Shepherd Group awarded biomass contract at Drax

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DRAX has awarded a construction contract to York-based Shepherd Group to boost biomass firing at its power station.

The North Yorkshire-based plant, which supplies around seven per cent of the UK’s electricity, awarded Shepherd the contract as part of plans to increase biomass burning to 20 per cent from its current 12.5 per cent capability.

Drax recently confirmed plans to invest £50m this year in new biomass storage, handling facilities and other modifications. Biomass is organic, typically plant-based material, such as wood chips and energy crops.

Depending on Government subsidies, Drax eventually plans to convert the coal-fired plant into one mainly fired by biomass.

Mark Perkins, chief executive of Shepherd’s built environment division, said: “We are delighted to be working with Drax. Shepherd Group’s designers have worked closely with the Drax team to develop integrated technical solutions that will create world-leading biomass facilities and support Drax’s intention to become a lower carbon generator. The project will also generate wider opportunities for local people in terms of employment and skills training, and we will be maximising opportunities for local businesses, working closely with our supply chain partners throughout the build.”

Three of Shepherd Group’s subsidiaries, Shepherd Construction, SES and Portasilo, will work on the contract. No value was placed on the deal.

Family-owned Shepherd, found-ed in 1890, has turnover of more than £600m.

As part of its Buy Yorkshire campaign, the Yorkshire Post has been calling for Yorkshire companies to buy goods and services from other firms in the region wherever practical.

Drax chief executive Dorothy Thompson said: “Our choice for this project confirms that there are the skills and technical ability in the region’s construction sector to deliver on large-scale industrial projects.”

Drax recently dropped plans for two of three new biomass-fired power stations, which were planned under a £2bn project, because of insufficient subsidies.

Ms Thompson said: “We are pleased to announce the contract with Shepherd which marks the next step in our biomass journey. Delivering reliable, low carbon power in the most cost-effective way is a win-win-win: it’s good for security of supply, good for the environment and reduces the cost burden on consumers’ energy bills.

“Drax is ready to transform itself into a predominantly biomass fuelled generator, but to do so we need appropriate regulatory support, and to that end we look forward to the timely conclusion of the Government’s current review of the future support levels for renewable technologies.”