A DECISION by Northumberland’s largest private employer to spend millions of pounds ensuring it meets European pollution guidelines has been met with widespread approval.
In April the European Court of Justice ordered Rio Tinto Alcan to cut emissions from its coal-fired power station or face the threat of closure with the possible loss of 650 jobs at its Lynemouth site.
Last night, Alcan announced it was intending to comply with the judgement by joining the National Emissions Reduction Plan (NERP) which will see it purchase sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) credits.
Ian Lavery MP for Wansbeck welcomed the move. “This is good news for the workers and the community,” he said.
“Alcan has taken appropriate action to stave off any potential redundancies in the short term. I will be meeting with them shortly to discuss the issues they face in ensuring they make the compliance targets over the long term.”
The coal-fired power station, which fuels the neighbouring Lynemouth aluminium smelter, emits 7,500 tonnes of NOx and 18,000 tonnes of SO2 a year.
Emissions from such plants in the European Community are governed by the Large Combustion Plants Directive (LCPD) which says the plant should emit only 5,300 tonnes of NOx and 4,200 tonnes of SO2.
Alcan will buy around 2,200 NO2 credits and 13,800 SO2 credits on the emissions trading markets. These will cost several million pounds but will ensure the site fulfills its annual obligations.
A spokesman for Alcan said: “The verdict delivered by the European Court of Justice on April 22 requires Rio Tinto Alcan to enter the National Emissions Reduction Plan in order to achieve immediate compliance with the LCPD.
“We have some experience of such a market as this is not the first ‘cap and trade’ emissions reduction scheme we will have participated in... we will enter the scheme and we will review its impact on our business as we progress.”
The NERP was launched in 2008 will run until 2015, and Alcan will have to ensure it complies with it emissions targets on an annual basis.
It is understood that, while Alcan will fulfil its obligations by buying credits, it will continue to look at other ways of complying. These include examining the possibility of capturing the released pollution using carbon capture technology.
A second alternative is developing biomass power generation facilities to reduce its reliance on coal.
Alcan originally contested the EU LCPD and was supported by the Government.
A Defra spokesman said: “Following the European Court of Justice ruling on April 22 that the Lynemouth plant should comply with the Large Combustion Plants Directive, the operator of the plant, Rio Tinto Alcan, has confirmed to Defra that the plant will join the National Emissions Reduction Plan, set up by the UK under the provisions of the LCPD.”