After my previous post about Blue-NG’s plans to harness geopressure technology from the UK gas pipeline to generate renewable electricity, raised considerable interest, I have looked into some of the points of discussion and felt a further blog was necessary.

An architect's drawing for the planned building at Beckton

An architect's drawing of the planned site at Beckton, East London

The first of the eight schemes will install a highly efficient power station at a pressure reduction station (PRS) in Beckton, East London. It will utilize innovative Combined Heat and intelligent Power (CHiP) technology, with an expected energy potential of 19.5MWe – enough to power 50,000 homes. Click here to see the BBC’s report on this scheme.

Blue-NG has confirmed that there is no use of geopressure technology to generate ‘clean’ energy as detailed in the previous post, and other reports of the project. Blue-NG confirmed that despite early consideration of geo-pressure options for 2OC‘s agreement with the National Grid, this project is now only concerned with CHiP technology to capture heat, and not pressure.  Whilst 2OC campaigned for geopressure to be recognized in the Renewables Obligation, this will only benefit geopressure projects they may develop later; however this scheme will still benefit from ROCS for the use of fuel and heat.

Nevertheless, Blue-NG claim that the CHiP (click here for diagram) is the world’s most efficient generator, reaching a maximum efficiency of 96% and therefore boasts a number of environmental benefits.

It will produce electricity in three ways:

1.     A diesel engine will produce electricity from burning liquid biomass – locally grown and sustainable rapeseed oil sourced from within 50 miles of London. This will replace the gas boilers currently used to pre-heat the gas at PRSs to avoid unacceptable temperature drops (which may freeze pipes and valves) during the normal gas pressure reduction process.

2.     Surplus heat will be captured and used for local district heating

3.     The remaining surplus heat will be used to heat the natural gas in the National Grid’s PRS as part of its normal process operation, to ensure pipes and valves do not freeze as the pressure of the gas is reduced. 

Despite support from Greenpeace, the project has attracted criticism from some environmental organizations, including Biofuels Watch, who remain concerned about the health and sustainability issues relating to production of electricity from biofuels. They claim that the use of biofuels provokes a number of issues, including the displacement of food, human and animals, as well as leading to deforestation in developing countries from which they are imported.

However, Blue-NG highlight that the Section 106 agreement – a condition applied to the project by Newham council, requires them to source their fuel from sustainable sources, and prove that they have not displaced crops. This would allow the council to monitor the fuels used by the plant at any time, although some argue that this may still be difficult to police.

Richard Lyddon, from Blue-NG added that, the company’s sustainable procurement policy, developed with support from Greenpeace, commits them to sourcing rapeseed oil, (which will be processed) from credited farmers within 50 miles of the site.

Rapeseed is currently used as a break crop by farmers, and as a result of the EU abandoning the ‘set-aside’ policy for farmers, 10,000 hectares of land is expected to become available for growing rapeseed in the 50 mile radius from which Blue-NG will be procuring these crops. Lyddon confirmed that the project would only use rapeseed oil, and not palm oil, which was mentioned in an original tender. However, objectors of the project remain skeptical about whether the plan to source such a level of biofuels locally is realistic, and recognize the additional environmental costs of shipping the fuel to site.

Whilst Blue-NG plan to contribute to climate change mitigation through ongoing implementation of their CHiP technology after the 8 planned schemes and the government continues to incentivise biofuels through the Renewables Obligation (RO), many environmental organizations, including Biofuels Watch, remain unconvinced and argue that biofuels are simply unsustainable.

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