own on brownfield sites.

“Former industrial sites are notoriously poorly mapped in terms of buried infrastructure so its vital that the dangers associated with excavation are reduced as far as possible,” he said. “A service strike can have a big financial implication for a contractor before one considers the potential delays it can cause and, worse, the potential harm to the workforce.”

“Vac ex hire can play a big part in effectively managing that risk.

Vac ex successfully exposing buried services at Teesside Freeport


“It’s great to see Brownfield sites being developed across the UK. As well as being potential sites for new energy projects Brownfield sites are also key to unlocking the nation’s housing shortage.”

In January 2023 the department of levelling up housing and communities made 60 million available to councils to make way for high quality new homes on brownfield sites across the UK. The funds are forecast to be used to help deliver 5,800 new houses by March 2027 and also to create about 18,000 new jobs in the construction sector.

Vac ex successfully exposing buried services at Teesside Freeport

Extended power arm allows safe excavation from distance.

Whilst this is all positive news its a drip in the ocean compared to the amount of new houses that need to be built and a paltry investment considering the amount of brownfield sites around the country that are ripe for development.  Yesterday (20th November 2023) the major of london requested 470 million from the government to build 76,000 new homes in London on brownfield sites.

Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz echoed Khan and said her borough is facing “a growing housing crisis and 37,000 residents on our waiting list alone”.

Newham Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz


She also added: “We are also facing growing cost pressures because too many people are being made homeless and we are having to place them in expensive temporary accommodation […] so brownfield development needs to be given the green light in the Autumn Statement.”


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