Richborough Power Station

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Coordinates: 51°18′38″N 1°20′46″E / 51.31058°N 1.34601°E / 51.31058; 1.34601

The three cooling towers and chimney of Richborough power station, prior to demolition

Richborough power station was a power station close to the mouth of the River Stour near Sandwich, on the east coast of Kent. It operated from 1962 to 1996; the towers were demolished on 11 March 2012. It was built on land within the Port of Richborough but being on the northern edge its site lies mostly within the neighbouring parish of Minster, Kent. BFL Management Ltd, the current owners of the site plan to bring it back into use as the £750 million Richborough Energy Park.


View inside one of the cooling towers

The Central Electricity Generating Board started construction of the power station in 1958, with Unit 1 coming online in December 1963, and Unit 2 following in August 1963.[1] It opened as a 342MW coal-fired station, using coal from Kent and other coalfields. [2][3][4]

It was converted to burn oil in summer 1971[1][5] and further converted in 1989 to burn a proprietary oil and water emulsion called Orimulsion, imported from Venezuela through Port Richborough.[6]

The site was also chosen as the site for an experimental 1MW wind turbine, which was at that time the largest ever installed in the UK,[6] with permission given in 1987,[7] and the turbine becoming live in 1989.[6]

After growing concerns over the environmental effects of the Orimulsion fuel in the main power station,[8] court action was taken in two separate actions,[9] with both cases settled out of court.[6] the 360MW station ceased generating in 1996.[10][11]


Following the plant closure, the majority of the equipment was removed during a strip out programme, which also saw the demolition of a number of the buildings, leaving only a few outbuildings, the office block and the landmark cooling towers and chimney standing.[6]

In controlled blasts, the three 97m cooling towers and a single 127m chimney stack were demolished at 9:07am on 11 March 2012. Some locals had campaigned to keep the towers, saying they formed part of the historical landscape and were used as a navigation point by boats wanting to enter the mouth of the river stour known to have a narrow channel of useful depth.[11]


The current owner of the site, BFL Management Ltd, plan to bring the site back into use as a £750 million green energy park. The national grid interconnector from the original power station is still in place, and is now the grid link for the offshore Thanet Wind Farm.[6][12]

There are additional plans to create additional recycling and green energy facilities on site, including an anaerobic digester, a waste processing plant, a biomass combined heat and power generator, a pyrolysis plant and a peak demand 30MW diesel generator.[13] When fully operational, the park could provide up to 1,400MW of power, employing 100 full-time equivalent, with up to 500 jobs in the construction phase.[11] National Grid plans to use part of the site for a new interconnector with Belgium. A 1000MW High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) 130 km undersea link with the Belgium transmission operator, Elia, would allow power to flow in both directions. This would be the third link from the UK National Grid to Europe, the others being the Britned 1000MW link to the Netherlands commissioned in 2011 and the IFA 2000MW link to France commissioned in 1986. The link should be in operation in 2018.

In popular culture[edit]

The power station can be seen in several scenes of the 2008 film Son of Rambow, and was the location for the 2003 Channel 4 television series Full Metal Challenge. More recently a brief clip of the demolition of the cooling towers was used by Alter Bridge in their official music video for 'Addicted to Pain' off their 2013 album Fortress.


  1. ^ a b ""Richborough", leaflet by the CEGB South-Eastern Region" (PDF). n.d. Retrieved 3 October 2016. 
  2. ^ "Power Stations (Costs)". Hansard HC Deb 18 March 1963 vol 674 cc16-7W. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  3. ^ "Power Station, Richborugh". Hansard HC Deb 16 February 1959 vol 600 c1W. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  4. ^ "Statue of Miner, Kent". Hansard HC Deb 09 January 1996 vol 269 c63W. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  5. ^ "Coal Industry (dispute)". Hansard HC Deb 08 February 1972 vol 830 cc1143-270. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "History". Richborough Energy Park. 
  7. ^ "Power Stations". Hansard HC Deb 09 May 1990 vol 172 cc168-9W. 1990. Retrieved 29 July 2009. 
  8. ^ "Orimulsion". Hansard HC Deb 06 July 1992 vol 211 cc78-9W. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  9. ^ "Environment Bill [H.L.]". Hansard HL Deb 20 March 1995 vol 562 cc1016-81. Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "POWERGEN: PRELIMINARY RESULTS (1995/6)". Retrieved 28 July 2009. 
  11. ^ a b c "Richborough Power Station Demolished (VIDEO)". 11 March 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  12. ^ "Design and Access Statement In support of an Application to construct a new access road at Richborough Power Station East Kent" (PDF). Dover District Council. 2007. Retrieved 30 July 2009. 
  13. ^ "Our Proposals". Richborough Energy Park.