Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« The snail paper | Main | Informality in the ICO »


 News is breaking of a major fire at the Didcot B gas fired power station in Oxfordshire. From the photos, this a big one which will put it offline for a long time. The station's cacacity is 1300MW or thereabouts, so it represents a pretty serious erosion of the UK's already paper-thin safety margin. Time to start praying for a mild winter.

Updated 11.54am 20 October 2014 and 13.58pm. TM

Peter Atherton, energy analyst at Liberum Capital, said that the risk of blackouts this winter was now far higher due to the UK's "meagre capacity" to absorb unexpected events.

Dorian Lucas, energy analyst at Inenco, said the long term impact of the fire on the UK's power supply could be "significant" if the damage takes some time to repair.

Calling Ed Davey, calling Ed Davey....

Updated...we would like to hear what you have to say now. 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (77)

Spelling. See me.
On the other hand we have winds coming and plenty of windmills.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

It does look a big fire. Oh dear, our beloved energy minister may have some explaining to do soon.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

TV pictures look very bad.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Someone upstairs thinking Paterson's warnings haven't yet been taken seriously enough?

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:11 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

How many more major facilities going offline can the grid cope with? Serious question.

[Peter Atherton tweeted something about this this morning. He said the grid pattern normally expected to cope with 10 unexpected events but this year it's only 4. We've already had 3.]

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

@Alan Reed don't worry the blokes at the steelworks say, if the power drops TONIGHT we'll be able to power the furnaces with a few solar panels.. ha ha ha

Dicot is 1.36GW station, that's only 7 times the world's largest wind farm the London Array
(LA rated at 630MW... at around 30% load factor that is 0.2GW)

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:16 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Mild winter? Current conditions in the Arctic and Siberia hint otherwise, I regret to say.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterjheath

"Time to start praying for a mild winter."

Since people have been predicting a harsh winter in the NI this year (a winter which has already started in North America and Siberia) pray twice as hard.

(And stock up on candles, supplies and cash, as well.)

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterWFC

Yes. Just burn the panels that blow off in the wind...

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Even a mild winter might be enough. In any case, this is a boil that needs to be lanced, so perhaps the sooner the better. Anything to get the CCA repealed!

I bet they wish they hadn't just rendered Didcot A inoperable...

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:27 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

There does seem to have been a bit of bad luck with (real) power stations recently.

Not to worry- I'm sure the "renewables" are up to the task......

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

brr brr brr I can hear the sound of STOR diesels powering up across the country

- maybe we can ask 13 million (100W) fridges to switch off until the power station has been repaired ?

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:33 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Alan Reed;

The windmills are being shut down, it's too windy for them to keep running without exploding or falling over.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:34 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

The loss of Didcot will be felt for rather more than its capacity. It's a key link in the grid, able to provide power East toward London, North towards Birmingham, West towards Swindon and Bristol, and South towards Newbury and Southampton, as required.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

actually wind was sending 19% of the 28GW of night time electricity at last reading of gridwatch
wind provided only about 5GW most of the day
..but turbines in the south could be switching off soon due tonight heavy winds I guess

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:43 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Hope that this isn't another problem that has repercussions for other similar power stations. Are there any?

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

The fire is in a cooling tower so it won't have to much impact beyond a couple of days.

My local power station (fiddlers ferry) had a cooling tower collapse in the middle of the night. It barely affected its output.

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

"Oxfordshire's chief fire officer Dave Etheridge said just after 10.15pm that the fire was under control and the smoke plume was not thought to pose a health risk to the public.

He also said the fire was not expected to cause any power blackouts."
maybe it was put out just before 10pm (from Twitter)
local paper is first with the news and has more

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:49 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

how can a cooling tower burn? are they made from wood in the uk
(or -crud- , like everything else)

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

According to the BBC:
"The power station has been in operation since 1997 and can supply power to up to one million homes, according to RWE npower. The neighbouring coal-powered Didcot A power station was closed last year."

Who needs those filthy evil coal-fired power stations!!!!!!!

Oct 19, 2014 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

> how can a cooling tower burn?

Cooling towers have electric fans and pumps. It is probably these that have caught fire.

Oct 19, 2014 at 11:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

"are they made of wood"

believe it or not, they usually are, they have a weatherproof concrete skin, but the inside is usually wood, which shouldn't catch fire because of the water pouring down inside - makes you wonder what went wrong?

