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All Party Parliamentary Biomass meeting

Written by the Back Biomass campaign.

The All-Party Parliamentary Biomass Group met on Tuesday 11 June 2013. The keynote speakers were:

  • Simon Brett, Deputy Port Manager, Grimsby & Immingham, Associated British Ports
  • Jonathan Bradbury, Finance Director, Freightliner Heavy Haul
  • Nigel Adams MP, Chair, Biomass APPG


 Key points

  • Both witnesses were very positive about the crucial role ports and railways need to play in transporting biomass around the UK, given much of the key infrastructure is in place from coal. Both were optimistic about the potential, although they each highlighted key challenges around storage, logistical issues in terms of scale and long-term investment security
  • Brett discussed the different storage options option to ports – he said Grimsby and Ingham would be building silos as they do not require people in the facility and are environmentally friendly. He mentioned that Drax, on the other hand, have decided to build domes
  • The key issues with storing biomass, he said, is to stop it getting wet. He mentioned the port would have a facility able to store 100,000 tonnes of wood pellets by October 2014 to deal with this issue
  • His main conclusion was that biomass is a great opportunity for UK ports but it will require huge investment in building terminals, sensitive handing requirements, the availability of rail services and long-term, stable contracts
  • Jonathan Bradbury underlined how rail is a good fit for biomass, especially given it directly replaces rail capacity for coal (which makes up 40% of the freight haulage) which otherwise may not be used. He spoke about the high fixed costs in the rail industry and the necessity for a critical mass to be feasible
  • He said biomass protects the benefits of coal in terms of lower prices, the geographical spread and marginal capacity. “Rail is the only plausible way of moving biomass”
  • He called for stability and affordability, mentioning his concern about the ORR consultation of FSC for biomass (the ORR has today decided not to introduce this charge). He said rail and energy policy need “to start pulling in the same direction”
  • During the Q&A there were questions from Nigel Hildyard and Martin Vickers MP about how confident the rail industry is about supplying power stations with enough biomass, as well as the complications of how owns and operates the freight paths. Brett agreed there was a logistical challenge in ensuring the supply chain is “ready to deliver”