Green Wash and Blue NG

Many of BHEAG’s campaigns are centred around projects which have been made to look environmentally friendly – but the devil is in the detail (or usually the lack of it)

Many readers will be familiar with the name Blue NG – a company formed several years ago, which has still failed to build a single plant or produce a single unit of electricity.

The story is here:

Blackrod Biomass Plant

The consultation period for commenting on a new biomass plant has officially ended. The full application can be found here.

The  4MWe plant  at Markland Farm (Douglas Valley golf Course area), was approved three years ago. The applicant has requested to extend the time limit restriction for the development to commence.  The application was considered at Blackrod Town Council, last week. Local councillors appeared frustrated at being denied the opportunity to debate the application in full.  Perhaps without precedence, a request from a member of the public to speak on the application was denied by Councillor Pat Barrow

The member of the public who wished to speak on the application has asked us to publish a letter with his concerns which is below.

“Planning application 86393/11

Dear Ms. Williams, 

                I read with interest the GMP comments posted on the web site, as the suggestions do seem to ensure that the proposed development will stand out in this green belt location.

I went back to the original application to see what had been proposed but I could not find any detailed information. In fact the following comment in the agent’s letter of the 16/10/2008 was all I could find, “modern agricultural green units designed and constructed by Wearings”.  It does not seem correct that this proposal should be considered without some indication of what it will look like, as the lack of this detail does not allow comments to be made on this aspect of the proposal.

The lack of information regarding the building appearance needs be addressed as I am sure that Wearings make many buildings – not all of them being suitable in this green belt location.

Whilst looking through the original application I found it very hard to identify what has actually been agreed. Due to the late, and significant, change to the development the D&A statement, Supporting statement, and EIA screening do not actually cover the development as agreed. Therefore the applicant should create an up to date and comprehensive suite of documentation covering this new application.

This consolidation of the proposal information would also be of great use to anyone looking at the proposal as currently it is very difficult to decide what data is relevant or not due to the fragmented nature of the information supporting the previous application. Currently analysing the proposal is somewhat akin to a paper chase.

When looking through the information I was unable to identify how the development is to be connected to the national grid. If you are aware of this detail I would be grateful if you could point me towards it if it has not been provided could you ask the applicant for the details.

While I was reviewing the original application I was reminded that there was very little information regarding the technical aspects of the gasification equipment (A sales type brochure being the only information provided). Without this information it is impossible to fully assess the proposal and its environmental impacts.

A confirmation from the manufactures of the amounts of fuel required by the facility is required, as the agent in their letter of the 16/10/2008 states that in the region of 61 tonnes a day will be used by the plant. This is at odds with a statement by the equipment manufacturer that a 1Mw facility will consume 1 T/hr (at 15% moisture content). This equates to 96 T/day for a 4 Mw facility. The wood used by this facility will have a much higher moisture content than 15% (up to a content of 50%). So using a figure of 30% would mean that the facility would use 109T/day. (Appendix 1).

Confirmation by the manufacturer of the typical traffic movements that would be caused by the proposal should be given. Appendix 1 shows the bulk density of wood chips to be 0.2 T/m3 the bulk density chopped log wood is 50% greater i.e. 0.3 T/m3. This would suggest that the daily fuel deliveries would be 31 20T tipper lorries (62 vehicle movements).  This assumes that 20T tippers are used and every one is full. There is nothing to say that smaller vehicles or partial loads could not be used thereby dramatically increasing the traffic movements.

The visual appearance of the exhaust gasses should also be explained as the facility generates somewhere in the region of 8 Mw of thermal energy, much of it being emitted to atmosphere. An indication of its appearance would seem to be a reasonable request given its green belt location.

The typical emissions from the stack should be identified by the equipment manufacturer. The agent in their letter of the 16/10/2008 makes a number of statements regarding the emissions. Confirmation of these facts by the equipment manufacturer would seem to be appropriate as they will be responsible / accountable for compliance to them.

There are links between gasification of treated wood and harmful emissions (Appendix 2) and the agent in their letter simply asserts that treated wood will not be burnt without explaining how this will be achieved. Therefore the possible emissions and mitigation strategies are relevant and should be included in this application.

