BOSSES behind a controversial green energy plant earmarked for Portland want to change the fuel from palm oil to used car tyres.

W4B Portland Ltd is looking for feedback from the community to an interim plan to create energy from tyres, a process it says would create no emissions or smell.

The change has come about because of the high cost of palm oil and the operators looking for an alternative fuel in the meantime to get the plant up and running.

Opponents are unconvinced and maintain Portland is the wrong place for a power station.

The £35million liquid biomass power plant was given planning approval three years ago amid widespread concern but has yet to be built on the edge of Balaclava Bay just along the coast from Portland Port.

Work to prepare the site for construction began earlier this year.

W4B Portland has applied to Weymouth and Portland Borough Council to amend the feedstock condition to allow the plant to use an alternative to palm oil during the first phase of development.

The plant would convert rubber crumb from old car tyres from Dorset, Somerset and Bristol into synthetic diesel and LPG.

Tyres would be converted to the crumb away from Portland and the conversion process in the plant would take place in a sealed chamber, which bosses say would have ‘no emissions of any kind’ and no smell.

The company said this was important as the Portland coastline has world heritage site status and the project continued to be planned and integrated with ‘great care’ to avoid any ‘negative impact on the local environment.’

No change to the approved construction programme would be needed for the plant, which would create six megawatts of energy, enough to power 3,000 homes, as well as potentially providing power for the developing Portland Port.

Originally the palm oil plant was going to provide more than 18 megawatts of power.

Chairman of W4B Portland Chris Slack said the amendment would mean the plant wouldn’t import vegetable oil for the immediate future.

Instead, it would help to solve of a ‘major problem’ for local councils – disposing of used car tyres that are no longer permitted at landfill and ‘positively contribute’ towards Dorset’s waste disposal strategy and its renewable energy targets.

Mr Slack said: “The fundamental reason (for the change) is that currently palm oil is right at the top of its price band.”

He added: “This interim plant will give us a maximum of six megawatts. While it’s small, it’s still getting the plant up and running.”

Mr Slack said the hope in the long-term was to convert to palm oil.

l The consultation will take place on Saturday March 23, between 10am and 2pm at the Britannia Passenger Terminal at Portland Port. Representatives of W4B Portland will be available to answer questions.

SOUTH and West Dorset Green Party officer Jane Burnet said the plans were ‘ill-thought out’.

She added: “I can’t believe the firm isn’t capable of forecasting palm oil prices.

“Had they done that, and had the council listened to local opposition, we could have avoided having a power station on Portland.

“To my mind having it on this part of the coast is counterintuitive.”

Ms Burnet said the company, while waiting for palm oil prices to fall, could also be waiting for renewable energy subsidies to be introduced by the government.

She said the Green Party objected to palm oil as a renewable energy due to the damage caused by clearing land for plantations.

Portland resident Julie Samouelle, who lives at the Verne above Balaclava Bay, said she would research the tyres-as-energy process to investigate the environmental impact.

She added: “There would still be chimneys emitting something and I, along with the inmates of the Verne prison, are positioned just above those chimneys.

“I would be interested to know what the by-product is from burning rubber.”