Burning Wood in Power Stations – Public Health Impacts

Burning Wood in Power Stations: Public Health Impacts , Biofuelwatch briefing

Playing with Fire: Wood pellets, fires and explosions

Fires and explosions at biomass power infrastructure are common occurrences. The two documents linked below were put together by PT-RAPS, Port Talbot Residents Against Power Stations, and list 76 reported pellet fires and wood dust explosions over a four year period, between March 2008 and August 2012.

News articles and reports of fires & explosions

Spreadsheet listing fires & explosions

The documents above only cover pellet and wood dust fires – woodchipping plants have also experienced similar accidents. There have also been many reports of fires and explosions since 2012, including:

November 2012: Explosion at 600 megawatt coal/biomass facility in Nijmegen, Netherlands

December 2012: Fire at Vattenfall power station in Copenhagen, Denmark

September 2013: Sawdust explosion at pellet plant, New Zealand

October 2013: Fire at Port of Tyne wood pellet storage facility

November 2013: Fire at Fitchburg pellet plant, USA

The Energy Justice Network’s Biomass Monitor has also reported on numerous industry fires and explosions in recent years – up to May 2013 (when the research was conducted), fires and/or explosions had occurred at 22 industrial biomass incinerators, whilst over 45 wood pellet plants and 20 wood products mills had experienced fires of varying levels of impact.


Sickly Sweet: Human Rights Conditions for Sugarcane Workers in Western Nicaragua

Sickly Sweet: Human Rights Conditions for Sugarcane Workers in Western Nicaragua, Report by La Isla Foundation, which documents the contrast between legal protections of Nicaraguan sugarcane workers and the reality of their working and living conditions.

Is toxic algae good for you?

Is toxic algae good for you?, Article by Rachel Smolker about synthetic biology and algal biofuels, published by Huffington Post

A new look at land-grabs in the global South linked to EU biomass policies

Miro Forestry tree plantations in GhanaA new look at land-grabs in the global south linked to EU biomass policies, report by Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch

NGOs, policy makers and industry analysists have predicted that Europe’s fast-growing demand for wood pellets and woodchips for bioenergy will increasingly be through imports from the global South – especially from Africa and South America (especially Brazil).  There are serious concerns that such a trend will exacerbate land-grabbing in those regions. Continue reading A new look at land-grabs in the global South linked to EU biomass policies

As a strategic shareholder, is this in line with Wilmar’s No Deforestation Policy?

As a strategic shareholder, is this in line with Wilmar’s No Deforestation Policy? – Report by Greenomics about ongoing the destruction of High Carbon Stock forests for palm oil in Sulawesy by two companies in which Wilmar holds a 20% share

Recording community opposition to big biomass projects

A new website has been created to allow concerned residents to record experiences of living next door to the UK’s biggest biomass power station.

markinch flyer front

In Markinch and Glenrothes in Scotland, the biggest biomass power station in the UK has recently reached completion. It is unknown what the impacts of this development will be on nearby communities over the long-term, with some members of the community already experiencing difficulties such as noise pollution.

While it is too late to prevent the plant from operating, it is not too late to make sure that the operator, RWE, is held accountable to the local community. Markinch Community Concerns was set up with support from Biofuelwatch for just this purpose. The aim being to make sure that RWE keep their promises and that SEPA continues to monitor the situation in the best interests of the people directly affected. Gathering a collective body of evidence will also allow members of the community to have a bigger impact on informing decision making in the future, rather than registering individual complaints.

The website encourages people experiencing impacts from the power station to share their stories and to register their complaint with SEPA. The site is supported by a facebook group.

You can visit the site here

Groups: Sign on to stop GE Trees in Brazil


Photo: Anne Petermann/ Global Justice Ecology Project

Photo: Anne Petermann/ Global Justice Ecology Project

Campaign to STOP GE Trees – Sign On to Support the call by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject G.E. eucalyptus trees:

Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano wants to commercially plant Genetically Modified eucalyptus in Brazil.  Suzano is responsible for large-scale landgrabbing and destruction of highly biodiverse forests, including in Maranhao.  Now, through their UK-registered subsidiary FutureGen, they want to be the first to commercialise GE trees in Brazil.  They claim that their GE eucalyptus will have higher yields and thus need less land – but in Brazil and elsewhere, higher yield tree plantations have always meant more profits for plantation companies and thus more, not less, land conversion.  Furthermore, high yields always mean more water use – in additon to the serious environmental risks of genetically engineering trees.

Plesae click here to read and sign the call on the Brazilian government to refuse Suzano permission for releasing their GE eucalyptus (organisations/groups only)!  See here for a background article by the World Rainforest Movement.

Resources – Biomass

A slist of peer-reviewed studies, NGO reports, briefings and letters on biomass

See also: Map of UK biomass power stations

Frequently Asked Questions

Biomass Sustainability Standards – a Credible Tool for Avoiding Negative Impacts from Large-scale Bioenergy?, joint briefing by Biofuelwatch, Global Forest Coalition and Econexus

Report by Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch: Wood Bioenergy: Green Land Grabs For Dirty ‘Renewable’ Energy

Biofuelwatch Report: Biomass: The Chain of Destruction (including the case report Plantations for Energy: A Case Study of Suzano’s plantations for wood pellet exports in the Baixo Parnaíba region, Maranhão, Brazil by Ivonete Gonçalves de Souza  from CEPEDES and Winfridus Overbeek from World Rainforest Movement)

Biofuelwatch Report: Sustainable Biomass – A modern myth

Briefing about RWE’s biomass power station in Markinch

RWE’s biomass power station in Markinch: What might the environmental and public health impacts be?, Biofuelwatch briefing