Revealed: The biggest carbon dioxide polluters in Norfolk

Climate change image

Climate protesters at City Hall in Norwich, and inset the chimneys at Bacton Gas Terminal and Cantley sugar beet factory - Credit: Archant

From a “green” energy producer to a chicken factory - the biggest individual polluters in the county have been revealed. 

Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that sugar factories, a malt producer and energy companies are among the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide (CO2) locally. 

Pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is the biggest cause of climate change and world leaders meeting in Glasgow have pledged to cut emissions. 

But what is the picture locally and what are our biggest polluters doing to get to net zero? 

Overall CO2 emissions dropped by 42pc in Norfolk and Suffolk between 2005 and 2019; this is in line with national averages. 

However, to limit climate change the government has pledged to cut CO2 to net zero by 2050. To do that some of our biggest industries are going to have to dramatically change.  

The largest single polluter of carbon dioxide in Norfolk is RWE’s gas power plant in Great Yarmouth. The plant produces enough gas for 300,000 homes but also produced 885,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2019.  

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RWE said the plant was “highly efficient”, however, its emissions have not been falling in the last decade.

Other energy companies in the top polluter list are Shell, Interconnector and Perenco all linked to the Bacton Gas Terminal, as well as Centrica which ran a gas power station in King's Lynn.

Sisters Aeryn, seven, and Willow Cholerton, four, with their homemade banners at the COP26 protest a

Sisters Aeryn, seven, and Willow Cholerton, four, with their homemade banners at the COP26 protest as demonstrators gather at City Hall in Norwich - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Also high on the list is Fibrothetford Ltd which runs a renewable power plant. Thetford Power Plant produces electricity from farm waste in the local area – mainly from poultry litter and horse bedding. 

The company behind it said this is a green way of creating energy from a sustainable source and it is far more efficient than a gas-fired station. However, it still produced 425,000 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2019.  

Chief executive Eddie Wilkinson said these emissions would have been released into the environment anyway if the farming waste was spread to land or land-filled. Ash residues from the plant are also used as fertiliser, which replaces energy intensive, alternatives he said.  

He said renewable energy produced from the site last year rather saved the equivalent of 61,000 tonnes of carbon last year compared to using fossil fuels.

After energy companies the biggest source of carbon emissions in Norfolk is food production. 

Autumnal scenes on the Broads. Steam pours from the stack at the Cantley Sugar Beet factory, a sure

Cantley Sugar Beet factory - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

British Sugar alone, with its three factories in Cantley and Wissington produced around 326,000 tonnes in 2019. 

The company said it was cutting its carbon footprint by 30pc by 2030 compared to 2017.  

A spokesman said: "We have a long history of investing in technology to decarbonise our operations – from investing in anaerobic digestion to utilising heat and CO2 in our greenhouses.” 

The company said it had also £250m in its factories over the last five years to make them more efficient. At its Bury St Edmunds factory it built an anaerobic digester to turn waste from into energy.  

Emissions from its Wissington factory have only reduced slightly in the last decade, but at Cantley they have more than halved. 

Other food producers with large carbon footprints are Banham Poultry in Attleborough – producing 12,000 tonnes in 2019 – and Crisp Malting at Great Ryburgh emitting 19,000 tonnes. 

The four new silos at Crisp Malting, Great Ryburgh. Picture: Ian Burt

Crisp Malting, Great Ryburgh - Credit: Ian Burt

Crisp Malting makes malt for beer, whisky and some food ingredients and managing director Steve LePoidevin said turning grain into malt was energy intensive as it had to be dried, in a process called kilning. 

“It’s long been a priority to minimise consumption of water and energy,” he said.  

In 2018 the company installed a Combined Heat and Power unit, which he said had saved around 2,400 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. They intend to move to an all-renewable supply of energy next year, he added. 

Banham Poultry did not respond to a request for comment.  

Police at Banham Poultry in Attleborough following a fire. Picture Simon Parkin.

Banham Poultry in Attleborough - Credit: Archant

Running our sewage system is also energy intensive. Anglian Water’s sewage works at Whitlingham emitted 19,000 tonnes in 2019.  

The company said it had invested in renewable energy at the site which it said saved around 1,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. The company is attempting to get to net zero by 2030, it said and has cut emissions by a third between 2015 and 2020.  

One company which appears twice on our list is Anti-Waste Ltd which runs landfill sites at Blackborough End in west Norfolk and Aldeby in south Norfolk. Its parent company, FCC Environmental said it was “committed as a business and as a sector” to cut emissions and reach net zero. 

Two other big factories on the list of are Briar Chemicals in Norwich and Palm Paper in King’s Lynn. The companies did not respond to this article but on Briar Chemical’s website they state they spend £6m a year to maintain and improve their site. 

GV's of King's Lynn. Pictured: King's Lynn power station and to it's left the site of Palm Paper.P

Palm Paper in King's Lynn

Palm Paper is the fifth biggest individual emitter of carbon dioxide in Norfolk with 138,000 tonnes coming from its factory in 2019 – a number which has increased from 80,000 tonnes in 2015. Its website states the company has won awards for its sustainability.  

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