Clean coal project would see 1,250 jobs at Drax

Stephen Brown of CO2 Sense
Stephen Brown of CO2 Sense
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POWER station operator Drax has shed more light on its plans for a pioneering ‘clean’ coal power plant in Yorkshire, which would create 1,250 jobs during its construction.

The North Yorkshire power giant, which supplies around seven per cent of the UK’s electricity, said the 426 mega watt (MW) plant would create another 60 jobs once operating.

Named the White Rose Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Project, it aims to trap about two million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, capturing 90 per cent of the plant’s emissions.

According to a document released by Drax, White Rose aims to power about 630,000 homes.

Drax will work with French engineering group Alstom and industrial gases firm BOC on the scheme, but has previously released few other details. National Grid will transport the trapped CO2 via a pipeline to underground caverns beneath the North Sea.

The consortium has created a new company, Capture Power Ltd, to develop, implement and operate the new scheme.

“The project is intended to prove CCS technology at commercial scale and demonstrate it as a competitive form of low carbon power generation and as an important technology in tackling climate change,” said the document. “It will also play an important role in establishing a CO2 transportation and storage network in the Yorkshire and Humber area.”

The state-of-the-art plant will be built on land north of Drax’s existing 3,960 MW power station, owned by the plant. Viewed from the north, the existing Drax plant will form the backdrop to the new power station, it said.

Drax, headed by chief executive Dorothy Thompson, is competing for European and Government funds to build the demonstration plant, one of three CSS projects in Yorkshire and the Humber. The Government has launched a £1bn competition to support a CCS demonstration scheme, after scrapping plans for a project at Longannet power station in Fife. Drax is also bidding for funds from the European Union’s NER 300 scheme, and would also be dependent on “market mechanisms to incentivise low-carbon technologies”.

No timescale has been put on when the first CO2 could be pumped underground. However, if successful, White Rose would be the first of its kind to use such technology on this scale.

“(It) is intended to pave the way for wider scale future deployment of CCS technology in the UK and elsewhere,” said the document.

The plant would be powered by coal, but also have scope to burn biomass – organic material generally derived from plants.

Construction of the plant would take about three years, according to the document, and it would result in a boost for Yorkshire firms during both the building and operation phase.

The consortium plans to apply for consent from the Infrastructure Planning Commission by early 2013. Before then, it will launch a public consultation to gauge views on the scheme. Drax is exploring a number of ways to reduce its carbon emissions and lengthen its lifespan, as increasingly tough rules on carbon emissions threaten the future of coal-fired power stations in the UK.

It recently scrapped two of three planned biomass power stations, blaming weak Government support for “dedicated” biomass burning. However, Drax still plans to convert its giant power station to be mainly fuelled by biomass.

Yorkshire-based non-for-profit consultancy CO2Sense has been lobbying for a carbon capture network to pipe emissions from polluting industries in Yorkshire and the Humber, to be pumped beneath the North Sea.

“We very strongly welcome and support the Drax CO2 capture project as it greatly adds to the strength of the initial CCS Yorkshire cluster,” said CCS director Stephen Brown.

The White Rose scheme plans to use oxyfuel combustion. This burns fuel in a high oxygen environment, meaning resulting gases contain a high concentration of CO2. This means CO2 can be captured without the need for chemical separation, before being piped for storage.

Drax declined to comment.

Going underground

CARBON capture and storage (CCS) aims to reduce fossil fuel emissions by burying greenhouse gases.

It involves trapping up to 90 per cent of carbon dioxide (CO2) at source, such as coal-fired power stations, steel plants and oil refineries, and compressing it. The compressed CO2 can be pumped through a series of pipes to a suitable well in geological formations. Often these are depleted gas caverns deep under the seabed.

The gas is pumped deep into the wells, where it filters into porous sandstone. The cost of compressing, transporting and storing CO2 has so far prevented development in the UK.