Tilbury power stations

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Tilbury power stations
Tilbury power station.jpg
Tilbury B Power Station
Viewed from the west in May 2008
Tilbury power stations is located in Essex
Tilbury power stations
Location of Tilbury power stations in Essex
Country England
Location Tilbury
Coordinates 51°27′18″N 0°23′30″E / 51.454926°N 0.391677°E / 51.454926; 0.391677Coordinates: 51°27′18″N 0°23′30″E / 51.454926°N 0.391677°E / 51.454926; 0.391677
Status Decommissioned
Commission date A station: 1956
B station: 1967
Decommission date 2013
Owner(s) Central Electricity Generating Board
National Power
Innogy plc
Thermal power station
Primary fuel Coal
Secondary fuel Oil
Tertiary fuel Biomass
Power generation
Nameplate capacity A station: 360 MW
B station: 1,428 MW
grid reference TQ661756

The Tilbury power stations were two fossil fuel power stations on the north bank of the River Thames at Tilbury in Essex. The 1,428 MW Tilbury B Power Station had operated between 1967 and 2013 and fired coal, as well as co-firing oil and biomass. The former oil-fired 360 MW Tilbury A Power Station operated from 1956 until 1981 when it was mothballed. The former system generated enough electricity to meet the electrical requirements of 1.4 million people, equivalent to 80% of the population of Essex.[1]


Tilbury A and B stations in 1973

A station[edit]

Following construction which began in 1951, Tilbury 'A' station was commissioned in 1956 by the CEGB. It was mothballed in 1981 and eventually part demolished in 1999, mostly everything including the turbine hall was demolished. the waste water and a small part of the station still remains due to being a listed building[2]

B station[edit]

The CEGB began construction of a much larger new station, Tilbury 'B', in 1961. This was opened in 1968. On privatisation in 1990 it was assigned to National Power, but was later operated by RWE npower. The jetty was enlarged in 2004 to accommodate ships carrying up to 65,000 tons of coal.[2]

Conversion to biomass[edit]

In May 2011, RWE began converting the B station to burn biomass only. They hoped for the conversion to allow 750 MW of electricity to be generated from burning wood pellets imported from a pelleting plant in Georgia, USA, and other sources from Europe by the winter of 2011. This conversion would make the station the biggest biomass generating site in the world.[3]

In July 2013 RWE npower announced they were halting the conversion due to difficulty in converting and financing the plant. It was mothballed after failing to receive a government grant and is now being decommissioned.[4]

C station[edit]

In early 2007, npower announced plans to replace the B station with a 1,600 MW 'cleaner' coal-fired power station. The station would have cost £1 billion to build and was hoped to be operational by 2014. The plans were supported by the Port of London Authority.[5] RWE had also planned to build a clean coal power station at Blyth but they have since postponed both schemes.

Design and specification[edit]

The B station contained four generating units, one of which has been decommissioned since the stations opening and is now redundant, only being used as spare parts for maintenance of the remaining 3 generating units, all 4 units were available before this with a combined capacity of 1428 MW, enough power for 1.4 million people, approximately 80% of the population of Essex.[6] Cooling water is drawn from the Thames. Fuel is delivered by ship to dedicated unloading jetties. The station connects to the National Grid at the nearby 275 kV substation.

Decommissioned Tilbury B power station seen from Gravesend


2008 boiler incident[edit]

On 1 July 2008, an engineer servicing an offline boiler at the station fell 20 ft (6.1 m) from scaffolding into the boiler. Crews used an internal staircase in the boiler to rescue him.[7]

2009 fire[edit]

A fire broke out at the power station on 29 July 2009 shortly after 3 pm, with the failure of one of the station's high-pressure turbine units. Workers were evacuated immediately and the fire was reported to be under control by 5:30 pm. There were no casualties.[8]

2012 fire[edit]

A major fire broke out in a fuel storage area of the station on the morning of 27 February 2012. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service mobilised over 120 firefighters to the fire, which involved some 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes of fuel in storage cells, two of which were described as "well alight".

Essex Chief Fire Officer David Johnson reported that firefighting operations were hindered by the fact that the blaze was high up in the main structure of the station, which was also heavily smoke-logged. In addition to 15 pumping appliances, crews used three aerial ladder platforms, one major rescue tender, three bulk foam tenders and a thermal-imaging camera in a helicopter to help tackle the fire. Support crews were drafted in from the London Fire Brigade.[9]

Despite initial reports, another fire in the adjacent Tilbury docks which started around the same time was not connected to the larger blaze at the power station. It took firefighters several hours to bring the power station fire under control, and relief crews remained at the site for days afterward dousing and removing embers. An investigation into the cause is ongoing.


  1. ^ "Tilbury Power Station". RWE. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit. "Tilbury Wildlife Pond Tilbury Essex: Archaeological Monitoring and Recording" (PDF). Archaeology Data Service. p. 3. Retrieved 31 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Macalister, Terry (30 May 2011). "RWE to convert Tilbury power station into biomass plant". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Fiona Harvey and Natalie Starkey (5 July 2013). "RWE npower closes Tilbury biomass power station". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 July 2013. ref name=guardian-20130705>Terry Macalister (16 August 2013). "Tilbury power station mothballed after investment burns out". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  5. ^ "PLA welcome for proposed new power station on Thames". Port of London Authority. 14 March 2007. Retrieved 15 November 2009. 
  6. ^ Tilbury Power Station, RWE npower
  7. ^ "Incidents". Essex County Fire & Rescue Service. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2009. 
  8. ^ "Fire breaks out at power station" (STM). BBC News. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 2 November 2009. 
  9. ^ "Tilbury power station blazes as wood pellets catch fire". BBC News. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 

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