Renew On Line (UK) number 72

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 172 Mar/Apr2008
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Big UK wind push

2. Zero Carbon Buildings

3. Nuclear Decision

4. Energy Policy developments

5. Tory Green Energy Promises

6. Brown on Energy...and Climate

7. Biofuels and biomass get going

8. EU News: REFIT spreads

9. Global News: Climate High, Bali Low

10. World Round up: Oz, NZ, Canada try

11. Nuclear news: US and UK plans

7. Biofuel gets going

The UK’s first bioethanol plant opened last year at Wissington in Norfolk. It will produce 70 million litres of ethanol biofuel a year from locally grown sugar beet processed at Associated British Foods’ major British Sugar plant there. The bioethanol goes to blenders who mix it with petrol and sell it on forecourts of supermarket chains including Tesco. British Sugar officials estimated that 700,000-800,000 tonnes of sugar beet a year (equivalent to roughly 110,000-116,000 tonnes of sugar) would be consumed by the new plant. Reuters noted that Wissington is the world’s largest beet sugar factory- it supplies 400,000 tonnes of sugar a year to food and drink manufacturers in the UK and across Europe. But beet used for bioethanol was ‘surplus to EU quotas’.
* Last year the EU set a binding target for biofuels to make up at least 10% of petrol and diesel used by vehicles by 2020. But it’s aware of the problems and is developing sustainability criteria on which, how and where biofuels are to be produced. Draft versions apply to both domestically produced and imported biofuels, and include a ruling that biofuels must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 35% on a lifecycle basis, which, if enacted, implies an emphasis on more carbon-efficient second generation crops. The NGO’s wanted at least 50%.

Biomass power at last
Biomass energy has been slow to develop in the UK so far, but last some big projects are getting underway. Although a few small biomass combustion projects have emerged, co-firing of biomass and coal has been the approach mostly used so far (as at Drax B). But DBERR has now granted consent for a 350MW fully wood-chipped fuelled electricity generating plant in Port Talbot, south Wales. When completed, at the turn of the decade, the £400m plant from developer Prenergy, will contribute around 70% of the Welsh Assembly’s 2010 renewable electricity target. DBERR’s John Hutton said “This will be the biggest biomass plant in the world, generating enough clean electricity to power half of the homes in Wales”.  The wood fuel is expected to come from sustainable sources in the US and Canada and the plant is expected to have a 25 year lifetime.
On a smaller scale is E.ON’s £60m 30 MW Wilton 10 biomass plant now running on the Wilton International manufacturing site in Middlesbrough. See right. Developed by Sembcorp Utilities UK, the plant will process 300,000 tonnes of low-grade wood residues a year, including 80,000 tonnes of recycled wood and 80,000 tonnes of offcuts from sawmills. It will also process 80,000 tonnes of forestry products p.a., such as tree tops and 55,000 tonnes of short rotation coppice willow.
Sadly though it’s not a Combined Heat and Power plant- the heat could be used locally instead of being wasted. But evidently there is not currently a financial incentive under the Renewables Obligation for producing renewable heat alongside electricity, though this is under review.
For more see:
* E.ON’s £90m 44MW biomass station has started up at Steven’s Croft Lockerbie. The UK’s biggest so far.

Fuel Supply
The big plus for biomass generation is that it can produce continuous, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year base-load electricity. But of course that does require a continuous fuel supply. Importing it from the USA or Canada seems a bit odd! But we’ve seen estimates that the Talbot plant would have needed up to 10% of Wales’ land area. The Wilton plant is smaller so it can use local residual sources. reported that ‘to feed the Wilton 10 plant with recycled fuel, Sembcorp has a partnership with local firm UK Wood Recycling. The firm accepts all grades of non-hazardous wood such as kitchen units, pallets and doors from which it uses lower grade material to produce fuel. This is cleaned and blended at UK Wood Recycling’s bespoke facility on the Wilton International site which opened earlier this year before being sent to Wilton 10. The company has already stockpiled 30,000 tonnes of material in anticipation of Wilton 10 opening and has received a lot of enquiries from firms eager to dispose of lower quality wood which currently had no other outlet than landfill’. For more see:
* note that around 7-8m tonnes of waste wood go to landfill in the UK each year, but says that the campaign by the Environment Agency to get a re-definition of the point at which wood ceased to be a waste has so far been unsuccessful. The problem is that some of it will have been treated or painted and there can be toxic emission risks.
For more see:

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