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W4B’s new application to allow them to burn diesel from tyres could bring their palm oil power plans one step closer: Please object today!

May 15, 2013

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W4B has had planning permission to build a biofuel – likely palm oil – power station in Portland since January 2010. So far they have been unable to finance such a plant – perhaps because investors have been scared off by the level of local opposition and the bad publicity about W4B.

Now, W4B have come up with a new idea: They have applied to have their original planning consent extended to allow them to do several new things. First, to import rubber crumb made from old tyres, involving 26 HGV movements per week – all the way from Bristol. Secondly to process this tyre waste on site using a new untested type of machine into synthetic diesel. Thirdly to transport this diesel off site together with a material called Carbon Black. And eventually they may burn the synthetic diesel on site in diesel engines to generate electricity.

They are still saying they will at some time in the future proceed to build a full power station operating on imported palm oil. They clearly hope that people concerned about palm oil will welcome them wanting to now burn fuels from genuine waste – but there are three good reasons not to be fooled by this:

1) If W4B really wanted to burn diesel made from old tyres (‘synthetic diesel’) instead of palm oil then they could have asked for the planning conditions to allow them to burn only synthetic diesel and no vegetable oils. But this is not what they have done – they are still keeping open the option of burning palm oil.

2) The synthetic diesel which W4B wants to burn does not exist. Companies and research institutes have spent decades trying to turn old tyres into diesel without much success. Nobody has managed to do it at a commercial scale and no power plant anywhere in the world is run that way.

3) If W4B was to actually build the plant they are now speaking of (i.e. one that turns old tyres into diesel and then burns it for electricity), the risks to Portland residents would be high. Those include serious health and safety (i.e. explosion) as well as new air pollution risks. After all this is a completely unproven, experimental process.

Why does W4B want permission to burn a fuel that does not exist?

Nobody in NOPE knows for sure, but we expect that it is part of their so far unsuccessful quest to attract investors. Perhaps they really think they can become the world’s first ever company to manage to turn old tyres into diesel and that into electricity? Venture capitalists are often prepared to take big risks when funding new technologies – and W4B would offer them the ‘safe’ fall-back option of burning palm oil.

Please write to the Planning Officer of Weymouth today to object to W4B’s latest application and please contact your local Councillor to share your concerns. What W4B are asking for should not be considered (and potentially rubber-stamped) as a change to a planning condition: The Council must insist on them submitting a full new application, complete with an Environmental Impact Assessment and the decision must be made by the Planning Committee, not simply by one Planning Officer. For greater impact, please personalise your message.

Please email your comments to the Planning Officer Chris Moscrop (C.Moscrop@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk), Chair of the Planning Committee Mark Tewkesbury (M.Tewkesbury@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk) and Mayor Margaret Leicester (M.Leicester@westdorset-weymouth.gov.uk)

You can also respond directly via the council planning site by clicking here.

Sample email

Subject: Application for Variation of condition 2 of planning approval ref 09/00646/FULES W4B Portland, WP/13/00262/VOC

Dear Mr Moscrop,

I wish to object to W4B’s application for a ‘variation of condition’. As the planning documents show, consent for this application would allow them to build a plant that would turn rubber crumbs made from old tyres into synthetic diesel and LPG which would eventually be transported to and burned in diesel and gas generators in an adjacent building. Initially, however, the fuels it could be sold and possibly exported by ship, as the planning documents state. In other words, W4B now want permission for building a fuel refinery as well as an electricity generating plant which can burn fuels from old tyres as well as palm oil and other vegetable oils.

I cannot see how this can possibly be considered as a mere variation of a planning condition on fuel use.

Burning palm oil in diesel generators, for which W4B has and would retain planning permission is a well-proven way of producing electricity – albeit an entirely unsustainable as well as polluting one.

Turning old tyres into synthetic diesel and LPG, on the other hand, is an entirely new and unproven process. I understand that no company has yet succeeded in doing so commercially. The technology that is closest to what W4B are now speaking of is waste gasification and that is beset with serious technical, emissions and health and safety problems. There are two existing waste gasifiers in the UK (one on the Isle of Wight, the other in Dumfries in Scotland) and both have a record of serious repeat breaches of air emission permits (in one case exceeding legal dioxin levels eight times over). Furthermore, there are serious health and safety risks involved in building a plant that is operating under high pressure and that produces highly flammable and explosive fuels. The residents of Portland would thus be exposed to new and entirely unpredictable risks.

I would therefore request that the current ‘variation of condition’ application be rejected since what W4B are asking for is not a ‘variation of condition’ – involves a change of use. If W4B were to submit a new full planning application then, given the experimental and untested nature of the development, I believe that the Council must ask for a full Environmental Impact Assessment and have this considered by the full Planning Committee.

Yours sincerely,

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sophie Braund permalink
    May 29, 2013 12:07 pm

    We do not want this here! Portland is a beautiful place which has been ruined enough lately! Take your buisness else where your not welcome! We will not make this easy for you!!!!

  2. Clare Moles permalink
    May 29, 2013 5:41 pm

    Obviously as a mum of 2 boys who live on Portland U’m very concerned about the environmental impact and possible health impacts this will have in local residents and visitors.

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