Didcot power stations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Didcot Power Stations
Didcot power station.jpg
Didcot Power Station
Viewed from the south in September 2006
LocationOxfordshire, South East England
Coordinates51°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 date1968
Operator(s)Central Electricity Generating Board
National Power
Innogy plc
RWE npower
Thermal power station
Primary fuelCoal
Secondary fuelNatural gas
Tertiary fuelBiofuel
Power generation
Nameplate capacity1,440 MW
External links
CommonsRelated media on Commons

grid reference SU508919

Didcot Power Stations consist of an active natural gas power plant (Didcot B Power Station) that supplies the National Grid, and a closed[1] combined coal and oil power plant (Didcot A Power Station). They are situated immediately adjoining each other in the civil parish of Sutton Courtenay, next to the town of Didcot in Oxfordshire, England.

A large section of the boiler house at Didcot A power station collapsed on 23 February 2016 while the building was being prepared for demolition. Four men were killed in the collapse.

The combined power stations feature a chimney which is one of the tallest structures in the UK, and three hyperbolic cooling towers (three others were demolished in 2014), 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 designed by architect Frederick Gibberd. Construction of the 2,000 MWe power station for the Central Electricity Generating Board began during 1964, and was completed in 1968 at a cost of £104m, with up to 2,400 workers being employed at peak times. It was located on a 300 acres (1.2 km2) site, formerly part of the Ministry of Defence Central Ordnance Depot. 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.

The main chimney was 650 ft (200 m) tall[2] with the six cooling towers 375 ft (114 m)[3] each. The cooling towers were arranged in two triangular groups of three; these were located to the north west and to the south of the main building. The original design was for eight cooling towers but the consultant architect Sir Frederick Gibberd proposed the number was reduced to six to mitigate the visual impact of the station. The consequent limitation in cooling capability reduced the overall thermal efficiency of the power station. [4]

English Heritage declined to give listed building status to Didcot A Power Station in 2013. Though it recognised there were some interesting features, for example the "carefully designed" setting and Gibberd's detailing, there were better examples elsewhere.[5] The station ceased operation on 22 March 2013.


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 burned 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 plc (now RWE npower) to implement the APMS supervisory and control system on all of the four units, then enabling optimised emissions monitoring and reporting.[6] 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 was 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 was 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 650 ft 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 asserted that Didcot Power Station was the second most polluting in Britain after Drax in North Yorkshire,[7] whilst Friends of the Earth describe it as the ninth worst in the UK.[8]

A similar protest occurred early on 26 October 2009, when nine climate change protesters climbed the chimney,[2] 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.[9]

2013 closure[edit]

Didcot A opted out of the Large Combustion Plant Directive which meant it was only allowed to run for up to 20,000 hours after 1 January 2008 and had to 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,[10] however in September 2012 RWE Npower announced that Didcot A using its current coal burning capabilities would close at the end of March 2013.[1] On 22 March 2013, Didcot A closed and the de-commissioning process began.


The three southern cooling towers of Didcot A were demolished by explosives on Sunday 27 July 2014 at 05:01 BST. The contractors had insisted that the demolition would take place between 3 am and 5 am; the towers were demolished at 5.01am.[11][12]

There had been a campaign to move the time of the demolition to 6 a.m. or later to enable local people to watch the demolition,[13] but RWE refused. Despite the early morning demolition, many thousands of people turned out locally to watch from numerous vantage points, as well as those who watched the towers come down via a live Internet stream and the event trended heavily on Twitter with the hashtag #DidcotDemolition.[14]

2016 collapse[edit]

On 23 February 2016, a large section of the former boiler house at Didcot A power station collapsed while the building was being prepared for demolition.[15][16] One person was killed outright and three people were listed as missing presumed dead.[17] Four or five people were injured,[15][16] three seriously.[17] Additionally, around 50 people were treated for dust inhalation.[15] The rubble from the collapse was 9 metres (30 ft) high and unstable, which along with the instability of the remaining half of the building hampered search efforts.[17]

The collapse occurred at around 16:00 GMT, and Thames Valley Police declared a "major incident" shortly thereafter. Initial reports of an explosion were ruled out by police after being reported in the media for several hours following the incident.[15][16]

The boiler house was a steel framed building with the boilers suspended from the superstructure and above ground level to allow for their expansion.[5] At the time of the collapse it was being prepared for explosive demolition on 5 March, a process which involved cutting the structure to weaken it.[18]

On 17 July 2016, what remained of the structure was demolished in a controlled explosion. The bodies of the three missing men were still in the remains at that time. A spokesman said that due to the instability of the structure, they had been unable to recover the bodies. Robots were used to place the explosive charges due to the danger and the site was demolished just after 6 o'clock in the morning (BST). The families said that they wanted their dead relatives back in one piece, not hundreds of pieces but the demolition company highlighted the inherent danger of rescue operations citing that "legally you could not justify humans going back in."[19]