Major foot in mouth moment for the Government seeing as Liz Truss announced yesterday that there would be no more subsidies for solar farms on agricultural land.

Oct 19, 2014 at 11:17 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Err why would that be a foot in mouth moment?

If, for some reason, they had to shut it down, how much of the UK would have to be covered in solar panels (at 10% faceplate value) to generate the 1300MW?

Oct 19, 2014 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

We really need to start some serious research into storage of power from renewables


Oct 19, 2014 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyb


"why would that be a foot in mouth moment?"

Having shut down most of the UK's coal-powered power stations, two of the UK's nuclear power stations now offline, from faults and now a major gas-fired station,potentially offline - and the only current policy action from the Government is to now cut back on the 'renewable' alternatives which are supposed to replace them - that is a foot in mouth moment.

Oct 19, 2014 at 11:49 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Cooling tower fires are always a big risk on power stations when the stations are not running. There is a lot of wood or plastic in the pack and a good updraft. The stations usually recognise the risk and have special watering systems to keep the components wet when they aren't in service.
However, things regularly go wrong and there are plenty of photos out there of burning towers.

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

Ed Davey has just issued a statement saying that there is no risk to UK energy supplies from this fire - so get your candles out and get your generators ready.

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:07 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Go long on Anthracite, logs stolen from the local forest, and combustible furniture.

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

You guys seem to be having a *lot* of problems with your power supplies. One could almost think someone was doing this deliberately.

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterOtter (ClimateOtter on Twitter)

Fair enough - if you seriously believe solar power in the UK is a good thing. Personally I don't think that announcing cuts in subsidies for solar could ever be a mistake.

In answer to my own question, assuming that the faceplate generation for a m2 panel is 150W and you generate 10% of the faceplate value you will need 13GW of panels which would cover about 90km2

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

We really need to start some serious research into storage of power from renewables


Oct 19, 2014 at 11:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterTonyb

Actually, I do give it a bit of serious thought, and would be quite happy to receive funding to do more than that.

But many smarter people haven't found a working solution yet, and too much funding goes to people busy looking for new potential cataclysms to frighten us with.

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:29 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart


With all respects,I think you seem to have a problem comprehending other people's comments - do you not understand irony??? Let me spell it out for you - solar power like any other form of 'renewable' energy is useless - the point I was trying to make was that it is sod all use the Govt announcing it is cutting subsidies for renewables when non-renewable industry is falling apart - geddit?

Oct 20, 2014 at 12:45 AM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Here is a photograph of part of one of the wooden cooling sytems at Didcot B:

The funnel shaped things are fan housings which draw air through the water sprays beneath. Each cooling system has 15 fan units.

Didcot B has two generating units, each comprising two gas turbines with generators (225MW each) and a steam turbine with a generator (230MW), each unit is 680MW nameplate capacity.

There are two wooden cooling towers systems, one for each steam turbine.

If they have confined the fire damage to one unit's cooling system, then then the other 680MW unit should be OK for operation.

Oct 20, 2014 at 1:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

According to RWE transparency page, Didcot Unit 5 is off line but unit 6 is running at 501MW:

Oct 20, 2014 at 1:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrownedoff

ptw said:

how can a cooling tower burn? are they made from wood in the uk
(or -crud- , like everything else)

I wondered that too. The image I had in mind of a cooling tower is the bog standard massive concrete ones but looking at pictures of Didcot B, it doesn't use these. It uses multiple much smaller units that cascade warm water over plastic packing and have fans blowing to cool the water.

Oct 20, 2014 at 2:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterGareth


Oct 20, 2014 at 6:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterRichard Tol

The Islamic State or Eco Terrorists.

Oct 20, 2014 at 6:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

they only turned off the unit next to the cooling plant, the rest are still online

Oct 20, 2014 at 6:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterOwen

Come on, less of the catastrophic thinking. From the BBC, "The station was partially shut down but Energy Secretary Ed Davey said National Grid had assured him that there was no risk to energy supplies……….the power station will continue to run on 50% capacity"

Oct 20, 2014 at 6:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterGarethman

There seem to have been quite a lot of conventional power station problems lately.

Is it because operation has got more complicated, due to the need for frequent adjustments to balance wind power?

