Tilbury Power Station completes final day of operation

By Erin Voegele | August 13, 2013

The U.K.’s largest biomass power plant is completing its final day of operation. RWE npower has announced that the 750 MW Tilbury Power Station will generate power for the last time on Aug. 13. The facility, originally fueled with coal, operated for 46 years.

In 2008, RWE made the decision to opt out the then 1,100 MW coal-fired power plant under the E.U.’s Large Combustion Plant Directive, a regulation that aims to reduce sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions from power stations and other large industrial facilities. The decision to opt-out meant that the plant would shut down after either 20,000 hours of operation or the end of 2015, whichever was sooner. However, in 2010, RWE elected to use the remaining hours of operation to trial the use of 100 percent biomass.  The action effectively reduced the plant’s production capacity to 750 MW. The conversion was completed in late 2011.

According to information released by RWE on Aug. 12, the second phase of the conversion would have required the closure of the plant under the LCPD and the development of a full-scale biomass conversion to meet new environmental standards. It would have taken approximately two years to complete the upgrades. Information released by the company specifies the move would have allowed the plant to operate for an additional 10 to 12 years.

According to the RWE, the U.K. Department of Climate Change confirmed that the TIlbury project is ineligible for the new Contract for Difference Support mechanism for lower carbon technologies. As such, the company said it will not proceed with the second phase of the conversion. RWE attributes the decision to the fact that the conversion is not economically viable under the existing Renewable Obligation mechanism.

Recent statistics released by the U.K. Department of Energy and Climate Change indicate that power generation from plant biomass in the U.K. increased by 69 percent during the first quarter of 2013 compared to the same quarter of the prior year, rising from 1.1 terawatt hours (TWh) to 1.8 TWh. The increase is attributed to the Tilbury power plant becoming fully operational.

Data provided by RWE states that the Tilbury plant generated 1.27 TWh of power during the first quarter of this year. That is more than 10 percent of the 12.4 TWh of total renewable electricity generated in the U.K. during the same three-month period.

“This is a sad time for everyone at Tilbury Power Station, but I would like to personally thank all of our staff past and present who have contributed to the success of the station, particularly in the delivery of such a pioneering development for UK biomass,” said Nigel Staves, manager of Tilbury Power Station. “Tilbury remains an excellent site for power generation and RWE will now review future plans for the site. The lessons learned from the successful biomass conversion will be shared across the RWE Generation portfolio, as RWE remains committed to exploring new energy technologies that can provide energy solutions that are both affordable and sustainable.”