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.


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.


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


UK drops from 2nd to 3rd in the 2017 Climate Change Performance Index

A follow up article to yesterday’s report about UK’s wind energy output.

The annual Climate Change Performance Index is published by Germanwatch, a Germany-based policy institute focusing on public policy areas such as, climate change, agriculture, and sustainable development. The UK’s rise up the rankings over recent years is due to it’s investment in renewable technology.

The Climate Change Performance Index for 2017 [shown in full below] reports that the UK dropped from 2nd place to third place. Oddly the index does not award positions from 1 to 3, meaning that the UK drops from 5th to 6th in their 2017 Index. The index surveys the performance of 58 countries, where Germany lies in 29th place, USA in 43rd, and China 48th. You can view recent previous Index reports for 2016, and 2015. Click to expand images.

ccp2017_topten index

Wind energy supplies almost 25% of UK power demand

I see the increasing use of renewable power as encouraging. Here’s a couple of screen captures Gridwatch over Christmas [firstly from 24th, and then 26th December] that shows wind power generating almost one quarter of the UK’s power needs. There are days when wind power generation is negligible, I am, therefore, a believer in the need for nuclear power to generate the base load of UK power needs.



I’m pleased to see the UK’s investment in wind power starting to payoff. The offshore London Array wind farm in the Thames Estuary is currently the largest in the world, with 630 turbines. It’s disappointing that the UK has little involvement in ownership, manufacturing, or research and development of wind power turbines. One market where, as a nation, we can make up for that lack of expertise is in battery technology – see Giant UK battery launch, and HERE, and with Dyson.

Were you curious about the construction machines in Folly Bog alongside Red Road

While travelling along Red Road, if for a moment you were able to avert you eyes from the road – difficult I know, you might have seen construction machinery in Folly Bog. Here’s the info.

The work was associated with the Esso pipeline that runs through Folly Bog. It carries jet fuel from the Fawley Oil Refinery to Heathrow and Gatwick. What exactly the work involved I’n not sure. It did involve digging to uncover the pipeline, just as it did for similar work at Colony Gate.

I wasn’t able to visit the work while it was being done – annoyingly, life just got in the way. I’ve visited the site of the digging twice since they completed the work. Once while the protective track was in place and some equipment remained, and then yesterday after all the equipment, and protective track was removed.

Before I show my pictures of the work. You might like to know more about the pipeline and the pipeline markers. HERE all is explained.