Lynemouth power station
|Lynemouth power station|
Lynemouth Power Station in July 2008
|Official name||Lynemouth Power Station|
|Owner(s)||1972 to 2013 Rio Tinto Alcan
2013 to 2016 RWE npower
2016 to present EPH
|Thermal power station|
|Primary fuel||Bituminous coal|
|Units operational||Three 140 MW Parsons|
|Nameplate capacity||420 MW|
Lynemouth Power Station is a coal and biomass fired power station which provides electricity for the UK National Grid. Until March 2012, it was the main source of electricity for the nearby Alcan Lynemouth Aluminium Smelter. It is located on the coast of Northumberland, north east of the town of Ashington in north east England. The station has stood as a landmark on the Northumberland coast since it opened in 1972, and has been privately owned by aluminium company Rio Tinto Alcan throughout its operation until December 2013, when RWE npower took over. In January 2016 it has been acquired by Energetický a průmyslový holding.
The station is one of the most recently built coal-fired power stations in the United Kingdom, but with a generating capacity of only 420 megawatts (MW), is now one of the smallest operating. Two separate wind farm plans currently have permission to be built near the station, one for a 13 turbine wind farm near the smelter and another three turbine wind farm to the north of the station. In 2009, Alcan announced that they hope to fit the station with carbon capture and storage technology. In 2011, it was announced that the power station may be converted to burn biomass only, in a bid to avoid government legislation. In January 2016 the station was purchased by Energetický a průmyslový holding (EPH).
In 1968, Alcan had applied for planning permission for the construction of a new aluminium smelter in Northumberland at Lynemouth. Later that year, Alcan was granted the permission and site preparation would soon begin. However, to meet the electric demand of the new smelter, a power station would also be needed to be built. Therefore, Lynemouth Power Station was constructed only 800 m (2,600 ft) from the aluminium smelter.
The two establishments were constructed in South East Northumberland as part of an incentive to lower the high unemployment numbers. The site was also chosen because of the Ellington and Lynemouth collieries. Ellington Colliery sunk in 1909, with Lynemouth Colliery sinking 18 years later. However, in 1968, the two collieries were connected underground by the Bewick Drift, from which coal was brought to the surface. The Drift had no rail connection, and so coal was sent to the washery at Lynemouth by conveyor belt. The power station was constructed nearby the end of the conveyor belt.
Both buildings were designed by architects Yorke Rosenberg Mardall, with engineering consultation from Engineering & Power Consultants Ltd. The power station was constructed by Tarmac Construction and the smelter by M.J. Gleeson Company. Both the power station and smelter were brought into operation in March 1972.
Design and specifications
The power station is divided into structures, which mainly include a boiler house and a turbine hall. Both of these structures have a steel frame foundation in the walls with aluminium cladding. Other structures include a single 114 m (374 ft) tall chimney made out of solid reinforced concrete, and coal delivery and sorting plant.
The station's boiler house houses three 380 MWth International Combustion boilers, which are fuelled by pulverised bituminous coal. Each of these provide steam for one of three 140 megawatt (MW) Parsons turbo-alternators, situated in the station's turbine hall. These give the station a total generating capacity of 420 MW. The electricity generated was fed at 24 kilovolt (kV) to a substation to power the smelter during operation. The substation also has a 132 kV connection to the National Grid, where electricity is distributed to homes and other industries by Northern Electric Distribution Limited. The smelter's two pot lines required 310 MW of the 420 MW that the power station produces, so the excess 110 MW which was fed into the national grid. Since the mothballing of the smelter, all exports now go to the grid.
Between 1999 and 2000, the power station was given a turbine upgrade. In 2000, the station's condensers were also refurbished. The condenser refurbishment was carried out by Alstom. These improvements saw an increase in the station's generating capacity, thermal efficiency and MWh production.
Coal supply and transport
The power station is the leading coal customer in Northumberland, burning 1,200,000 tonnes of coal a year, with a weekly coal consumption between 25,000 and 27,000 tonnes. The station has relatively limited coal storage facilities, and is only able to hold three to four weeks worth of its fuel.
