DRAX Power Station in Yorkshire, UK, will pilot Europe’s first bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) project by capturing carbon produced via biomass combustion.
Drax generates around 6% of Britain’s electricity and has already converted three of its six units to burn wood pellets instead of coal. A fourth unit will be converted for biomass combustion by the end of the year. Drax has now partnered with C-Capture, a spin-out from the University of Leeds, to investigate the possibility of carbon capture from biomass.
The project will determine if C-Capture’s solvent is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax. As burning biomass produces much lower levels of sulphur compared to coal, another test will investigate the possibility of re-purposing the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station.
If the feasibility study is successful, C-Capture will proceed to the second phase of the pilot in the autumn by installing a demonstration unit at the plant. Using the new technology, the electricity produced at Drax would be carbon negative by removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than is created though the sourcing and burning of wood pellets.
“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,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group. “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.”
“We have developed fundamentally new chemistry to capture CO2 and have shown that it should be suitable for capturing the carbon produced from bioenergy processes,” said Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture. “The key part is now to move it from our own facilities and into the real world at Drax.”
Luke Warren, CEO of the Carbon Capture & Storage Association said: “The UK Government is currently developing a CCUS Deployment Pathway, which is due to be published by the end of this year. It will be important to ensure that BECCS is part of this pathway alongside the development of CCUS to reduce existing emissions from industry, heat, power and transport.”
The announcement drew criticism from Almuth Ernsting, co-director from Biofuelwatch.
“It is highly ironic that Europe’s first ever BECCS project will involve capturing some of the CO2 from a plant that burns vast quantities of wood from clear-cut carbon-rich and biodiverse forests. A stable climate needs more, not less, thriving forest ecosystems, which play a vital role in regulating rainfall cycles and sequestering carbon. Drax’s announcement illustrates the fallacy of the idea that BECCS can save us from catastrophic climate change.”