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Technology fails dream of wood to-gas power boost

BRITAIN'S FIRST wood-fuelled energy plant this week closed down without producing a kilowatt of energy, because state of the art wood-to-gas power technology failed to work.

The £30M Arable Biomass Renewable Energy (Arbre) plant at Eggborough in North Yorkshire was originally intended to produce 10MW of electricity a year to support 20,000 people by converting wood to gas.

But plant owner Energy Power Resources (EPR) this month put the plant into liquidation after it failed to produce any electricity despite months of commissioning.

'We are now seeking buyers for the assets at Arbre, ' said EPR financial director David MacDonald this week.

Kelda, which owns Yorkshire Water, built the plant in 1999 with plans to produce electricity by early 2000, using technology from Swedish firm TPS Termiska Processer.

The system was supposed to work by converting wood chips from locally grown willow trees into gas, through heating. Gas was then to have been burned, driving electricity turbines.

Kelda sold the plant in April 2002 to energy group EPR. As part of the deal Kelda agreed to continue paying the plant's running costs for nine months or until the plant became viable.

Kelda decided to halt funding for the plant last month, just three months into the agreement with EPR.

'In the first two months it used 50% of a nine month budget, ' explained Kelda corporate affairs manager Richard Sears.

EPR would not comment on the reasons for the problems commissioning the plant.

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