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The three cooling towers and single chimney are most of what is left of the Richborough Power Station, just outside Sandwich,Kent,England.
Richborough Power Station was built in the late 50’s and from 1962 – 1971 Richborough burned over 3 million tonnes of coal, most of which came from the nearby kent coalfields. In 1971 the station was converted to run on oil, but usage of the site became costly as the price of oil prices rose during the 1973 Oil crisis. In 1989 the plant underwent a major refurbishment and in 1990 trials were started on an experimental new fuel called Orimulsion.
Orimulsion is a cheap heavy oil and water based emulsion produced form natural bitumen in Venezuela, initial results suggested it would make a cheap clean fuel alternative to oil…
The “Orimulsion” bubble was burst when a local farmer claimed damages against the plants owners powergen for the loss of his crops. Around the same time local people began to notice damage to the paintwork of their cars – linked to acid rain coming form sulphur emissions form the plant.
Other environmental arguments had surfaced regarding the use of Orimulsion such as the fact that it would dissolve in water, If a tanker were to spill its load the damage would cover a vast area and be virtually impossible to remove. The damage would potentially have been far worse than that of a conventional oil spill. Further concerns were raised regarding a toxic dust that Orimulsion was thought to produce because of its high content of heavy metals, leading organisations such as Friends of the Earth to label it the “world’s dirtiest fuel”
With the growing concerns about the impact on the local environment Richborough ceased generating in early 1996 nearly 6 years after beginning its trial. Court case settled in an 11th hour agreement with the farmer when Powergen agreed to an out of court settlement thought to be worth £3-4 million.
All trials of Orimulsion in the UK were abandoned and there are no plans to restart them.