North Yorkshire biomass plant "a win for the environment"

The Northern Echo: Drax Drax

ENERGY Secretary Ed Davey has said investment in a massive new biomass plant and plans for clean coal carbon capture technology at western Europe's largest power station are a win for the environment.

Mr Davey announced that a consortium including the Drax power station had been awarded a multi-million pound contract for detailed design and planning for a carbon capture project as he visited the massive plant, near Selby, North Yorkshire.

The Secretary of State was at Drax to open the latest phase of a £700m scheme to convert half of the power station to burning biomass instead of coal.

But he said today was a double celebration.

Speaking in front of one of Drax's 12 massive cooling towers, Mr Davey said: "If you look at biomass end-to-end, from its harvesting to it being brought over here, we've shown that you can do that in a sustainable way, where you massively reduce carbon emissions compared to coal.

"But for the coal industry, by investing in carbon capture and storage, well see a new coal plant here that will bring new lease of life to coal if we can bring this new technology off.

"The Government is going to work with Drax and its consortium partners to ensure that we can enter a new era for coal where we can get the very valuable electricity that we need to keep the lights on but do that in a way that the carbon emissions that have been causing climate change can be captured and safely stored."

The Secretary of State said: "So this is a win for industry in the UK, a win for this part of the UK but it's a win for the climate as well - it's a win for the environment."

Today's announcement on carbon capture has given the go-ahead and funding for a detailed study by a consortium involving Alstom, Drax Power and BOC and National Grid.

This White Rose proposal would involve a new state-of-the-art clean coal power plant at Drax with full carbon capture and storage which, it says, will bring clean electricity to more than 630,000 homes and capture approximately two million tonnes of CO2 per year.

This will link into the planned development of a CO2 transportation and storage infrastructure. The consortium says the White Rose proposal represents potential investment in the region of £2bn and up to 2,000 jobs.

The facility opened by Mr Davey today will receive, store and distribute sustainable biomass to support the plants first converted biomass electricity generation unit.

Drax was built as a Britain's biggest coal-fired power station but is mid-way through a project to convert three of its six generating units to burn biomass.

The first has been running successfully on sustainable biomass since the beginning of April, the company said. It has already burnt a million tonnes of the fuel.

The second is planned to come online next year and the third in 2016.

Drax says each converted unit will provide enough renewable electricity to meet the needs of more than a million homes.

The firm says biomass can deliver carbon savings of around 80 per cent relative to coal.

It says all of the biomass used is sustainable, protects biodiversity, prevents deforestation and delivers genuine carbon savings. Most of it is grown in sustainable forests in the United States.

Drax Power Station is the largest power station in Britain and the countrys biggest single emitter of carbon dioxide.

But the firm said it is already the cleanest and most efficient coal-fired power station in the UK and the conversion of three of its six generating units to sustainable biomass will see its emissions reduced by around ten million tonnes.

The project has cost around £650m to £700m and has involved more than 5,000 contractors this year. As part of the operation being opened today, the firm has invested in 200 bespoke railway wagons which will start to deliver biomass to the power station from the ports of Tyne, Hull and Immingham.

Comments (1)

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12:43pm Tue 10 Dec 13

AlmuthE says...

Drax's biomass investments and the government's support for them are the very opposite of a 'win for the environment'. Drax will need to burn pellets made from almost 16 million tonnes of wood every year once they have converted half their capacity to biomass, as planned. This is around 1.6 times as much as all the wood produced in the UK annually. Importing and burning such vast quantities of wood is anything but sustainable. Nor will carbon emissions be reduced: Investigations by reporters and by US conservation NGOs Dogwood Alliance and NRDC show that at least one of the pellet mills that Drax is sourcing from has used wood from clearcut ancient wetland forests, rich both in carbon and biodiversity. Drax's pellet demand poses a grave threat to many remaining natural forests in the southern US, forests which store large amounts of carbon as well as being vital habitat for large numbers of species. Furthermore, biomass does not even replace coal: As Vince Cable made clear in an interview to the Financial Times, without partial conversion to wood pellets, Drax would have to close under EU legislation. Biomass conversion will allow them to continue burning coal in three units long-term. Drax's biomass investments would not be happening without massive public subsidies. For converting their first unit to biomass, Drax is getting around £198 million in subsidies every year. For each of the two units they are planning to convert in future, they will likely attract even more subsidies. On top of this, they have a £50 million loan from the Green Investment Bank (publicly financed) and a £75 million public loan guarantee, which means that if taxpayers are liable to pay off Drax's loans should anything go wrong with the investment. Public subsidies and supports on this scale could support many more jobs in genuine renewable energy and/or energy efficiency, which actually would reduce carbon carbon emissions.
Drax's biomass investments and the government's support for them are the very opposite of a 'win for the environment'. Drax will need to burn pellets made from almost 16 million tonnes of wood every year once they have converted half their capacity to biomass, as planned. This is around 1.6 times as much as all the wood produced in the UK annually. Importing and burning such vast quantities of wood is anything but sustainable. Nor will carbon emissions be reduced: Investigations by reporters and by US conservation NGOs Dogwood Alliance and NRDC show that at least one of the pellet mills that Drax is sourcing from has used wood from clearcut ancient wetland forests, rich both in carbon and biodiversity. Drax's pellet demand poses a grave threat to many remaining natural forests in the southern US, forests which store large amounts of carbon as well as being vital habitat for large numbers of species. Furthermore, biomass does not even replace coal: As Vince Cable made clear in an interview to the Financial Times, without partial conversion to wood pellets, Drax would have to close under EU legislation. Biomass conversion will allow them to continue burning coal in three units long-term. Drax's biomass investments would not be happening without massive public subsidies. For converting their first unit to biomass, Drax is getting around £198 million in subsidies every year. For each of the two units they are planning to convert in future, they will likely attract even more subsidies. On top of this, they have a £50 million loan from the Green Investment Bank (publicly financed) and a £75 million public loan guarantee, which means that if taxpayers are liable to pay off Drax's loans should anything go wrong with the investment. Public subsidies and supports on this scale could support many more jobs in genuine renewable energy and/or energy efficiency, which actually would reduce carbon carbon emissions. AlmuthE

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