Didcot power stations

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Didcot Power Stations
Didcot power station.jpg
Didcot Power Station
Viewed from the south in September 2006
Didcot power stations is located in Oxfordshire
Didcot power stations
Location of Didcot Power Stations
Country England
Location Oxfordshire, South East England
Coordinates 51°37′25″N 1°16′03″W / 51.62363°N 1.26757°W / 51.62363; -1.26757Coordinates: 51°37′25″N 1°16′03″W / 51.62363°N 1.26757°W / 51.62363; -1.26757
Commission date 1968
Operator(s) Central Electricity Generating Board
National Power
RWE npower
Power generation
Primary fuel Coal-fired
Secondary fuel Natural gas-fired
Tertiary fuel Biofuel
grid reference SU508919

Didcot Power Station refers to a combined coal and oil power plant (Didcot A Power Station) and a natural-gas power plant (Didcot B Power Station) that supply the National Grid. They are situated immediately adjoining one another in the civil parish of Sutton Courtenay, next to the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire (formerly in Berkshire), in the UK. The combined power stations feature a chimney which is one of the taller structures in the UK, and six hyperbolic cooling towers, which can be seen from much of the surrounding landscape.

Didcot A[edit]

Didcot A Power Station was a coal and gas-fired power station, which ceased operation on 22 March 2013. Designed by architect Frederick Gibberd, a vote was held in Didcot and surrounding villages on whether the power station should be built. There was strong opposition from Sutton Courtenay but the yes vote was carried, due to the number of jobs that would be created in the area. Building was started on the 2,000 MWe power station for the Central Electricity Generating Board CEGB during 1964, and was completed in 1968 at a cost of £104m, with up to 2400 workers being employed at peak times. It is located on a 300 acres (1.2 km2) site formerly part of the Ministry of Defence Central Ordnance Depot. The main chimney is 650 ft (200 m) tall with the six cooling towers 325 ft (99 m) each. The station used four 500 MWe generating units. In 2003 Didcot A burnt 3.7Mt of coal.

The station burned mostly pulverised coal, but also co-fired with natural gas. Didcot was the first large power station to be converted to have this function. In addition, a small amount of biomass, such as sawdust, was burnt at the plant. This was introduced to try to depend more on renewable sources following the introduction of the Kyoto Protocol and, in April 2002, the Renewables Obligation. It was hoped that biomass could replace 2% of coal burnt. In 1996 and 1997, Thales UK was awarded contracts by Innogy (now npower) to implement the APMS supervisory and control system on all of the four units, then allowing to have optimised emissions monitoring and reporting.[1] Between 2005 and 2007 Didcot installed overfire air systems on the four boilers to reduce emissions of Nitrous Oxide.This ensured compliance with the Large Combustion Plant Directive.

Some ash from Didcot A is used to manufacture building blocks at a factory on the adjacent Milton Park and transported to Thatcham (near Newbury, Berkshire) for the manufacture of Thermalite aerated breeze blocks using both decarbonized fly and raw ash, but most is mixed with water and pumped via a pipeline to former quarries in Radley.

Environmental protests[edit]

2006 Greenpeace Protest

On the morning of Thursday 2 November 2006, 30 Greenpeace trespassers invaded the power station. One group chained themselves to a broken coal-carrying conveyor belt. A second group scaled the 200 metre high chimney, and set up a 'climate camp'. They proceeded to paint "Blair's Legacy" on the side of the chimney overlooking the town. Greenpeace claim Didcot Power Station is the second most polluting in Britain after Drax in Yorkshire,[2] whilst Friends of the Earth describe it as the ninth worst in the UK.[3]

A similar protest occurred early on 26 October 2009, when nine climate change protesters climbed the chimney, and eleven chained themselves to the coal delivery conveyors; the latter group were cut free by police after five hours, but the former waited until 28 October before coming down again — all twenty were arrested, and power supplies continued uninterrupted. The power station was installing improved security fencing at the time.[4]

2013 closure[edit]

Didcot A opted out of the Large Combustion Plant Directive which meant it was only be allowed to run for up to 20,000 hours after 1 January 2008 and must close by 31 December 2015 at the latest. The decision was made not to install Flue Gas Desulphurisation equipment which would have allowed continued generation.

