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Fuel Options For St Andrews University Biomass Plant

November 26, 2015

By Paul Homewood  




There has been some discussion about the fuel to be used in the biomass heating plant being developed by St Andrews University.

The business case laid down the various options:





The comments about straw are particularly relevant, given the proposal by the UEA to force a straw burning plant on the people of Norwich.

  1. Rick Bradford permalink
    November 26, 2015 12:00 pm

    How about the course notes for degrees in Media Studies and Sociology. Or are they too wet to burn?

  2. November 26, 2015 12:15 pm

    Biomass heating seems to work by undercutting oil, LPG and electric heating:

    i.e. for premises which are NOT on the gas grid, which does NOT apply to St. Andrews University.

    Grid gas central heating, which they already have, would probably have LOWER running costs than this biomass thing, especially when you consider that you don’t need to employ people to prepare and load the fuel, then clear out and dispose of the ash.

  3. November 26, 2015 12:56 pm

    Who am I to rain on the left’s parade, but burning wood actually produces more carcinogens than coal. Where are the environmentalists squawking about this? Not only denuding the landscape of trees and thus biodiversity, but causing everyone to have cancer.

    • November 26, 2015 1:52 pm

      Interesting – do you have any accesible links on this? All I could fijd was that burining wood at 600 degC with lots of air produced only CO2 and water. Apparently when burning very hot NOx is produced from the air itself. But that was about all I could find out

      • November 26, 2015 2:50 pm

        re “Interesting – do you have any accesible links on this?……………”

        try “carcinogens from wood burning” or “dioxins from wood burning” in google; it gave lots for me

  4. Joe Public permalink
    November 26, 2015 1:24 pm

    I suppose some of the ‘hidden’ benefits of biomass vs natural gas would be:

    1. Reduced unemployment. Using biomass is labour intensive, and would employ numerous operatives & managers around the firewood storage depot. On the other hand, gas boilers have the ultimate just-in-time delivery, requires no on-site fuel storage, and would be fully automatic.

    2. The firewood storage depot probably occupies a significant space from which the local council would obtain taxation revenue.

    3. Likewise the boiler plant room.

    4. The biomass plant needs to be located miles from the site, so a lucky water-pump manufacturer will have their equipment pump a very significant mass of water to the buildings being heated. And back again to the plant room. Depending upon the nature of the buildings, it may be acceptable to site gas boilers in or on the buildings.

    5. Firewood suppliers can generate extra revenue via additional fuel sales necessitated from the transmission heat-losses during pumping hot water between remote plant room and buildings being heated.

    6. Firewood suppliers can generate extra revenue because the central boiler plant would have to run 24/7 if there’s just a single building requiring ‘out-of-hours’ heating and/or hot water. Decentralised gas boilers serving individual buildings run just for the independent hours of their respective building.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      November 26, 2015 6:04 pm

      You forgot one, there will lots of CO2 generating, oil guzzling Transport required.

  5. November 26, 2015 3:16 pm

    Biomass might be sustainable (though probably not as much as is claimed), but is also finite and scarce, it should be left for those that don’t have mains gas, not gobbled-up by a taxpayer-funded organisation that does have mains gas.

  6. John F. Hultquist permalink
    November 26, 2015 5:11 pm

    I am interested in seeing the wind and solar powered machines operating in the name of St. Andrews. It is going to take a lot of good whisky or beer to grow, harvest, chip, and transport 17,000 tonnes of timber.

    Just under 18 tonnes of pine logs (killed by forest fire) were magically (no fossil fuel used according to the driver of the large diesel truck) delivered to home.
    I do have a well sharpened crosscut saw that can be used if I want to go green. That’s when the whisky will be needed. And a helper. Please send a note about your familiarity with a crosscut, and the type of whisky you can bring.

  7. November 26, 2015 6:58 pm

    Wood chip prices in the UK are very similar to mains gas, in terms of pence per Kwh:

    So St Andrews are spending £25 million pounds of taxpayer money for no real benefit (other than avoiding “green” taxes), not to mention the money diverted from education to running a renewable energy business.

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