It has also been stated that the proposed equipment can not use treated wood, once again this should be confirmed by the manufacturer as they seem to state that it can use treated wood (Appendix 3).

The provision of this information is vital to allow a proper understanding of the environmental implications of this proposal.”

The appendices can be found at Appendices

Pilkington Quarry – Cleaner, Greener, Safer, Lawful ?


All three current applications for Pilkington quarry 83299, 83999, and 84065 will be considered at planning commitee 14th of October. The public are invited to attend at the Town Hall from 2pm.

Between the three applications they seek to extend quarrying activities in the existing, fully extracted quarry until 2042. They also seek to extend the quarry boundaries significantly and introduce recycling.

The officers report is not available at this time and it is not publically  known   how the committee wil be recommended to vote. Once again potentially important documents from the Environment Agency and the GMGU have not been posted on-line, stiffling the public consultation. BHEAG are currently trying to get hold of these documents.  It is understood, a 106 agreement will also be made for the appeal.

 c 1500 people have signed petitions against the proposals and many thousands of pounds have been donated to the various legal challenges which have been necessary to ensure that the implications of the developments are fully considered.

An application for the Blue Ng /2OC biomass plant in Blackrod has not been made at this time.

“The right to development is the measure of the respect of all other human rights.”   Kofi Annan


Two Towns Forum 14 September, 2010 Blue-NG / 2OC

It was a record turnout to a Blackrod and Horwich Two Towns forum, hosted in the Blackrod Community Centre last night. At the start of the new school year, approaching 200 local people from the sleepy village of Blackrod,  – it was standing room only and was an indication of sentiment to the proposed power plant in the area.

 The meeting kicked off with a 25 minute presentation, which clearly frustrated many in the audience due to its lack of appropriate content and detail. The main point conveyed were that the size of the proposed plant will be slashed c50% to 19.5 MWe. (editors comment:  rather similar in size to the Southall plant, which was cancelled after the Secretary of State agreed that there would be an unacceptable deterioration in air quality.) This had not surprised many in the audience, as the original proposal had been obscenely inneficient  for a CHP plant due to the amount of waste heat it would have produced, which many residents had been told was necessary for the safe operation of the plant due to variable demand from the facility. One person commented it is like applying for a skyscraper in a row of thatched cottages and then saying we have reduced it to a block of flats.

The visual impact of the 1 hectare facility is not believed to have significantly changed and the sheer size and location can hardly be considered a sensitive exploitation of a renewable energy source.

A throw away comment that in terms of the visual appearance of the facility “you will loose it as you climb up the hill” did nothing to re-assure residents along Chorley Road and Waterhouse Nook and those who use the public footpaths  in the area  or indeed the A6 who do not benefit  from the new landscape screening. Unfortunately the detail was missing and people who had attended the various public meetings have been left little wiser for the experience.

Another point was that Blue NG would donate a proportion of turnover to the community, estimated at c £50,000 per annum. This was almost met with anger by the audience – with one person suggesting it did not count as a Very Special Circumstance, for the inappropriate development in the Greenbelt. Blue NG however should be commended for the gesture, and whilst they will receive 10s of million pounds in government subsidies, they must have realised how local people would react – to what is actually a positive move.

Blue NG further went on to tell the audience that the £1,000,000 in business rates would help the local community. The first question of the night however shot this down in flames, as business rates are pooled by central government and re-distributed to local councils according to the number of people living in the area – benefit to Blackrod £83 ????

The second question of the night was John Price – chair of BHEAG, who first thanked Blue NG for their c £50,000 annual gesture to the community should planning permission be granted..  In various correspondence to BHEAG Blue NG have indicated that they would consider using up to 9 different fuels at the plant, rather than just the headline Rapeseed oil and Used Vegetable Oil. The question was whether these fuels would be considered in the formal application, together with their emissions.  The answer seemed to avoid the question – read into that “no”

The night didn’t improve – statements such as “We are proud of our record”  and “We do not use palm oil” did not sit well with the audience, as Blue NG do not currently have a biomass plant, they do not have a record and they don’t use anything.