Studies did continue into whether there was a possibility that Didcot A might be modernised with new super-clean coal burning capabilities; with RWE partly involved in the study,[5] however in September 2012 RWE Npower announced that Didcot A using its current coal burning capabilities would close at the end of March 2013.[6] On 22 March 2013, Didcot A closed and the de-commissioning process began.


The explosive demolition of Didcot A will begin early in the morning of Sunday, July 27 2014[7]

A campaign was started to move the time of the demolition back from RWE's 3am to 5am window, to 6am or later to enable local people to watch the demolition. [8]

Didcot B[edit]


Didcot B is the newer sibling initially owned by National Power, constructed from 1994-7 by Siemens and Atlantic Projects, and uses a (CCGT) type power plant to generate up to 1,360 MWe of electricity.[9] It opened in July 1997. There has been some controversy locally that the access for the site was originally agreed to be via the site entrance for Didcot A on Basil Hill Road', however the 'temporary' access using the former National Grid stores access road is still in use.


It consists of two 680 MWe modules, each with two 230 MW SGT5-4000F (former V94.3A) Siemens gas turbines and two heat recovery steam generators, built by International Combustion (since 1997 known as ABB Combustion Services Ltd), and a steam turbine.


Owners RWE announced on 9 January 2014 that modules 5 and 6 of Didcot B will cease generation by 31 December 2023 at the latest, to comply with the European Industrial Emissions Directive which takes effect as of January 2016. It is however possible that the life of these modules will be extended if RWE decide to install equipment to further reduce emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. [10]


Following privatisation of the CEGB in the early 1990s, Didcot A passed into the control of what became National Power, who also started construction of Didcot B. Following demerger the plant passed to Innogy (in 2000) and following the takover of Innogy by RWE in 2002 ownership passed to Npower (UK).[11]

Architectural reception[edit]

Didcot Power Station viewed from Wittenham Clumps
  • It was voted Britain's third worst eyesore in 2003 by Country Life readers,[12] although Didcot A won architectural awards[citation needed] for how well it blended into the landscape, following its construction. Radio Oxford received votes for the station when they conducted a survey of the worst building in Oxfordshire, with some listeners referring to it as looking like somewhere up north.
  • British poet Kit Wright has written an "Ode to Didcot Power Station" using a parodic style akin to that of the early romantic poets.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ For more information, see Advanced Plant Management System, the Didcot A Case study on the APMS website or the article about the implementation of the Moore's Quadlog Safety PLC in Didcot.
  2. ^ "Climate campaigners shut down one of UK's biggest power stations". Greenpeace. Retrieved 2006-11-02. 
  3. ^ "Carbon Dinosaurs". Friends of the Earth. Archived from the original on 2004-10-19. 
  4. ^ Sloan, Liam (29 October 2009). "Didcot tower is 'taken'". The Oxford Times (Oxford: Newsquest (Oxfordshire) Ltd): 3. 
  5. ^ "The Role of Coal in Electricity Generation". RWE. 
  6. ^ "Didcot and Fawley power stations to close in March 2013". BBC News Online. 
  7. ^ "Date set for demolition of Didcot Power Station towers". Oxford Mail. 
  8. ^ "Hundreds sign petition to change the time of Didcot towers explosion". Oxford Times. 
  9. ^ Didcot B - RWE AG
  10. ^ "RWE npower confirms plans to close UK coal power plant". Business Green. 
  11. ^ "Didcot Power Station celebrates 40th birthday". BBC News Online. 
  12. ^ "Britain's Worst Eyesores". BBC News. 13 November 2003. Retrieved 2006-11-04. 

External links[edit]