The station was designed specifically to burn coal from the Northumberland coalfields. The neighbouring Ellington Colliery originally fed coal directly to the power station using a conveyor belt from its Bewick Drift Mine, situated 970 metres (3,180 ft) from the station. Within a year of the power station opening, 3,000 men were employed between the Ellington and Lynemouth collieries, producing over two million tons of coal a year, the majority of it being sold to the power station. In 1994, Ellington Colliery connected underground with Lynemouth Colliery, but coal continued to be taken straight to the power station's coal sorting area using conveyor belts. This supply was supplemented by coal from local opencast mines. However, Ellington Colliery was forced to close when it flooded in January 2005. The station burned the colliery's remaining coal stock after it closed, and since then coal has been sourced from opencast mines in Northumberland and Scotland, but now a small amount of import is necessary.
Coal is now delivered to the station mainly using rail transport and is unloaded at the station using a merry-go-round system. Trains supplying the station use the Newbiggin and Lynemouth branch line of the Blyth and Tyne Railway, which also serves the smelter. This line was originally used to export coal from the local coalfield, and also had passenger services. These passenger services ceased in 1964, and now the line is only used to serve the power station and smelter. Coal from the local opencast mines is brought to the station by road using heavy goods vehicles. Coal is graded and washed at the station prior to being burned.
With only one significant opencast in the local area mining past 2008, along with another smaller opencast at Stony Heap, there is a need for more local supplies of coal for the station because of the risks in depending upon overseas sources of coal. Long distance supplies of coal can see sharp fluctuations in price, as well as the flexibility and security of the supply, whereas local sources aren't as vulnerable to interruptions and have fixed, contracted prices. The station is not an established importer of coal, having only imported since 2005. It is situated a long way from the major coal unloading ports of Teesside, Hull and Immingham, which have been booked by power stations closer to them. This means that coal for the power station needs to be imported via Blyth or the Port of Tyne. However, because of the small sizes of these docks, they can only receive ships from Poland and Russia. Due to high production costs and industry restructuring in Poland though, the only realistic source of imported coal for the station is Russia. The environmental impact of shipping 1,000,000 tonnes of coal from Russia to Lynemouth is the production of 12,812 tonnes of CO2, whereas hauling coal from local mines to the station would produce only 703 tonnes of CO2. There are currently two local opencast mines for which planning approval have been granted, one at Shotton near Cramlington approved in 2007, the other at Potland Burn near Ashington approved in October 2008. However, the coal mined from Potland Burn would have too high a sulphur content to meet the station's environmental requirements, meaning it wouldn't be an immediate choice of coal for the station. Coal had been provided by the Delhi surface mine at Blagdon, owned by Banks Developments, since 2002. It finished extracting coal in March 2009, following the permission of extension proposals to its original plans in May 2007.
For creating the steam to turn steam turbines and generate electricity, and for cooling the steam coming away from the turbines, water is needed, and is thus beneficial to have near any thermal power station. The cooling water that is used in the Lynemouth power station is taken from a body of water located close to the plant, the North Sea. The water is transferred from the sea to the plant by a series of shafts and tunnels. There are three condensers (one per each generating set) in the interior of the power station, which are used to cool the heated water before it is reused in the steam cycle. The cooling water is then transferred back to the North Sea.
Water used in the steam cycle is taken from the local mains water, supplied by Northumbrian Water. Up to 300,000 tons of mains water per year is used in the station, however it has to be cleaned of impurities before use. This is done at an on site water treatment plant that uses a process of ion exchange to remove impurities such as silica and control PH levels so as to avoid boiler tube corrosion. This treated water is used to make superheated steam in the coal-fired boilers, that will turn the turbines before being recovered in the condenser and reused.
Operating close to the power station is a fishing bait company, Seabait. Seabait uses some of the excess hot water that the plant generates to grow worms four times as fast as in the wild. The worms are used for several purposes, primarily for providing worms as bait while fishing. However, the worms are also frozen, packaged and exported to seafood farms. This is seen as environmentally beneficial as it reduces the need for bait digging in natural habitats.