The issue of large tankers turning into the site was raised-on what is one of the most dangerous roads in the county. Solar powered warning signs didn’t re-assure residents familiar with the area. Due to lack of time the widening of the public footpath to allow tanker access and the resultant visual damage to the A6 and  were not discussed, nor was the imapct of getting any power produced to the sub station – understood tobe over 7 KM away from the plant.

Given the number of recent fires in the area the safety of the unmanned site was questioned – the audience were unconvinced with the answers.

Blue NG were keen to impress on the audience that they considered Palm Oil to be unsustainable and environmentally unfriendly and they would only be using rapeseed oil. When considered with used vegetable oil, the UK rapeseed oil surplus would be sufficient to fuel approximately 7-10 plants the size of the reduced Blackrod plant,  Blue NG did not see the need for futher UK planting.  The impact on the now regular European shortfall resulting in increased European Palm oil imports ignored.

The cost of of not using palm oil at the Blackrod site was estimated by Blue NG to be in the region of £6,000,000 per annum. 

The name Blue-NG is likely to change as National Grid pull out of the joint venture with 20C.  The latter are believed to be in complex legal discussions with National Grid and trying to raise finance, not least of all because the building of the prosed plants appears to rely on National grid financing the debt. Blue NG indicated that they were talking to potential financial backers in both the USA and the Middle East.

The audience were further frustrated when questioning was halted due to limitation of time – with members of the audience clearly attributing the blame to the 25 minute ramble at the beginning.

The why Blackrod question has still not been  answered convincingly. Andrew Mercer CEO of 2OC states that there are over 12,000 gas pressure reduction stations in the UK and hopes to be generating 10 GW  by this method within ten years -thats nearly 600 plants the size of Blackrod (and an awful lot of rapeseed oil) – so early on this ambitious target do Very Special Circumstances exist ? 

Discussions with Blue NG post the meeting indicated that they had clearly not been aware of the cumulative effects of developments in the area and many of the local issues.

The Blackrod “Powering the Future” leaflet produced by Blue NG, states in the current tense “We do not have a negative impact on our neighbours”  Given the current anxiety in the area this does not hold true and promises about the future, when the plants are built remain unconvincing.

An application has not yet been submitted to Bolton Council if this does happen more detailed objectons will be raised.

On behalf of the group we would like to thank everyone who attended and assure you of our continued commitment to the community.

The Bolton News

National Grid to Pull out of Blue NG

EU anti-monopoly rules have meant that industry giant National Grid will be forced to sell its 50 per cent stake in Blue NG

Bath-based company Blue NG, a 50-50 Joint Venture between National Grid and start-up company 2OC. The latter is currently believed to still be seeking finance and resolving complex legal matters.

Work on the Beckton Plant is not yet believed to have started

Robert Palgrave from the pressure group Biofuelwatch said: “The news that the National Grid is pulling out of this biofuel venture is welcome.  Any investor who is looking at the schemes should be aware that there will continue to be significant opposition to biofuel power stations anywhere in the UK because they are a disaster for climate, biodiversity and people both in the global south and locally, due to the health impacts of air pollution.”

This is Bath

Blue NG / 2OC Power Plant – Blackrod

“The plant is simply too big, on protected Green Belt land, and its environmental credentials are questionable. There are thousands of gas reduction plants around the UK It is proposed to be located at a gas reduction plant, miles away from the fuel source, miles away from the electrical grid, with little or no opportunity to utilise the waste heat – all key points in choosing appropriate locations.”  RAGE – Residents Against Greenbelt Exploitation, 02 Aug 2010.

Your chance to question Blue NG and ask Bolton Council to listen to your views:

Two towns Forum;      Tuesday 14 September, 2010 ;  Blackrod Community Centre

Main Meeting 7.00pm,  Questions to Councillors 6.30pm

More information can be found HERE

Technical Summary Produced by Blue-NG (please note this has been supersceeded by the announcement by Blue NG 14 September,2010 to reduce the size of the plant to c 19 MWe. No further information has been made public)

Click image to enlarge