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Fire Rages at Europe’s Largest Biomass Power Station

A massive fire blazed Monday at RWE npower’s wood-pellet-fired Tilbury power station, the largest biomass plant in Europe, the Financial Times writes.

The fire started in the fuel storage area, igniting the biomass fuel in storage cells, Reuters reports. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Fire Officer David Johnson said on the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service incident page that it was one of the most challenging fires of his 20-year career: the fire was fed by 4,000 to 6,000 tons of biomass positioned high in the building, and the biomass became increasing weighted by the water, threatening the structure of the building.

All workers have been accounted for without injury since the blaze was brought under control using specialized high expansion foam. More than 100 firefighters worked on the fire starting from the 7:45 a.m. GMT call through the afternoon, the firefighters’ blog said.

The fire has shut down the 750MW plant, just weeks after its opening on the same site as RWE npower’s Tilbury coal-fired power plant, which was due to close by the end of 2015. According to the RWE website, the Tilbury Power Station operated as a coal-fired power station with the capacity to generate 1,131MW of electricity for the National Grid from 1969 until early 2011, when RWE received consent to convert all three of the power station’s units to generate power from 100-percent sustainable biomass.

The biomass station was expected to deliver 10 percent of the UK’s total renewable energy output in 2012, RWE said.

Kevin McCullogh, chief operating officer at RWE npower, told Bloomberg that it was the company’s first experience with a biomass power plant fire at its first biomass plant, but that the company has been dealing with combustible materials at power plants for decades.

Bloomberg New Energy Finance analysts said that fuel storage areas at biomass plants needs aeration to prevent spontaneous combustion, and that the fire may increase the cost of Renewable Obligation Certificates, or ROCs.

Photo: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service

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