Tilbury power station

From Global Energy Monitor

Tilbury B Power Station was a 978-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station located in Essex, UK, that operated from 1970 until 2011.

RWE npower proposed to establish a new 1,600 megawatt supercritical coal plant at the site but, in November 2009, announced that it had shelved these plans.


The undated satellite photo below shows the power station on the north bank of the River Thames at Tilbury in Essex. The coal stockpiles indicate that the satellite image shows the power station before the conversion to wood pellet firing.

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Tilbury A and B power stations

The Tilbury power stations were two fossil fuel power stations. The 1,428 MW Tilbury B Power Station had operated between 1967 and 2013 and fired coal, as well as co-firing oil and biomass. The former oil-fired 360 MW Tilbury A Power Station operated from 1956 until 1981 when it was mothballed.[1]

A station

Construction on the oil plant began on the plant in 1951, and Tilbury 'A' station was commissioned in 1956 by the CEGB. It was mothballed in 1981 and eventually demolished in 1999.[2]

B station

The CEGB began construction of a much larger new station, Tilbury 'B', in 1961. This was opened in 1970. On privatisation in 1990 it was assigned to National Power, but was later operated by RWE npower. The jetty was enlarged in 2004 to accommodate ships carrying up to 65,000 tons of coal.[2]

Conversion to biomass

In April 2011, RWE announced that it planned to convert the 978-megawatt coal-power station to run entirely on wood pellets, reportedly as part of a UK government plan to help reach a European Union target of getting 15 percent of national energy from renewable sources. The conversion to a 750MW plant, which made Tilbury the largest biomass plant in the U.K., was completed in January 2012.[3]

Britain changed subsidies known as Renewable Obligation Certificates in July 2010 to support biomass plants. Tilbury is one of nine U.K. power plants with a limited number of hours left to operate under EU laws to curb the release of gases linked to acid rain. The stations must close by 2016 or when the allotted hours are used. At the time that RWE announced the biomass conversion option it flagged that the company would continue to operate the plant under the EU Large Plant Directive but may seek to have it relicensed if the biomass firing proved profitable.[3]

British generators that mix biomass with coal are eligible for at least half a renewable certificate for every megawatt-hour they produce. These are tradable and were worth about 49.89 pounds a megawatt-hour in the last certificate auction on March 29. The U.K. is considering changing aid later this year and may create a new band of subsidy to accommodate conversions. The U.K. introduced a carbon-dioxide tax on power emissions starting in 2013 and plans further changes to encourage investment in low-carbon power generation. RWE may also consider whether to close the Tilbury plant and build a natural-gas fed station, according to the company.[3]

The Tilbury station emitted 2.8 million metric tons of CO2 in 2010. While burning biomass releases about the same amount of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere as coal, it doesn’t require emissions permits under the EU’s cap-and-trade program. In the five years through 2012, power stations get a portion of EU allowances for free. Tilbury receives an annual allocation of 1.5 million permits in those years, which can be sold in the market if unused. The power station will continue to receive free EU permits through the end of 2012.[3]

The plant uses 2.3 million tonnes of wood pellets imported from a plant in Georgia the company owns and from British Columbia. The plant also uses some oil for start-up operations.[4][5] However, in late 2012 RWE Power revealed that it was applying for permits to allow the plant to operate for a decade beyond its slated closure date.[6]


The wood-fired plant was permanently closed on August 13, 2013 after RWE abandoned its proposal to run the plant for another decade on wood. RWE stated that "Tilbury remains an excellent site for power generation and RWE will now review future plans for the site."[7]

Proposed C power station

The proposed new 1600 megawatt supercritical coal plant had a notional commissioning date of 2014.[8]

However, in November 2009, RWE npower announced that it had shelved plans for the proposed new coal fired power stations at Tilbury in Essex and Blyth in Northumberland. In a media release it claimed that the proposed power stations "continued to be excellent power generation options for the future." In a media release, the company's Chief Technical Officer, Kevin McCullough, stated that "in the current market, we’re unable to make an economic case for new coal-fired power stations. We are considering the implications of the Government’s policy review on the conditions to be applied to new coal stations. We firmly believe new coal-fired generation should have a role to play in a low carbon economy alongside gas, nuclear power and renewable energy sources."[9]

Project Details of proposed power station

  • Sponsor: RWE nPower
  • Parent company:
  • Developer:
  • Location: Tilbury, Essex, UK
  • Coordinates: 51.456521,0.388119 (exact)
  • Status: Cancelled
  • Capacity: Unit C1: 800 MW; Unit C2: 800 MW
  • Type:
  • Start date:
  • Coal Type: Hard coal
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing:

Articles and Resources


  1. "Tilbury Power Station". RWE. Retrieved 2 November 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit. "Tilbury Wildlife Pond Tilbury Essex: Archaeological Monitoring and Recording" (PDF). Archaeology Data Service. p. 3. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Catherine Airlie, "RWE’s Coal-Power Plant in Tilbury to Become Britain's Largest Wood Burner" Bloomberg,April 8, 2011.
  4. RWE Power, "Tilbury Power Station", RWE Power website, accessed October 2012.
  5. RWE Power, "Flexible power from biomass", RWE Power website, accessed October 2012.
  6. Karolin Schaps, "RWE seeks to extend life of biomass-converted UK coal plant", Reuters, September 26, 2012.
  7. Npower, "Last day of generation for Tilbury B Power Station", Media Release, August 12, 2013.
  8. James Richens, "King coal promises to clean up", ENDS Report 396, January 2008, pp 26-29.
  9. RWE npower, "RWE npower applies to build UK’s biggest Carbon Capture Pilot Plant", Media Release, November 9, 2009.

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