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Drax starts Europe’s first carbon capture and storage bioenergy pilot project

26 November 2018

UK energy utility Drax has started a pilot project to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions at its biomass plant, the first of its kind in Europe, the company said on November 26. Drax said the CO2 will initially be stored on site but that eventually it will seek to find a use for the gas, such as in the drinks industry which earlier this year was hit with a CO2 shortage.

Drax biomass storage domes  - Image: Drax
Drax biomass storage domes - Image: Drax

The Drax power plant in North Yorkshire burns biomass - wood pellets - and the carbon capture and storage (CCS) pilot would capture a tonne of CO2 a day from the gases produced when renewable power is generated, the company said in a statement.

This, Drax said, would enable the company to operate the world’s first carbon negative power plant, as, when coupled with CCS, the overall process of generating electricity from biomass removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than it releases.

The £400,000 six-month pilot project is part of a collaboration with chemical engineers C-Capture, and could be the first in a series of Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) pilot plants across the UK.

Drax has already converted four of its coal units to biomass, and said that depending on the outcomes of the pilot it could extend the BECCS capabilities to deliver further reductions emissions.

"Our BECCS pilot project is the UK's first step to delivering a key technology in the fight against climate change," said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group.

According to the Energy Institute, BECCS could enable the UK to capture 55 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 - approximately half the nation's emissions target - and repurpose it for industrial use or storage.

The first phase of the project, started in May, aimed to confirm that the solvent C-Capture developed was compatible with the biomass flue gas at the Drax power plant. A lab-scale study into the feasibility of reusing the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station was also carried out to assess potential capture rates.

FGD equipment is used for reducing sulphur emissions from coal but had 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.

The second phase of the pilot, which will now proceed, involves the installation of a demonstration unit to isolate the CO2 produced by the biomass combustion.

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