The search for the missing men continued the day after the controlled demolition. On 31 August 2016, it was confirmed that a body had been found in the rubble and the search had been paused to allow specialist teams to recover the body.[20] On 3 September the body was identified as Christopher Huxtable from Swansea.[21]

On 8 September 2016 Police confirmed they had found the body of one of the remaining two missing men.[22] On 9 September, the body was formally identified as that of missing workman Ken Cresswell.[23]

The last missing worker was found on 9 September.[24] He was identified as John Shaw from Rotherham.[25]

Rail services[edit]

Railways around Didcot
Moreton Junction
Main to relief line crossovers
Didcot East Junction
Didcot Parkway
Didcot Railway Centre
Didcot West Junction
Didcot North Junction
Foxhall Junction
Didcot Power Station
Milton Park

Similar to many power stations built at the time, Didcot was served by a rail loop which is a branch from the Great Western Main Line.[26] This allowed weekly coal and oil trains to service the Power Station. Rail facilities included a west-facing inlet connection and an east-facing station outlet connection to the GWML, hopper lines No. 1 and No. 2, and injectors for fly ash on a dust and ash disposal loop.[27] The loop has not been used since the Station's closure in 2013 and the track has been partially lifted for construction of a new warehouse on the site of the old coal pits. Initially the coal was supplied from the Nottingham coalfields then latterly from South Wales or Avonmouth when the Northern coal pits were closed. The service from South Wales was usually operated by one Class 66 locomotive pulling 25 EWS Coal Cars. The service ran from Avonmouth in Bristol, down the main line, reversing at Didcot Parkway and into the power station.[28] The connections to the mail line were severed in Summer 2018 in association with the Oxford area remodelling.[29][30]

Technical Specifications[edit]

The technical specifications below were correct as at time of commissioning; however later modifications may have changed these.


Manufacturer: C.A. Parsons & Co, Ltd

H.P. cylinder steam:
Inlet 158.6 bar (2,300 lb/sq.in.) at 565 deg. C
Exhaust 42.0 bar (610 lb/sq.in.) at 365 deg. C

I.P. cylinder steam:
39.0 bar (565 lb/sq.in) at 565 deg. C

Condenser Vacuum:
-965 mbar (28.5 Hg)


Manufacturer: C.A. Parsons & Co, Ltd
Maximum continuous rating: 500 MW at 23,500 volts
Phase current: Three phases at 14,450 amps each
Efficiency: 98.63%
Stator cooling: Demineralised water
Rotor cooling: Hydrogen


Manufacturer: Babcock & Wilcox Ltd
Maximum continuous rating: 422 kg/s (3,350,000 lb/hr)
Efficiency: 90.76%
Steam at superheater: 165.5 bars (2,400 lb/sq.in.) at 568 deg. C.
Steam at reheater outlet: 40.3 bars (585 lb/sq.in.) at 568 deg. C.
Feed water temperature: 256 deg. C.
Type of firing: Front face, 48 burners
Dimensions of furnace:
29.6m (97 ft) wide
9.1m (30ft) deep
45.7m (150ft) high

Circulating Water System[edit]

Number of cooling towers: 6
Cooling tower capacity: 11.4 cubic meters per second (150,000 gal/min.) each
Cooling tower dimensions:
Height: 114m (375ft)
Diameter: base 91m (300ft), top 54m (176ft)
Thickness: 0.6m (23 in.) tapering to 0.2m (7 in.)
Total Evaporation in 6 towers: 59 x 103 cubic meters/day (13m gal/day)
Water temperature fall in tower: 10 deg. C
Condenser water flow: 17.0 cubic meters per second (225,000 gal/min)
Water temperature rise in condenser: 10 deg. C
Circulating water pump capacity: 18.2 cubic meters per second (240,000 gal/minute)
Make-up water taken from the River Thames (Max): 45m gal/day
Water returned to the River Thames: 32m gal/day

Coal Plant[edit]

Manufacturer: Babcock-Moxey Ltd.
Train capacity: 1,016 tonnes (1000 tons), 32.5 tonnes (32 tons) per wagon
Quantity of coal used per day (max): 18,289 tonnes (18,000 tons)

Main Chimney[edit]

Dimensions: 199m (654 ft.) high
Base Diameter: 23m (75 ft.)
Number of flues: 4
Gas at exit: 97 km/h (60 mph) at 100 deg. C.

Motor Powers[edit]

Induced draught fan motor: 1,710 kW (2,290 h.p.)
Forced draught fan motor: 1,200 kW (1,600 h.p.)
Circulating water pump motor: 6,150 kW (8,250 h.p.)
Feed pump motor: 6,410 kW (8,600 h.p.)

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 (Combined cycle) gas turbine type power plant to generate up to 1,360 MWe of electricity.[31] It opened in July 1997.


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.