Fly ash and bottom ash are two byproducts made through the burning of coal in power stations. Ash is normally dumped in the station's Ash Lagoons landfill site, which is located on site. Since 2006, ash produced at Lynemouth Power Station has been recycled and used as a sub-fill material in the construction industry and in the production of grout. In 2007, 63,000 tonnes of ash from the station, along with 100,000 tonnes of ash from the Ash Lagoons, was taken and recycled. In September 2007, Pulverised Fuel Ash was utilised as a filling material in the capping of Woodhorn Landfill, which had been used for the disposal of spent potlining from the smelter.
In December 2003 the Environment Agency granted permission for the plant to co-fire biomass fuels in the station. Since 2004 three different types of biomass fuel been in use at Lynemouth; Sawdust and Wood pellets from FSC certified forests and Olive residues. These fuels are mixed with the coal on the conveyor belt into the power station. In 2004 11,000 tonnes of biomass fuel were used in the station. Biomass conversion ambitions have increased, with the site currently aiming to be 100% biomass fired from 2015.
The station earned the world class OHSAS 18001 health and safety certificate in 2003, ahead of Alcan's global targets. All of the station's staff were required to take place in safety audits to improve working practice at the station. The certificate was presented to the station's manager by Wansbeck MP Denis Murphy on 15 March 2003. The station's attention to health and safety was further recognised on 6 June 2007 when they were honoured by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) with a RoSPA Occupational Health and Safety Award at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel. Workers at the station had been audited by RoSPA for 10 years before receiving the award.
In late 1994, the power station was flooded to a foot deep of sea water, after a freak high tide and strong winds. This led to a sea defence system being constructed to protect the building. The problems came about because of the temporary closure of Ellington Colliery. Tipped waste from the colliery had been used as a coastal defence measure, but as the colliery had closed, waste was no longer being tipped. The colliery was reopened by RJB Mining, and in July 1999 the station ensured the future of the colliery by signing a contract with RJB Mining to be provided with 3,000,000 tonnes of coal from Ellington Colliery and opencast mines in Northumberland, over the course of three years. The colliery closed for good in 2005, leading to problems with coastal defence again, threatening the station's coal stocking area. This required a £2.5 million new coastal defence scheme be put in place, involving the use of large rocks as a defence wall.
The power station's use of biomass since 2004 has been part of an attempt to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) output. In 2002 and 2004 the station met its targets for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, in 2006 the power station was revealed as having the fourth highest CO2 emissions in the north of England, for producing 2,685,512 tonnes of CO2 per year. However, generally the station reduced it CO2 emissions by 65% between 1990 and 2010, and the local air quality meets UK and European standards.
In 2006 a proposal was made by Hawthorn Power, an offshoot of UK Coal, to construct three 110 m (360 ft) tall wind turbines on an unused part of the station's coal sorting area, north of the power station. Permission was granted for the turbines in February 2008. In July 2010, it was revealed that the project's new developer, Clipper Windpower, would be using the site to erect the country's first super-efficient wind turbines, called Liberty Wind Turbine. However, this meant the height of the turbines would increase from 110 m (360 ft) to 130 m (430 ft). Each turbine would have a rating of 2.5 MW, but only three turbines would be built. The wind farm would produce enough electricity to provide power for 1,690 houses. One turbine is expected to be erected initially, while environmental issues are assessed.
ScottishPower Renewables also have permission to build 13 wind turbines near the aluminium smelter. They were initially refused planning permission, which they submitted in November 2006. This was because their site is spread over two council boundaries and Wansbeck Council approved the scheme, but Castle Morpeth refused. An appeal hearing was given in April 2008, and permission was eventually granted in January 2009 for the construction of up to 13 turbines, producing 30 MW of electricity.
