PORT bosses in South Tyneside aim to be going full steam ahead when the Government delivers on renewable energy pledges.
The Port of Tyne is aiming to spend £180m on new wood pellet handling facilities at Tyne Dock, South Shields, which could create 900 construction jobs and 300 full-time jobs, when the upgraded site becomes fully operational.
The first stage of the project – the biggest investment package in the Port’s history – has been given the green light.
The Government has recently backed the use of renewable fuels to fire power stations, a move welcomed by Port of Tyne chief executive, Andrew Moffat.
He said: “With the Government setting out its support for renewable energy generation, we know that the long-term demand is there, and, hopefully, our plans will be able to move forward in 2014.
“We are juggling two requirements – securing the finance for the new facility, while ensuring that we have customers in place to support it once it is built.”
The Port of Tyne is already a key link in the wood pellet supply chain for a number of major generating companies, who have traditionally run coal-fired power stations.
Mr Moffat added: “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 has unrivalled expertise in handling.”
Mr Moffat says 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.
He added: “The Port of Tyne has invested £23m in the specialist equipment and facilities required to store and handle this imprtant 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.”
The business contributes about £500m to the North East economy and employs more than 450 staff.
Its headquarters are at Maritime House, Tyne Dock.