Duncan Ashcroft, Editor, reveals a vision he witnessed this morning ...... An elephant loomed on the horizon this morning, Friday 13th, so I took this photo from my kitchen window. My other half alerted me to the beast shape by saying "look at that cloud" and I was pleased to point out to her that it actually wasn't a cloud, but the steam rising from Fiddlers Ferry power station near Warrington - over 20 miles away as the crow flies south from our Adlington home. What a dramatic reminder of the energy we all use!
Munching on my breakfast toast, I left talk of Fiddlers Ferry at that, and we just looked in wonder at the fluffy phantom elephant. But what I could have continued to say is that the station, squatting next to the River Mersey with its eight mammoth 114-metre (374 ft) high cooling towers and 200-metre (660 ft) high chimney, is a major landmark around my neck of the Lancashire woods - and I see its dramatic impact on North West English landscape when I'm up on the Pennine moors such as Winter Hill. But it's on frosty sunny still days that its visual impact is quadrupled when the weather reveals the normally unseen processes at work.
I also could have pointed out to my wife that, working on our behalf since the early 1970s, Fiddlers Ferry Power Station generates 2000 MW each day mostly from coal, but is also capable of co-firing with biomass. The coal used to come from the Lancashire mines, but these are now all closed so it's imported from overseas via Liverpool docks or comes from Yorkshire.
Of course pollution results from burning 16,000 tonnes a day of coal, and it has reduced the sulphur emsision by 94% since installing Flue Gas Desulphurisation in the last few years. The FGD equipment means the stations can use higher-sulphur coal mined in the UK. As a result, SSE - the latest owners of the power station - have entered into an agreement with UK Coal for 3.5 million tonnes of deep and surface-mined coal from Britain.
I could also have told the missus that, although installation of the FGD equipment has meant that it now meets the requirements of the European Large Combustion Plant Directive, there's another piece of European legislation that it must also meet. Like one of its own plume elephants looming on the horizon, this law means that Fiddlers Ferry must reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by 2016, to meet the requirements of the Industrial Emissions (Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control) Directive. To achieve the necessary reductions in acidification and ground level ozone, the Directive has placed stricter limits on emissions of NOx, sulphur dioxide (SO2) and dust.
To comply, Fiddlers Ferry's owners are planning for the installation of Selective Catalytic Reduction equipment to replace the Separated Over Fire Air technology currently used in the station. - an elephant in the room indeed!
Views of Fiddlers Ferry Power Station: www.geograph.org.uk/gridref/SJ5486
Posted on Environment Times Online on 13th January 2012.