Flexible power from biomass

In 2011, our Tilbury B power station was converted from a coal-fired power station to run on 100% biomass fuel, using sustainably-sourced renewable wood pellets for the remainder of its lifetime under the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD)

Operation of the plant on biomass rather than coal will result in greenhouse gas savings in excess of 70%, compared to the EU fossil fuel comparator. The conversion has also resulted in significantly lower emissions of NOx, SOx, and ash. Tilbury Power Station uses sustainably-sourced wood pellets, the vast majority of which (more than 90%) are sourced from North America, either from the South East USA, or from Canada.

The UK Government believe that biomass could have an important role to play in the future UK energy mix, as set out in its Bioenergy Strategy. As a dispatchable technology, biomass has the ability to produce low carbon energy quickly and on demand. It is also not dependent on weather conditions which can affect other renewable technologies, such as wind. The conversion of an existing asset to renewable generation is also a good example of marrying innovation with affordability – converting the plant took less than a year to complete. 

Our objective for the conversion was to understand the feasibility of operating a coal fired power station on biomass fuel and to learn by doing. We were faced with many challenges during the conversion such as technical, operational, health and safety and fuel supply aspects. The majority of the work required for the conversion involved modifications and upgrades to the existing equipment to accommodate changes to the way the wood pellets are unloaded and transported into the power station.

The operation of Tilbury to run on sustainable biomass will also have a big impact on the UK’s ability to meet its ambitious and binding climate change targets. Over a third of our existing generating capacity is due to close by the end of this decade, and investment in renewable and low carbon technology is required to ensure the UK has a secure, low carbon and affordable energy supply for the future

We are now looking into the option of extending the life of Tilbury Power Station, to allow it to operate as a dedicated biomass power station for an additional 10-12 years. To find out more about this, please click here.

Fire at Tilbury
On Monday 27 February 2012 there was a fire at Tilbury Power Station. Following a thorough investigation, we concluded that no single event had caused the fire. A number of relatively minor events which, when taken in isolation would not have escalated, combined to cause the fire.
In June 2012 the first of the three units at Tilbury returned to service, and the station is now fully operational. We have shared the key lessons learnt that may be of interest to other companies handling biomass - to read a summary of these please click on the link below to download

If you have any other questions about our conversion project, please email contact@npowertilbury.com