Future of the station
Following a visit to the station by Prime Minister Gordon Brown on 3 July 2009, it became apparent that Rio Tinto Alcan were hoping to be able to demonstrate Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology at the station in the future, using "pre-combustion" CCS technology. This would have involved treating the coal prior to burning so that less CO2 was produced, with any remaining CO2 being pumped under the North Sea into an aquifer. However, due to the economic climate, Rio Tinto did not commit the funding for the project themselves, and did not secure any of the required £1 billion European Union funding available for demonstration of CCS technology. In November 2009 it was announced that a variety of energy experts were preparing for the £1 billion bid to the Government for investment. The plans included a pipeline into the North Sea, and the upgrading of one of the station's generating sets from 140 MW to around 375 MW, to safeguard the supply of electricity to the aluminium smelter.
The European Commission (EC) claimed that Alcan is in breach of their operating licence as the station has failed to "significantly reduce its emissions". The UK Government contested the allegations, as the power station and smelter combined then provided 650 jobs and a contribution of £100,000,000 to the local economy, in an area heavily affected by the loss of traditional heavy industry. They lost the court case over it and on 22 April 2010, the European Court of Justice ruled that the plant was subject to the emission limit values of the European directive on Large Combustion Plants. As a consequence, the station has to have at least £200 million worth of adaptations made to it so that it conforms to the directive, or be shut down. A date has not yet been given for it to conform, but two options for saving the station are the CCS project, or a switch from coal to biomass as a fuel.
Lynemouth's future came further under threat in March 2011, following carbon cutting measures announced in the 2011 United Kingdom budget. The government's plans meant that the station would cost an extra £40 million a year, erasing Rio Tinto Alcan's profits on the station. This has made the station's operators consider the option of converting the power station to operate on biomass only to avoid the penalties. However, this conversion itself would cost 400 million euros million and then using biomass instead of coal would cost an additional £170 million a year.
Cultural use and visual impact
Since its construction, the station has made appearances in a small number of films shot locally. These include:
- Seacoal – a film made by Amber Films in 1985. The station is features heavily as a backdrop in the beach scenes, where the characters are working, collecting seacoal. Photographer Mik Critchlow (who would later become involved with Amber Films' sister company Side Gallery) also documented the seacoalers at Lynemouth, between 1981 and 1983. He also used the power station as an industrial backdrop to some of his images.
- Billy Elliot – a 2000 film directed by Stephen Daldry. The power station and the smelter both feature as an industrial backdrop in the film's cemetery scenes. The power station's coal sorting area is used to represent a colliery.
The chimneys of both the power station and the smelter are strong landmarks on the local coastline, and can be seen over a 25-kilometre (16 mi) stretch of coast, from Cresswell down to South Shields pier.
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- "Those in peril from the sea". Evening Chronicle. 27 January 1995. Retrieved 28 December 2008.[dead link]
- Black, Dave (8 April 2005). "Bid to protect key plant from waves". The Journal. Retrieved 28 December 2008.[dead link]
- "Big Coal Deal Protects Jobs". Evening Chronicle. 5 July 1999. Retrieved 2 January 2009.[dead link]
- "Environmental Report 2004" (PDF). John Clarkson. Alcan. Retrieved 29 July 2008.
- Doherty, Phil (27 August 2006). "Shame of North's Worst Pollution". Sunday Sun. Retrieved 28 December 2008.[dead link]
- Tighe, Chris (23 April 2010). "Doubt cast over power plant's future". The Financial Times. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
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- Black, David (28 July 2010). "New breed of wind turbine set for Lynemouth". The Journal. pp. 1–3. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
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- "Recent case". 22 April 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- Warburton, Dan (25 March 2011). "Lynemouth firm Rio Tinto Alcan says Budget changes have put 600 jobs under threat". Evening Chronicle. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- "Seacoal (1985)". Amber Online. Retrieved 15 July 2009.
- Critchlow, Mik. "004". Amber Online. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
- "Seacoalers". Amber Online. Retrieved 16 July 2009.
- Stephen Daldry – Director (2000). Billy Elliot (DVD). Universal. Event occurs at 00:12:52 – 00:13:35, 01:13:00 – 01:14:30, 01:31:30 – 01:32:20. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
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