Tilbury Power station, owned by Germany’s RWE and one of 14 remaining coal-fired power stations in Britain, has converted to burning wood to avoid the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive.
It is now the world’s largest biomass power station – burning wood pellets from Georgia, USA, which attracts 100 per cent subsidies from the European Union. The drawback: the burning efficiency is 25 per cent less than using coal, so the station has dropped from 1100 megawatts generation to 750 megawatts.
The Directive was supposed to reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. Yet more CO2 is produced from biomass generation than from burning coal. To deal with the CO2 emission would require clean coal technology filtering and storing, as at Kingsnorth or Drax in Yorkshire. But because biomass burns wood not coal it is exempt from the Directive. The carbon footprint of importing the wood from Georgia is also ignored - and Tilbury requires 500,000 tons of wood pellets a year.
On 27 February a fire occurred at Tilbury Power Station when over 120 fire-fighters had to put out a fire in 6,000 tons of wood pellets, which as “green” wood have a habit of self-combusting. ■