Oct 20, 2014 at 7:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterPete

An excellent question. Also, according to the BBC, both modules were operating

The company says both modules were generating on Sunday night. The fire was in a cooling tower linked to one of the modules, and it was decided to shut down that module. It was considered safe to keep the other running.
so it is more likely that the cooling tower was operating than not. This in turn suggests an equipment failure is more likely than anything else. Does that mean an issue with equipment in the cooling tower in the way you suggest? WHat are the repercussions if so? Isn't pessimism great, I can see why the warmists love it :-)

Oct 20, 2014 at 7:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

On the contrary

Time to start praying for a very harsh winter that will show the short comings with the present energy policy. what is needed is a series of brown outs, to wake everyone up; both public and politicians.

Oct 20, 2014 at 8:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

in an UNreliable electricity network, more people die compared to a reliable electricity network..FACT.

We know our "fine, progressive" establishment gets away with institutionalised THEFT of many kinds, for many decennia, so they will probably also get away with MURDER.

Justice is only for the little people.They get the mansion judge treatment.
Progressives are above that, because they "know" better.. they have a degree in "going out in oxbridge" you know..full
of progressive faux-merit.

Oct 20, 2014 at 8:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Well done TerryS for not jumping to conclusions.

Oct 20, 2014 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

At this rate the police may have to bring back undercover officer Mark Kennedy.

That is if our Mark isn't already on another mission embedded in the bedroom of some pathetic Islamic extremist .She or perhaps he pillow talking through the specific details for the next Lee Rigby / 7 7 atrocity.

Ironic the establishment thought they could take the disengaged bored youth and turn them into a bright new generation of environmentally concerned multicultural hip youngsters and they ended up radicalizing them instead.

David Cameron can get Ed Davey to lite the fire and the candles for the next Cobra Committee meeting.

Oct 20, 2014 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Wind output currently seems to be limited to a maximum power of 6GW. Over the last few days with near optimum wind conditions power output has varied between 4-6GW. Nuclear output is running at only about half of full capacity (8GW).

Oct 20, 2014 at 9:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

Another Powerstation fuel fire started last night before the Didcot fire & is still going on. (5 updates)
12,000 tonnes of straw bales stockpiled down the road from the new Sleaford straw "renewable" powerstation (I think it might have opened ahead of schedule September last year)

- The BBC now has a report ..but chose not to mention in on Radio4 Today prog
- Local paper has more reports

It's only 0.038GW plant with 250 jobs (builder's website says 80 : 30 jobs in operation; 50 in fuel supply)
vs Didcots 1.36GW with 100 jobs

Oct 20, 2014 at 9:18 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

A human technician or a mechanical wiper how many gallons of water does it take to wash down a 100 square meters of Solar panels ?
May explain why you can,t have Solar Panels in the bright sunny deserts.

Oct 20, 2014 at 9:45 AM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

Didcot Power Station fire: live
Follow our live coverage as experts say huge fire that ripped through Didcot B Power Station on Sunday has increased risk of winter blackouts

"09.50 It appears that two cooling towers were completely destroyed in the blaze and another was badly burnt. This video gives a better idea of the damage: "

So these must be different experts to those updating Ed Davey:
"Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey this morning moved to downplay fears that the blaze at the 1.3GW gas-fired power station could impact energy supplies. "I've been reassured by National Grid that there is no risk to electricity supplies," he said."

(Note the name of the web site!)

stewgreen: "It's only 0.038GW ..." :)

Oct 20, 2014 at 10:25 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

More interesting news in the same article:

"Any disruption to supplies from Didcot B is likely to increase the likelihood of National Grid continuing or even expanding its programme of paying companies to curb energy demand at peak times and paying generators to bring additional capacity online.
The company acknowledged last month that the closures at Heysham 1 and Hartlepool meant "there is an increased level of uncertainly over the volume of plant that may be available in the market this winter".
Consequently, it announced plans to open a tender for its so-called Supplemental Balancing Reserve (SBR) service, which calls on generators to come forward and offer to provide additional capacity, primarily by re-opening mothballed plants.
This winter is also set to see the expansion of the Demand Side Balancing Reserve (DSBR), which will offer businesses that have tendered for the scheme payments if they volunteer to curb power demand during peak times.
BusinessGreen understands around 500 sites have offered to take part in scheme, volunteering to consider taking around 300MW of demand offline when requested."

All those lovely diesel fumes, and all for less than one CCGT unit:
"For large-scale power generation, a typical set would be a 270 MW gas turbine coupled to a 130 MW steam turbine giving 400 MW."

Oct 20, 2014 at 10:34 AM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>