EXPANDING biomass operations at Tilbury Power Station would cause serious harm to local people’s health, to forests and to the climate, an environmental group has warned.

Biofuelwatch, an organisation that raises awareness of the harm biofuels and bioenergy can have on biodiversity, health and climate change, is strongly opposing plant owner RWE’s plans to reopen the station next year.

The Gazette revealed last week that Tilbury Power Station is set to close in October, after it opted out of an EU directive.

Instead, it was restricted to operating for a further 20,000 hours, an allocation which will be used up later this year.

RWE has applied to Thurrock Council to extend the plant’s life by 12 years and its planning committee is set to discuss the application on Thursday.

More than 500 people have made representations to the council through the Biofuelwatch website, opposing the plans.

Since 2010, the station has been burning biomass, or wood pellets, as fuel and now provides more than half of all the UK’s renewable energy.

But Duncan Law, from Biofuelwatch, flagged up serious concerns with the use of biomass for energy.

He said: “Compared to coal, wood burning releases more small particles, known as PM2.5s, that get deep into the lungs and the blood where it can cause serious problems including heart and respiratory disease.

"Current particulate levels around Tilbury already exceed World Health Organisation recommended levels.

“Thurrock should say no to this monster burning of global forests at just 37 per cent efficiency.”

RWE currently imports wood from Georgia, in northern America and Canada. According to the firm, the 2010 conversion has already resulted in significantly lower emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulphar dioxide, and ash.

The firm also claims wood pellets burnt at the station are sustainably sourced.

It argues the operation of the plant on biomass rather than coal will result in greenhouse gas savings in excess of 70 per cent.