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Drax power station aiming to become carbon neutral with CO2 sucking technology

Image credit: DT

Drax, Britain’s biggest power station, has announced it will pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe, which, if successful, could make the facility’s operations carbon negative.

The North Yorkshire power station currently produces seven per cent of the UK’s electricity. 65 per cent of its output is through burning biomass.

The firm announced on Monday that it has joined with Leeds-based project C-Capture in what it says could be the first of several pilot projects aimed at delivering “a rapid, lower cost demonstration of Beccs”.

Beccs has been touted as carbon negative as it uses plants which take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and then stores this when is it released as part of the electricity generation process.

The first phase of the project, starting this month, will look to see if the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. A lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilising the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station will also be carried out to assess potential capture rates.

FGD equipment is vital for reducing sulphur emissions from coal, but has become redundant on three of the generating units at Drax that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulphur. Drax said that if this pilot were to lead to a full roll-out, it would achieve what the team behind the tech has called the “holy grail” of power generation.

The firm has pointed to 2016 research which suggests that Beccs could deliver around 55 million tonnes of net negative emissions a year in the UK by the 2050s - approximately half the UK’s emissions target.

Drax says its biomass conversion has been the “largest decarbonisation project in Europe”.

But the company has been criticised by some environmental campaigners who say biomass power generation causes deforestation, damages eco-systems and that claims for reducing atmospheric carbon rely on replanting vegetation which would take decades to replace crops that are lost.

Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group, said: “If the world is to achieve the targets agreed in Paris and pursue a cleaner future, negative emissions are a must - and Beccs is a leading technology to help achieve it. This pilot is the UK’s first step, but it won’t be the only one at Drax."

“We will soon have four operational biomass units, which provide us with a great opportunity to test different technologies that could allow Drax, the country and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “We aim to make the UK a world leader in carbon capture usage and storage, a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy. It’s hugely exciting that Drax has chosen to invest in this innovative project”.

Drax has previously trialled carbon capture and storage technology although the UK government later pulled support for the technology which ended the trial before full implementation. 

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