The company behind the controversial biofuel power plant planned for Avonmouth has hit back at criticisms of the operation, following last week’s government decision to allow the plant to go ahead.
Two weeks ago, the Government granted planning permission for W4B Bristol’s power station. In issuing his decision, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles stated that the sustainability of the plant was required to meet European standards.
However, the decision letter expresses confidence that the fuels used will meet sustainability criteria set out in the Government’s renewable obligation certificate financial support system.
The victory was described as “Pyrrhic” by Liberal Democrat councillors in Bristol, who questioned whether W4B would still invest the money required to build the plant.
Robert Palgrave of Biofuelwatch added: “If this development goes ahead, despite apparently being uneconomic, it will increase rather than cut global greenhouse gas emissions, and hasten the end of tropical rainforests.”
But in a statement, W4B said it was fully aware of the environmental issues and defended where it received its fuel sources from.
“The company is fully aware of the environmental issues resulting from illegal logging and illegal destruction of rainforests in South East Asia and the damage these practices inflict on the local ecosystem,” the statement read.
“It is also aware that the majority of palm oil is used by major international food companies as an ingredient in many of the foods we eat. Its production has been going on for decades and companies such as Unilever pay a premium for palm oil from mills that only accept fresh fruit bunches harvested from plantations that are fully sustainable and were planted many years ago avoiding peatland and wetland and without involving deforestation.
“W4BRE’s fuel sourcing strategy involves working with local partners to identify established mills fed by sustainable plantations. During the commercial process, crude palm oil is extracted from the fresh fruit bunches and at the very end of the production process, many of these mills allow the water used to clean and purify the various grades of palm oil to run off into the local river system or gather in large ponds or pits near to the mills.
“This waste water contains a percentage of what is called sludge oil, a product that cannot be used in the food chain. An Australian company has established itself to clean up this environmentally unfriendly waste by extracting the sludge oil which, once separated from the water and cleaned, can be recycled to fuel modified engines that will generate heat and power.
“The Australian company, Global Biofuels Trading, is entering into an agreement with W4BRE to supply up to 40,000 tonnes of waste sludge oil annually to the Portland [Dorset] plant.
“There is estimated to be some 40 million tonnes of waste sludge oil produced by the palm oil production process, more than enough to allow 1,000 plants the size of Portland to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This would be sufficient to provide 20 GW of low carbon electricity to the National Grid, almost a quarter of current UK annual consumption.
“This waste oil is fully sustainable and its removal from the local environment provides positive benefits for the local communities. Other benefits are that not one additional palm needs to be planted to provide this fuel, nor does it reduce by one gram, the amount of palm oil entering the food chain.
“W4BRE is committed to using this waste oil at its plant and plans to employ a traceability programme developed by Johnson Matthey subsidiary Tracerco to ensure that every shipment of waste oil can be demonstrated to fully meet the sustainability criteria guidelines set by the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive.”