Prototype hydrogen power plant given green light to test process

The former High Marnham power station where a hydrogen power station will be built (Credit: JG Pears)
By Jamie Waller, Local Democracy Reporter

A prototype of a power station which will convert gases into a source of renewable energy will be built in Bassetlaw after being awarded planning permission.

The innovative government-backed scheme is designed to test the concept of turning ammonia gas into hydrogen gas on a small scale.

The plant will be built where a cooling tower once stood on the former High Marnham power station, before it was demolished.

Applicant JG Pears was one of 11 to receive cash from the government’s first round of funding for hydrogen projects in December.

Bassetlaw District Council’s planning committee gave it the go-ahead on Wednesday (February 7).

Alistair Collins, JG Pears’ Operations Director, said: “We are in an energy crisis and need to move away from carbon energy as soon as possible.

“This research and development project has been partly-funded by the government’s Innovate UK scheme to test ammonia cracking on a small scale.

“We will secure all of the relevant Health & Safety Executive and Environment Agency permits before any work goes ahead.”

The ‘cracking’ process sees ammonia heated and broken into hydrogen – a possible greener fuel of the future – and harmless nitrogen gas.

A proposed ‘ammonia crusher’ at the former High Marnham power station

The High Marnham power plant will produce 200kg of hydrogen per week, equivalent to around three tankloads.

The plant is small in scale and capable of producing 9.3MW per year – meaning the hydrogen produced each day would be enough to power a small fleet of gas-powered buses.

If successful, the systems and technology at the site could be scaled up elsewhere and go towards meeting the UK’s targets for renewable energy.

However, there was concern from parish councillors about development on the former power plant, which hasn’t been in use for more than 20 years.

Dunham and District Parish Councillor Rachel Bean told the committee: “We are in favour of renewable energy and know the site will be redeveloped at some point.

“However, we don’t believe the number of HGV movements will be minimal, as the developer claims.

“Every house here is close to the road, and there is a cumulative impact from so many vehicles on these twisty village roads.”

Parish councillor Ben Lee said: “To approve this because there was a power station here 20 years ago would be like not serving me at a bar because I was once underage.”

The original power station was operational between 1959 and 2003, with the five cooling towers finally being demolished in 2012.

Councillor Gary Dinsdale (Con) said he was worried that the former power station was being redeveloped “piecemeal”, and called for a masterplan in future.

The applicant will also be required to place ammonia detectors around the site.

Nine of the committee voted in favour, with only Councillor Fraser McFarland (Con) against.

The project adds to Bassetlaw’s growing crop of renewable energy projects, with the world’s first fusion energy plant planned for the former West Burton power station.

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