One of the country’s largest energy suppliers has applied for permission to use biomass as a fuel at its Tilbury power station.
RWE npower has approached the Environment Agency with a request to increase the use of biomass.
Currently, a small amount of biomass is allowed to be used as a fuel in place of coal at the power station, the manager at the facility, Nigel Staves, explained.
The licence that has been applied for would allow for the amount of biomass used to be varied.
“If permission is granted by the Environment Agency, we would adapt the plant to burn biomass rather than coal,” he said.
Mr Staves explained that such a change would reduce the amount of ash created at the power station as well as cut down emissions of sulphur oxides and nitrogen oxides.
Such a conversion, should it be approved, would take approximately one year to complete, npower confirmed.
The Tilbury power station began operation in 1969. It is capable of meeting the domestic energy requirements of approximately one million people.
Biomass, a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms,[ such as wood, waste, (hydrogen) gas, and alcohol fuels. Biomass is commonly plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce heat. In this sense, living biomass can also be included, as plants can also generate electricity while still alive.[The most conventional way in which biomass is used however, still relies on direct incineration. Forest residues for example (such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps), yard clippings, wood chips and garbage are often used for this. However, biomass also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers or chemicals. Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic materials such as fossil fuels which have been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.
Industrial biomass can be grown from numerous types of plants, including miscanthus, switchgrass, hemp, corn, poplar, willow, sorghum, sugarcane and a variety of tree species, ranging from eucalyptus to oil palm (palm oil). The particular plant used is usually not important to the end products, but it does affect the processing of the raw material.
Although fossil fuels have their origin in ancient biomass, they are not considered biomass by the generally accepted definition because they contain carbon that has been “out” of the carbon cycle for a very long time. Their combustion therefore disturbs the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere.