Curiosities No.1: The Isle of Grain

We’ve recently had a day exploring the Isle of Grain, the eastern most point on the River Medway in Kent, where we enjoyed a 5 mile coastal walk learning all about it’s historical curiosities. It’s these that I’ll tell you about.

The Isle of Grain is quite an odd place, sort of end of the worldish. While it’s no longer an island, the many creeks and tidal marshes mean it’s almost one. The area has had centuries of defensive fortifications and military activity, much of which have been removed leaving a somewhat ravaged landscape.

On the coastal fringes of the Isle of Grain is the London Thamesport container port, three power stations – Medway, Damhead Creek, and Grain, and two closed power stations which are now almost totally demolished, and a demolished BP oil refinery. Oh, and not forgetting the nationally important LNG [Liquefied Natural Gas] import terminal and storage site, and an electricity interconnector between the Netherlands and the UK.

A remarkable part of the country. For an idle few moments before I begin to describe the curiosities, type Isle of Grain into Google, and click on Maps. Here’s a photo I took of some of the National Grid LNG storage facilities – not exciting I know, but indicative of the landscape of the area.

What’s the source of the UK’s gas?

I’ve retained an interest in the source of the UK’s gas, having worked on a hook-up and commissioning phase of a southern North Sea gas platform [see here if you want to know a bit more about that].

With talk of the UK running short of gas in the recent cold spell, I thought I’d find out where the UK’s gas comes from.  This graphic from The Source by British Gas provides the answer. Thought you might like to know. I’ll follow up on this topic later.

UK wind generated more electricity than coal in 2016

That’s what the data reveals in the Carbon Brief Analysis, in which they say,

The UK generated more electricity from wind than from coal in the full calendar year of 2016, Carbon Brief analysis shows.

The milestone is a first for the UK and reflects a collapse in coal generation, which contributed just 9.2% of UK electricity last year, with 11.5% from wind. The coal decline saw its output fall to the lowest level since 1935.

This chart [click to enlarge], compiled from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy data and other sources, shows the dramatic change in the UK’s energy mix. Go to the Analysis to see the interactive version of this chart. There’s another table in the report showing how solar is making an increasing, though as yet small, contribution to our energy mix.

uk-annual-electricity-generation

Upcoming investment into electricity interconnectors

In my articles on how wind power provides an increasing amount of the UK power supply, and coal a reducing amount, I said I’d follow-up with more information on power supply.

InterconnectorsIf you look at the Gridwatch screen you’ll see over on the right hand side dials indicating energy supply via electricity interconnectors with France, Netherlands, and Ireland. Ofgem says about them,

Electricity interconnectors are the physical links which allow the transfer of electricity across borders.

Britain’s electricity market currently has 4GW of interconnector capacity:

  • 2GW to France (IFA)
  • 1GW to the Netherlands (BritNed)
  • 500MW to Northern Ireland (Moyle)
  • 500MW to the Republic of Ireland (East West).

moyle-interconnectorThere are issues with these undersea cables, as the Moyle is working at half capacity due to cable faults, as is the interconnector to France – see HERE.

Given the general tightness of supply in the UK energy market, there are plans for new electricity interconnectors,

Government provide UK energy mix statistics in detail – notable reduction in coal

For readers who, might – just might, have become interested in the current state of the UK’s energy issues, I’ve got a couple more articles on the topic to feed that interest.

In the December 22nd Press Notice from the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy on the release of Qtr3 2016 UK energy statistics is this,

Low carbon electricity’s share of generation accounted for a record high 50.0 per cent in the third quarter of 2016, up from 45.3 per cent in the same period of 2015, with increased generation from renewables (wind and solar) and nuclear.

uk-low-carbon-energy-stats-dec-2016

What’s startling in the Press Notice is the table showing the reduction in the amount of coal used for power generation. See table below. This important change is explained in the complete UK Energy Trends statistics for Qtr3 2016 – all 110 pages of it. Here’s part of the story from the report – associated with the table below.

Coal production in the third quarter of 2016 was 1.0 million tonnes, 28 per cent lower than the third quarter of 2015. This was mainly due to the last large deep mine Kellingley closing in December 2015. Deep mine production fell by 99 per cent to 5 thousand tonnes (a new record low). There are just seven small deep mines remaining. Surface mine production rose by 1.8 per cent to 1.0 million tonnes

coal-qtr3-dec-2016