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Failed Drax belches SO2

NATIONAL POWER last week sought government approval to increase its annual release of acid rain-producing sulphur dioxide gas from its Drax power station in North Yorkshire, following the forced closure of crucial gas cleaning equipment.

Shutdown came after the discovery of extensive cracks in all 12 of the vast 4m diameter paddle wheel-style booster fans manufactured by Belfast- based fabricator Howdons Sirocco on the 680M flue gas desulphurisation equipment three years after becoming fully operational.

National Power environmental manager Jeff Gyllenspetz estimated it would cost 20M a month in lost production. If we dont get a relaxation in SO2 emissions we will have to shut down the entire plant in July when we reach our permitted annual release, he said.

Replacing the fans will take two years, although it is hoped some may be restarted under reduced load. The 4000MW Drax plant supplies 10% of the countrys electricity demand and is now releasing over 5,000t of SO2 every week. The Environment Agency is inviting public consultation before responding to the request to increase annual releases from 100,000t to 270,000t.

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