Drax ‘pauses’ £2bn carbon capture investment as it awaits government decision
A Government announcement is expected this month on the first round of successful applications for funding for such projects. Drax has already outlined plans to invest its own £2bn into the scheme.
Drax’s Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) programme involves the burning of wood pellets, or biomass, at its North Yorkshire power station, the emissions from which are then caught through a carbon capture system and pumped out under the North Sea.
The firm said that while it welcomed support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the recent Budget, it requires its BECCS system to gain Track 1 status in order for the project to continue.
The firm said that without this support, the power station could become “unviable” by 2027.
Drax CEO Will Gardiner said: “Whilst we welcome the Government’s ambition to invest billions in carbon capture and storage, we need a firm commitment to BECCS before we commit to investing £2bn into installing this technology at Drax Power Station.
“Until we have this clarity, we are pausing our multi-million pound investment programme in the UK BECCS project and urge Government to use the planned announcement at the end of the month to outline their support for this.”
Drax’s biomass units provide up to 11 per cent of total GB electricity generation, and up to 70 per cent of what the government classifies as renewable generation. Drax claims the loss of its own and other biomass units from the national electricity system would reduce the country’s dispatchable capacity to 80 per cent of peak demand.
Drax’s BECCS system has received criticism from some scientists, MPs and environmental groups, over the biomass aspect of Drax’s programme. Many of these groups claim that the burning of biomass wood-pellets creates more CO2 emissions than the burning of coal.
Matt Williams, Senior Advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council and campaigner for Cut Carbon Not Forests said Drax was “holding the UK’s electricity supply hostage until it is promised billions.”
He added: “This would be terrible for the families and forests – burning millions of tonnes of trees every year makes climate change worse, harms wildlife, and pushes up energy bills.”
Drax claims that its BECCS plans could lead to eight million tonnes of carbon removals in the UK per year by 2030, and that BECCS is critical to energy security and efforts to address the climate crisis. Drax also says it only uses wood byproducts from trees which are used for lumber in sustainably managed forests.
A Department for Energy Security and Net Zero spokesperson said: “We are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and achieving energy security - and carbon capture has a significant role to play in getting us there. The Chancellor has provided an unprecedented £20 billion investment to develop this new capability and we will announce the first round of successful applications later this month.”
The Government has also committed to publishing a Biomass Strategy later this year, which will set out details on “how biomass can best contribute towards new zero and our energy security.”