Power station to burn dirty fuel

A ``filthy'' fuel made from oil refinery waste, is to be burnt at Europe's biggest coal-fired power station for a 10-week trial period, the Government's Environment Agency announced yesterday.

The decision was immediately attacked by the local council and MP. People living around the huge, 2,400 megawatt Drax plant near York are concerned about the plans to burn 30,000 tonnes of petroleum coke, or petcoke, this autumn.

Its owner, National Power, says it has to find cheaper ways of running Drax; petcoke could be a solution. As a waste product it costs less than coal mined nearby which feeds the station.

But petcoke is substantially more polluting than coal. It contains higher levels of sulphur, which causes acid rain, as well as higher levels of nickel - a potentially hazardous heavy metal - and the rare element vanadium which irritates the lungs and throat.

During the trial the fuel would be mixed with four times as much coal, then consumed in one of station's six burners.

Drax is Europe's biggest coal-fired power stations, and cleanest, because it has pounds 640m worth of anti-pollution equipment. This removes nearly all the sulphur dioxide produced when coal is burnt.

But maintaining this complex equipment adds to its running costs by up to 10 per cent, according to National Power. So Drax is at a disadvantage compared to gas, nuclear and other coal-fired power stations.

The result is that a station built to run continuously at full power is being closed down for more and more hours during periods of low electricity demand when it cannot compete.

``Western Europe's biggest power station is being forced slowly out of business, slipping down the merit order,'' said a National Power spokesman.

The company insists that far from substituting for British coal, petcoke might offer the few remaining mines a more secure future by helping keep Drax running for longer hours.

But John Grogan, Labour MP for Selby, said: ``It is economic and environmental madness to trial burn a dirty by-product of American oil refining rather than the much cleaner Selby coal.''

Petcoke is burnt in some British cement and lime kilns as well as being mixed in with some household coal. A few power stations in Europe and the USA already use it. The fuel is difficult to ignite but burns at a very high temperature.

National Power said there would be no substantial increases in pollution from Drax during the trial, and since it had the pollution-curbing equipment it was the best power station for petcoke. Emissions will be carefully monitored in cooperation with the Environment Agency, which will also examine the environmental threat posed by the station's ash which will contain raised levels of nickel and vanadium.

If the trial is a success then National Power is expected to apply to the agency for permission to burn petcoke permanently at Drax - although it will always be mixed with coal.

Selby District Council's deputy chief executive Mike White said he had not yet received assurances that the trial would be properly monitored. ``We're very disappointed,'' he added. The Environment Agency said burning petcoke at Drax could be of environmental benefit if it helped the power station out-compete other, dirtier coal-fired stations.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Swiss Banking and Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Can you speak German,...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - 6 month FTC - Central London

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An exciting opportunity f...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before