Energy firm Drax is to pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe.

If successful, this project could make the renewable electricity produced at Drax’s power station in North Yorkshire, UK, carbon negative.

BECCS is vital to global efforts to combat climate change because the technology will mean the gases that cause global warning can be removed from the atmosphere at the same time as electricity is produced. This means power generation would no longer contribute to climate change but would start to reduce the carbon accumulating in the atmosphere.

The demonstration project will see Drax partner with Leeds-based C-Capture and invest £400,000 in what could be the first of several pilot projects undertaken at Drax to deliver a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS.

Drax Power Station became the largest decarbonisation project in Europe by upgrading its existing facilities and if the pilot is successful, it will examine options for a similar re-purposing of existing infrastructure to deliver more carbon savings.

A report by the Energy Technology Institute in 2016 has suggested that by the 2050s BECCS could deliver roughly 55 million tonnes of net negative emissions a year in the UK – approximately half the nation’s emissions target.

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.

Drax__C-Capture_BECCs_pilot__landscape

Source: Drax

L-R: Jason Shipstone, Head of R&D, Drax Group; Caspar Schoolderman, Director of Engineering, C-Capture Ltd; Andy Koss, CEO Drax Power; Prof Christopher Rayner, Technical Director, C-Capture Ltd; Carl Clayton, Research and Innovation Engineer, Drax Group.

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.

Depending on the outcome of a feasibility study, the C-Capture team will proceed to the second phase of the pilot in the autumn, when a demonstration unit will be installed to isolate the carbon dioxide produced by the biomass combustion.

Will Gardiner, CEO of 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.”

The Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA) has welcomed today’s announcement from Drax.

Dr. Luke Warren, Chief Executive of the CCSA, commented, “Today’s announcement represents an important step forward in the development of technology that can capture and store carbon dioxide from sustainable bio-energy to deliver negative emissions.”

“It is clear that negative emissions are likely to be needed if we are to deliver on UK and global climate change goals.”

“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.”