PLANNING approval for a £180m expansion at the Port of Tyne in South Shields is expected to get the go-ahead early next month.
The port is aiming to create a new wood pellet handling and storage facility at Tyne Dock, which could create 900 construction jobs and 300 full-time jobs when fully operational.
The Government recently backed the use of renewable fuels to fire power stations, a move which has been welcomed by Port of Tyne chief executive Andrew Moffat.
The port is already a key link in the wood pellet supply chain for a number of major generating companies, which have traditionally run coal-fired power stations.
And with a drive to reduce Co2 emissions, many of these coal-fired plants are converting their boilers to use wood pellets, an import commodity that the port already has expertise in handling.
The extension, on land adjacent to Tyne Logistics and IHC Engineering, would also incorporate 10 50m-high storage silos and two 46m- high rail-loading silos.
Next week, members of the council’s planning committee will be asked to grant approval for the expansion – despite objections to the plan from two neighbours.
The owners of a property in nearby Thornton Avenue claim noise from the port has increased since they purchased their flat in 1991.
And a resident in Compass House, located near the entrance to the port in Hudson Street, raised concerns about fire extinguishers available to the proposed storage silos.
Speaking late last year, Mr Moffat told the Gazette that wood pellet imports are a major potential growth area for the business.
He said: “From assessments our power-generating companies have made, burning sustainable wood pellets, as opposed to coal, can lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the whole supply chain of more than 80 per cent.
“That provides a considerable incentive for them to move to predominantly wood pellet-driven power generation.”
The bulk of the fuel comes from North America, so ports play a key role in the supply chain, and Mr Moffat says Port of Tyne is ahead of the game.
“The Port of Tyne has invested £23m in the specialist equipment and facilities required to store and handle this important fuel commodity, and, in doing so, has established itself as one of Europe’s leading handlers of wood pellet imports. We have handled more than 1.6m tonnes since 2010.”
A report, to be presented to the council’s planning committee next Monday, says: “The proposal would represent a very significant investment by the port, which is recognised as being important to both the local and regional economy.
“It would bring temporarily construction jobs and create up to 300 full-time equivalent jobs to the port.
“The highways and environmental impacts of the proposal, both during construction or subsequent operation, have been considered, and are not considered to give rise to significant harm.”