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Tilbury Power Plant in England Smolders After Pellet Fire

RWE AG is generating limited amounts of power at its Tilbury facility in the U.K. as firefighters douse smoldering embers after a wood pellet fire yesterday shut the plant.

The whole station, converted last year to run entirely on wood pellets rather than coal, was shut for most of yesterday and two of the plant’s three units remain halted today, according to National Grid Plc data. Unit 8 at the site switched on at about 9 p.m. local time last night and was generating about 95 megawatts as of 11 a.m. today, grid data show.

“Units 9 and 10, where the fire occurred, are being emptied of fuel,” RWE Npower, the company’s U.K. unit, said in an e-mailed statement. “Unit 8 is currently generating energy in order to safely empty its hopper of any remaining biomass.” The power station is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) east of London. RWE also generates power from coal, natural gas, nuclear and wind turbines across Europe.

Local brigades are “continuing to remove pellets from the hoppers while at the same time maintaining a foam blanket on the affected hoppers to prevent the fuel from re-igniting,” according to a 7:45 a.m. filing on the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service website.

RWE, along with Drax Group Plc, International Power Plc and SSE Plc, is looking to boost the use of biomass in its power stations in the U.K. The fuel is considered to have a neutral affect on the climate as trees take in carbon dioxide when they grow and release it when burned. RWE gets a subsidy from the U.K. government for using the fuel and doesn’t have to pay for European emissions allowances.

`Killer Risk'

“It is unlikely that this would represent a killer risk to biomass, but it will raise extra costs near term for monitoring and perhaps longer term for improvements in storage facilities and handling,” Chris Rogers, a utilities analyst at Bloomberg Industries in London, said in an e-mailed note.

Power for the next working day rose for a fifth day to 46.60 pounds ($73.91) a megawatt-hour. The Tilbury station’s capacity is equal to about 1.7 percent of the amount of electricity generated at all U.K. plants at 9:50 a.m., according to National Grid data on Bloomberg.

RWE said it’s begun investigating the cause of the fire and will review the damage over the coming days.

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