London Innovates…back in the 1930s

August 2014: Interesting foreword by Department of Energy and Climate Change Secretary of State Ed Davey – also MP for Kingston – to a new DECC document ‘Next Steps on CCS‘ which provides some background to Battersea Power Station:

“In the 1930s, in the midst of London’s pea-soup fog, Battersea Power Station was the first power station in the world to deploy an innovative technology known as “Flue Gas Desulphurisation” (FGD) to clean up sulphur dioxide in its toxic fumes – a key cause of London’s air pollution.

“The cost of that technology was significant and in the 1930s there were no financial or regulatory incentives to deploy FGD. Battersea was ahead of its time – for a variety of reasons, it took another 70 years before the technology was fully commercialised. But FGD is now installed in over 1700 power stations across the world and the energy industry expects to invest around $8bn in the technology in 2015 alone.

“Today the problem is not sulphur dioxide, but carbon dioxide. And to solve this problem we need more clean energy from renewable and nuclear sources, alongside cleaner energy from gas. But we also need a new generation of coal and gas power stations equipped with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) for the 21st century.”

The Minister’s information is referenced to a case study by the UKERC which goes into a lot more detail – and highlights the role that councils played in bringing forward new energy technology!

“The first experimental FGD units on a power plant were set up in the UK in 1929-1933, at Grove Road in London, and the first full-scale unit commenced operation in 1933 at Battersea “A” power station, in London. The technology used was based on scrubbing with river water from the Thames, with added chalk or alkaline waste sludge from water- softening process. The regulator stipulated limits on the quality of the waste water going back into the Thames, including a pH limit. The FGD unit abated the missions from the full 228 MW of Battersea “A” station, and had a modular design with 4 or 5 absorbers.

In the late 1920s, Fulham council in South West London had also commissioned a 17 MW pilot plant with a different technological variety: a cyclic scrubbing process with lime. This was first implemented at full scale2 at Tir John Power station in Wales in 1935 and at Fulham in 1936. A third process, a cyclic scrubbing process with ammonia, was also piloted at Fulham in 1938 (with the intention of producing ammonium sulphate) . With the arrival of World War Two, there emerged concerns that the plumes from the FGD plants were potential targets for bombs, and the plants were shut down for the duration of the War. The three types of process were all applied at full scale after the war. The lime and ammonia versions only at one power station each and only for a few years in each case, but the water scrubbing process was used at Battersea station until 1973 and at Bankside station until approximately 1981.

The lime process at Bankside was shut down in 1949 for reasons including the nuisance of the “cold, wet plumes”. The ammonium process at North Wilford station was shut down in 1959, due to lack of ammonia, impure products and odours. Concerns about pollution of the Thames were continued, and were part of the reason behind closing Battersea “B” station in 1969 . Problems with the technologies also included corrosion and the formation of scaling (especially from the cyclic designs).

By 1981, with the closure of both Bankside stations, this first phase of UK FGD operations was over. A later wave of FGD investment from the mid-1990s onwards is described in the case study about FGD in the UK. The last large scale unit to be installed in the first phase, was Bankside “B” in 1962. The predominating approach to pollution control throughout this period was high chimney stacks.”

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