2014 fire[edit]

On 19 October 2014, the cooling towers serving one of the steam turbines at Didcot B caught fire. Two of the fifteen fan-assisted cooling towers in the row were completely destroyed, one was seriously damaged, and one suffered light damage.[32] The cause was probably an electrical fault in one of the cooling fans.[33]


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 plc (in 2000) and following the takeover of Innogy by RWE in 2002 ownership passed to RWE npower.[3]

Architectural reception[edit]

Didcot Power Station viewed from Wittenham Clumps, prior to the demolition of Didcot A.
  • Didcot A won a Civic Trust Award in 1968[5] for how well it blended into the landscape, following its construction.
  • It was voted Britain's third worst eyesore in 2003 by Country Life readers.[34]
  • British poet Kit Wright wrote an "Ode to Didcot Power Station" using a parodic style akin to that of the early romantic poets.[5]
  • Artist Roger Wagner painted Menorah, a crucifixion scene featuring the towers of Didcot power station.[5]

Future projects[edit]

In 2007, Didcot was identified as a possible site for a new nuclear power station[35] but, as at March 2019, nothing further has been heard of the proposal.

The three remaining cooling towers, and the chimney, are due to be demolished in Summer 2019.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Didcot and Fawley power stations to close in March 2013". BBC News Online.
  2. ^ a b "Didcot Power Station protester guilty of trespass". BBC News. 13 May 2010. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Didcot Power Station celebrates 40th birthday". BBC News Online. 29 September 2010.
  4. ^ Sheail, John (1991). Power in Trust. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 180. ISBN 0-19-854673-4.
  5. ^ a b c d e Historic England. "Didcot A Power Station (1414666)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  6. ^ 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 Archived 19 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ "Climate campaigners shut down one of UK's biggest power stations". Greenpeace. Archived from the original on 10 August 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2006.
  8. ^ "Carbon Dinosaurs". Friends of the Earth. Archived from the original on 19 October 2004.
  9. ^ Sloan, Liam (29 October 2009). "Didcot tower is 'taken'". The Oxford Times. Oxford: Newsquest (Oxfordshire) Ltd: 3.
  10. ^ "The Role of Coal in Electricity Generation". RWE.
  11. ^ "Didcot power station towers demolished". BBC News.
  12. ^ "Explosives demolish UK power station cooling towers". Reuters.
  13. ^ Sam McGregor (30 June 2014). "Hundreds sign petition to change the time of Didcot towers explosion". Oxford Times.
  14. ^ "Didcot demolition waves goodbye to historic power station towers". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  15. ^ a b c d "Didcot Power Station collapse: One dead and three missing". BBC. Retrieved 23 February 2016.
  16. ^ a b c "Power Station Demolition". Coleman and Company. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  17. ^ a b c "Three missing after Didcot collapse 'unlikely to be alive'". BBC. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2016.
  18. ^ Daniel Kemp (2 March 2016). "Mark Coleman: 'This must never happen again'". Construction News. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  19. ^ "Didcot Power Station: search to resume after demolition". BBC News. 17 July 2016. Retrieved 17 July 2016.
  20. ^ "Didcot Power Station: Body found in rubble". BBC News. 31 August 2016. Retrieved 31 August 2016.
  21. ^ "Didcot Power Station: Body found in rubble identified". BBC News. 3 September 2016. Retrieved 3 September 2016.
  22. ^ "Didcot Power Station: Body of missing man found". BBC News. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
  23. ^ "Didcot Power Station: Didcot Power Station body identified as Ken Cresswell". BBC News. 9 September 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  24. ^ "Didcot Power Station: Final body in rubble found". BBC News. 9 September 2016. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  25. ^ "Guard of honour for John Shaw at Didcot power station". BBC News. 11 September 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  26. ^ Bridge, Mike (2010). Trackmaps 3: Western. Bradford-on-Avon: Trackmaps. p. 3C. ISBN 978-0-9549866-6-7.
  27. ^ Munsey, Myles (2018). Railway Track Diagrams Book 3: Western & Wales. Frome: Trackmaps. pp. 4C. ISBN 9781999627102.
  28. ^ Shannon, Paul (2006). "Southern England". Rail freight since 1968 - Coal. Kettering: Silver Link. p. 38. ISBN 1-85794-263-9.
  29. ^ Modern Railways, November 2018, p. 75
  30. ^ 'Trackwatch' Modern Railways March 2019 (Vol 76 No 846) p.89
  31. ^ Didcot B - RWE AG
  32. ^ "Major fire at gas-fired Didcot B power station". BBC. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  33. ^ "Didcot B power station fire: Electrical fault probe". BBC News. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  34. ^ "Britain's Worst Eyesores". BBC News. 13 November 2003. Retrieved 4 November 2006.
  35. ^ https://www.heraldseries.co.uk/news/1423490.nuclear-power-station-could-be-built-in-county/
  36. ^ https://www.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/16371652.demolition-confirmed-for-three-remaining-cooling-towers-at-didcot-power-station/

External links[edit]