7 MW biofuel power station in Barnsley, UK

Hargreaves Services Plc has set up a subsidiary company called Rocpower Ltd to generate electricity from vegetable oil. Hargreaves itself is a supplier of services and fossil fuels, including coal, to conventional power station operators and they are also investing in one of the UK’s biggest opencast coal mines, in Wales.

Rocpower are planning to build at least SIX biofuel power stations in Yorkshire and Lancashire, with a total generating capacity of 60MW. This is three times the size of the power station Blue NG wants to build in Southall, so Rocpower’s total fuel consumption across the six planned sites is likely to be at least 150,000 tonnes per year.

Rocpower has submitted planning applications for at least four of the six power stations and one of them has been approved:

  • Wakefield – 11 MW: This has been approved on the basis of an application which refers to plans to burn palm oil and is planned in Featherstone.
  • Barnsley – 7MW: The initial planning application was withdrawn. It has now been resubmitted ( Planning application No. 2009/1539). The plans are for Baraugh Green.
  • Sheffield – 8MW: Planning application No. 09/02979/FUL, to be built in Ecclesfield. Planning Committee date not yet announced.
  • Leeds- 19 MW input / 7 MW output; Application Ref: 10/02274/FU. No committee date yet. To be built in Bramham, with palm oil specified as one likely feedstock.

Rocpower claim in a statement in their new planning application that they intend to burn both tall oil (a byproduct from paper production) and different types of vegetable oil which they call “co-products” and which are neither used cooking oil nor, by their definition, “virgin vegetable oil”. They give no indication as to which types of biofuels would meet their definition. Another biofuel company, W4B, is trying to argue that a type of palm oil called palm stearin is a “byproduct” even though it is used for food, soap and candles. Other companies have argued that soybean oil is a “byproduct” because soybeans also yield soy meal used for animal feed. There is nothing to stop Rocpower from using the same “logic” because different products are gained when any type of vegetable oil is processed, whether palm, soya or rapeseed. Furthermore, Rocpower have once again submitted an older Environmental Review to the planning department in Barnsley which refers to palm oil plans!

Furthermore, even if “residues” were used, something Rocpower do not commit themselves to, the indirect impacts could be very negative, as demonstrated in a study commissioned by the Renewable Fuels Agency. Burning “residues” which would otherwise be used by the food industry or for making soap or cosmetics, can, for example, boost the overall demand for palm oil.

The power station is planned inside an Air Quality Management Area, i.e. an area with high levels of air pollution. It will increase levels of nitrogen oxides and small particulates which are linked to respiratory and heart disease, as well as emissions of PAHs which are linked to cancer and birth defects.

The planning documents can be found here.

IF YOU LIVE IN THE UK please send in an objection to Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council as soon as possible. If possible, please personalise the letter below before emailing it to the Council’s Planning Department.

Please let your friends and family know. Many thanks.

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