Project ARBRE: Lessons for bio-energy developers and policy-makers
Project Arable Biomass Renewable Energy (ARBRE) was a 'flagship' project in the UK to demonstrate electricity generation from dedicated energy crops, employing the high efficiency of gasification combined cycle technology while also contributing to the waste management problem of sewage disposal. The plant never reached commercial operation and this paper provides the first detailed public account of the reasons, drawing on interviews with the main actors. Project ARBRE failed due to three unfortunate developments: the withdrawal for reasons of commercial strategy of the main company that initiated and financed the project; bankruptcy of the turnkey contractor appointed to oversee the project; and technical problems with the gasification technology, which could not be resolved within the financial and time constraints. All these factors acted in reinforcing manner and they were individually preventable: documenting the process of failure is a learning experience that can prevent their recurrence.
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