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Western Wood Energy Plant, Margam
Longland Lane, Margam, Port Talbot, Wales, UK
Western Wood Energy Plant, Margam
associated engineer
Setec Travaux Publics & Industriels
Alborg Energie Technik
Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor (BWSC)
date  October 2006 - July 2008
UK era  Modern  |  category  Power Generation  |  reference  SS789862
photo  © Chris Andrews and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Western Wood Energy Plant at Margam, south east of Port Talbot, is Wales’ first commercial-scale power station to generate energy from biomass, in this case wood. It is one of the best performing biomass plants in Britain.
Western Wood Energy Plant burns clean uncontaminated timber only, such as sustainable forestry wood and clean recycled wood or processing residues. It has a capacity of 13.8MWe and its predicted annual generated output is 110GWh — enough to power 31,000 homes.
In April 2004, planning permission was granted and a design and build contract awarded to a consortium of Aalborg Energie Technik and Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor. The client was Western Bioenergy Ltd, in which Good Energies (UK) LLP is the major shareholder and Western Log Group has the minority interest. In August 2004, Eco2 joined the joint venture. Consulting engineer Gifford provided site management services during construction, which commenced in October 2006.
The biomass plant occupies a 2.4 hectare site close to the M4 motorway, west of Junction 38. The project cost £33m to construct and received grants of £9.6m from the EU Objective 1 Programme and £4.65m from the Wales Department of Trade & Industry Bioenergy Capital Grant Scheme.
The majority of the fuel is sourced from the South Wales Forestry Commission and local industries. Some 160,000 tonnes of forestry timber, bark, brash bales (bundles of twigs and branches), chips and sawmill remnants are delivered to the plant every year. Up to 20 percent of the biomass is recycled wood derived from sources complying with the exemption requirements of the Waste Incineration Directive.
The biomass is stored, chipped and blended, and the resulting wood chips are burned as fuel in the onsite power station. The station includes a combustion chamber, a steam turbine and generator system, and an air-cooled condenser.
The combustion chamber's single drum boiler has a firing system that incorporates a travelling grate to ensure complete burning of the wood, minimising the formation of nitrous oxide. It has natural circulation with a thermal input of 47.5MW, and burns about 20 tonnes of wood chips per hour. Dust and other particulates in the combustion gases are removed by a coarse ash separator and a fabric bag filter system inside the chamber. The gases, predominantly oxides of nitrogen and carbon monoxide with some fine particles, are then discharged to atmosphere from a 55m chimney.
The combustion chamber heats the water in the boiler to about 512 degrees Celsius and converts it into superheated steam at a pressure of 9,200kN per sq m (92 bar). The high pressure steam drives a twin shaft steam turbine to generate electricity. The air-cooled condenser then converts the steam from the turbine back into water, which is returned to the boiler through the condensate system.
The energy produced is virtually ‘carbon neutral’, saving 47,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year and helping the Welsh Assembly to meet its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent by 2020.
The plant produced its first electricity in early July 2008 and was fully operational in October 2008. It was handed over to Western Bioenergy Ltd in November 2008. Western Biomass Operating Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the build consortium, runs the site.
Improvements made in 2009 allowed the plant’s electrical capacity to be increased to 14.7MWe. On 8th September that year, Wales’ First Minister Rhodri Morgan (b.1939) officially opened the plant. During the ceremony, he commented, "This is a flagship project for Wales that has been recognised as one of the best performing biomass sites in the UK … It provides a sustainable benefit to the local economy, not only through the people it employs on-site, but also through its commitment to using wood sourced from Wales".
In September 2013, Western Bioenergy Ltd was acquired by Greensphere Capital LLP, which became the new owner. Until February 2014, Eco2 managed the plant’s fuel logistics and administration.
Site engineer: Gifford
Contractor: Burmeister & Wain Scandinavian Contractor
Steam turbine: Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding
Boiler: AET
Condenser: GEA
Research: ECPK

Western Wood Energy Plant, Margam