drax gets approval to build energy stations that can capture and store carbon dioxide

drax gets approval to build energy stations that can capture and store carbon dioxide

The UK approves drax’s bioenergy with carbon capture

 

Drax, considered the UK’s largest power station located in North Yorkshire, announces that the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho, approved the conversion of two of Drax’s biomass units into carbon removal technology named bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Drax hopes that by making the two units operational and capturing and removing carbon emissions, they can remove approximately 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year. The first BECSS unit is expected to be functional at Drax Power Station by 2030.

 

Drax quotes the analysis provided to them by Baringa, a consulting firm that specializes in the energy sector, saying that if the company succeeds in converting their units into bioenergy with carbon capture and storage stations, they can save up to 15 billion pounds of the UK’s whole economy between 2030 and 2050. Means like BECCS form part of UNESCO’s report on the Ethics of Climate Engineering where it warns companies about the risks of the use and adoption of new technologies to help reduce the impacts of climate change, including carbon dioxide removal.

 

Drax is looking at the upside too by saying that the move could help deliver up to ‘10,000 high-skilled jobs in the Humber at the peak of the project’s construction as well as safeguarding 7,000 direct and supply chain jobs.’ The biomass company is looking into sourcing 80 percent of its materials and services needed during the conversion from British businesses. Drax Power Station currently has four biomass generating units and produces around 4 percent of the UK’s power and 9 percent of its renewable electricity.

drax bioenergy carbon capture
images courtesy of Drax

 

 

Inside The Secretary of State decision letter

 

The Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero’s decision letter contains the detailed reasons why the UK government gave its approval to Drax in transforming two of its biomass units into bioenergy with carbon capture and storage stations, including that the company’s principle of the development and greenhouse gas emissions is of ‘very great positive weight.’ Along with this, the Examining Authority concluded that Drax’s carbon capture and removal technology would make ‘a meaningful contribution to meeting the urgent need for carbon capture storage infrastructure to support the transition to Net Zero by 2050.’

drax bioenergy carbon capture
the first BECSS unit is expected to be delivered and constructed at Drax Power Station by 2030.

 

 

The Examining Authority was also satisfied with Drax’s proposal and its ability to achieve a 95-percent capture efficiency. They also indicated that Drax had provided them ‘sufficient justification’ of the benefits of the conversion ‘including that the biomass generating station already benefits from consent. The Examining Authority concludes that over the whole life of the Proposed Development, there would be negative greenhouse gas emissions due to carbon captured in the operational phase.’ From here, the Secretary of State agrees with what the Examining Authority gathered and reviewed before giving the green light.

drax bioenergy carbon capture
Drax hopes the units can remove approximately 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year

 

 

Is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage reliable?

 

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage aims to capture and permanently store carbon emissions during the process of converting biomass into bioenergy, such as gas fuels or heat, or burning it to generate energy. It can also help trees and plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. A Princeton University note suggests that while the premise of bioenergy with carbon capture and storage sounds ideal for the environment, the technology itself is not yet confirmed to be reliable. The Natural Resources Defense Council believes that investing in BECCS may have risks since carbon dioxide may either not be properly stored and/or could be intermixed with vegetation.

drax bioenergy carbon capture
Drax Power Station currently has four biomass generating units and produces around 4 percent of the UK’s power

 

 

In 2019, Drax announced its ambition to be carbon-negative by 2030 using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage technology. In 2021, the Natural Resources Defense Council reported that its study examined the carbon emissions from the predominant supply chain and unveiled that BECCS technology, the one Drax has been approved to construct, can generate about 80 percent as much carbon as comes out of a coal plant smokestack per megawatt-hour. ‘This is because a large fraction of the total emissions occur off-site rather than at the power station and are thus uncapturable by the addition of CCS at the smokestack,’ the report states. ‘Given this, policymakers around the globe should not waste money on this approach to BECCS and should look carefully before betting on BECCS more generally as a climate-friendly solution.’

drax bioenergy carbon capture
the UK government states that the principle of the development and its GHG emissions is of ‘very great positive weight’

drax-power-station-uk-government-carbon-removal-capture-technology-bioenergy-beccs-designboom-ban

the Examining Authority was satisfied with Drax’s proposal to achieve a 95-percent capture efficiency

project info:

 

name: Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS)

company: Drax

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