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A former Environment Secretary has called for action to tackle the risks at biogas plants by installing lightning rods after a massive explosion at a Severn Trent plant triggered by a bolt of lightning.
Conservative MP and Chair of the Environment Committee Sir Bob Goodwill told MailOnline more than 100 active plants should consider 'mitigation' such as the conductors to prevent similar scenes to those in Oxfordshire on Monday night.
The lightning strike struck a Severn Trent Green Power plant in Yarnton, Oxfordshire, causing the tank to combust.
Severn Trent said the explosion took place at around 7.20pm as it confirmed that no-one was injured in the blast - but told users to stay away from the site on Tuesday. The plant is now 'fully safe', according to the company.
It comes as MailOnline can reveal last night's incident is at least the second thunderbolt to hit biogas structures - after a similar incident in 2018 left a smaller agricultural site needing a brand new roof.
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Residents have shared videos of the fire raging after what a number of people have described as an 'explosion'
Emergency services rushed to the scene amid storms seen across the UK on Monday
Conservative MP Sir Bob Goodwill told MailOnline it should be considered whether similar plants should have lightning conductors to prevent such an explosion happening again
Sir Bob said: 'Lightning strikes happen to a lot of installations like this and obviously given what's happened it might be worth considering if we need lightning conductors.
'Given it is the second such strike on a biogas plant it might be worth doing some work to see if we need to put in mitigation, and it would have to be considered how near to the plant a conductor would be, but lightning conductors are well-established and that would seem a sensible precaution.'
He added: 'If this organic waste was put into landfill it would still release methane which could be released into the atmosphere.
'Using this material in this way is something we definitely should be doing and I hope it doesn't deter us in this way to install more biogas plants.'
Mr Goodwill also warned the public to ensure they know what to do if they are trapped in the open in a thunderstorm.
He said: 'This incident underlines how we all need to take precautions when there are heavy storms and lightening and be responsible, generally it is worth knowing exactly what you need to do.'
His comments come as MailOnline can reveal a different biogas plant suffered a similar incident back in October 2018.
A similar incident in 2018 left a smaller agricultural site (pictured) needing a brand new roof
In that storm a lightning strike hit a digestate tank - where waste is placed to be turned into gas - at an agricultural biomass plant in the early hours of the morning, a government report shows.
The fire service attended but due to planned maintenance, the gas supply had been isolated from the tank so the impact of the strike was limited - although a brand new roof was required.
The report, which analysed incidents at biogas plants between 2010 and 2018, found examples of fire risks, leakage into the local environment and pollution of local waterways.
The wreckage of the fire was still smouldering on Tuesday morning following the overnight fire
Six fire engines, 40 firefighters, police and four ambulances were initially deployed to the Oxfordshire plant last night, which turns food waste into biogas. Police urged residents to stay indoors and the A40 was closed as the flames lit up the night sky.
The plant is one of several sites owned by Severn Trent which converts waste into biogas, a green source of energy. There are currently around 109 active biogas sites which provide electricity in the UK, according to the National Grid, but the total number of biogas plants is thought to be around 660.
Biogas conversion involves allowing waste to ferment in air-tight containers, where anaerobic respiration takes place and causes the creation of gases. These are then funnelled into a gas storage tank before being used as energy for heating and electricity.
Aerial footage from a drone shows the full extent of the damage caused to the tanks used to process food waste at the plant.
The plastic green covers over the tanks – about the size of half a football pitch – were shredded in the blaze that was tackled by 40 firemen for more than five hours.
The remnants of the melted plastic covers could clearly be seen draped over the cylindrical tanks.
Firefighters continued working on the gas storage containers well into Friday
The scale of the damage became clear with three containers almost completely destroyed
A nearby building was untouched in the fire while a staff building and cars also escaped any damage.
Two of the biogas tanks known as Anaerobic Digestion units were untouched. Fire crews today continued to dampen down the structures from hydraulic lifts.
The plant, named Cassington AD, processes over 50,000 tonnes of waste each year and generates 2.1 megawatts of electricity, as well as bio-fertiliser, its website states.
But videos show how the night sky was turned an eerie orange after what locals described as a 'loud explosion'.
A Severn Trent Green Power