A balanced diet: Eat more chips and keep UK’s lights on

A healthier option than diesel to balance the power system
A healthier option than diesel to balance the power system

A firm in North Yorkshire is helping to balance the national power system using old cooking oil.

Via National Grid’s Short Term Operating Reserve (Stor) mechanism, REG Bio-Power fires up its 18MW generators when needed to help manage spikes in power demand. Using Caterpillar generators, the site is mostly unmanned and is remote controlled by Cat supplier Finning.



The site in Whitemoor, North Yorkshire, uses 10 Finning Cat 3516 BHD engines to produce 18MW of power. The engines are fuelled with used cooking oil, which is collected by REG from restaurants, food processing plants and household waste recycling centres in partnership with local councils and waste contractors.

REG BioAt a REG recovery facility in Thetford the oil is filtered into a proprietary biofuel called LF100. The Thetford site processes 18,000 tonnes per annum, enabling it to generate significant volumes of carbon-neutral power.

The Fat Controller

Once a call comes in from the National Grid that power from the site is needed, the Finning operators need to have the generators running at full load in just four minutes. The engines need to start on demand and must also go off load at a set time, or REG may be subject to penalties, so generator reliability is paramount, says Finning project manager Mark Radford.

Since becoming operational in November 2014, the Whitemoor site has operated for 220 hours from 120 Stor programme starts.

While the fuel system is bespoke, the Caterpillar engine needs no reconfiguration to accept biofuel and to date, according to the firm, there have been no complaints about noise or smell in the vicinity of the sites.

If an engine does need servicing at a time when the STOR contract must be honoured, reducing the 10 x 1.8MW capability, the other nine engines can run at higher than nominal load, to still achieve the contracted 18MW total.

A further two sites, one at 19.8MW and one at 14MW, are now in development.

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