Saturday, 10 January 2009
A visit to the coal-fired power station at Fiddler´s Ferry near Widnes, the largest source in the North West both of electricity and of CO2 emissions.
The environmental problems caused by acid rain are now much reduced in Western Europe thanks to EU measures to curb sulphur dioxide emissions from plants like this. A major new flue gas desulphurisation plant has been completed, allowing the limits on operating hours to be lifted. Under the terms of the Large Combustions Plants Directive (LCPD) the plant will now be able to stay open till the end of 2015.
I was interested to learn that up to 200MW of electricity can now be attributed to burning of biomass, much of it imported wood waste – that makes this huge coal giant also the largest source of electricity from renewable sources in the country!
My discussion with the plant manager and his team touched on the future possibilities of equipping a plant on this site with CCS technology. It is likely to be applied first where there is a cluster of high emitting installations in an area so that transport and injection costs can be shared.
I tend to think of Fiddler´s Ferry as standing in grand isolation but I am reminded that Ineos Chlor has a private power station in Runcorn to generate electricity for chlorine manufacture, there is one also at the Shotton Paper Mill no great distance away, and the Stanlow oil refinery is another high source of emissions. Potential exists to capture the CO2 released for storage in depleted Irish Sea gas reserves.
The LCPD Directive will require the closure of power stations that don´t by then meet SO2 and NOx reduction targets, and with old nuclear stations also closing there is a threat that by 2016 we could be facing a serious shortage of generating capacity. CCS on a commercial scale will only just be getting underway by then. Maybe we should consider putting back the closure deadlines rather than considering building new coal-fired power stations before they can be equipped with CCS. Think I shall try and get an impact assessment commissioned.