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Tilbury biomass plant blaze caused by fuel store fire

27 February 2012

The UK’s first dedicated biomass power station caught fire on the morning of 27 February after a blaze in its fuel pellet store. Operator RWE npower said that no injuries had been reported at the site, and all staff were accounted for.

Tilbury is the UK's first dedicated biomass plant
Tilbury is the UK's first dedicated biomass plant

The power station is located to the east of Tilbury Docks on the River Thames, on the site of RWE's ageing coal-fired power plant, which will shut down by the end of 2015.

The 750 megawatt power plant is the UK's first dedicated biomass plant, burning wood pellets, made from compacted sawdust and other wood waste products.

The “severe” blaze, in a storage area containing about 4,000 tonnes of pellets, was brought under control by the late afternoon. 

The blaze is in a storage area that contains 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets
The blaze is in a storage area that contains 4,000 tonnes of wood pellets

About 120 firefighters were tackling the fire at its peak, with extra crews called in from London and further afield.

Essex chief fire officer David Johnson said the huge blaze had been both physically and technically challenging to bring under control.

The fire is at the UK's first dedicated biomass plant
The fire is at the UK's first dedicated biomass plant

Firefighters brought in foam equipment to starve the area of oxygen, but there had been concerns about the integrity of the fuel pellet containers, which could burst as the pellets contained within swelled in contact with the water being sprayed onto the blaze.

In the end, the high-expansion foam used did not cause the pellets to swell, and the firefighters were able to get close to the seat of the fire at the north end of the power station.


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