Drax power station announced last week that it is to pilot a bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) project, which will be the first of its kind in Europe. The North Yorkshire power plant will invest £400,000 and work in partnership with a Leeds-based company, C-Capture, to deliver the trial, which could make its power generation carbon negative.
CCS is a three-stage technology whereby CO2 is captured from emission sources, transported via a network of pipelines, and stored in deep subsurface geological formations or other suitable storage. A CCS project had previously been proposed at Drax until the government cancelled funding in 2015. The new project will be different because it will look at the potential for carbon capture post-combustion on biomass rather than coal.
Three of the six 645-megawatt (MW) power generation units at Drax have been upgraded from burning coal to using sustainable biomass in the form of compressed wood pellets. A fourth coal unit will be converted to use the low-carbon fuel in 2018.
Biomass is considered to be a renewable fuel because the CO2 captured when it grew is equal to the emission it releases during electricity generation. It, therefore, does not add new CO2 to the biosphere. If it is combined with BECCS, and the released emissions are captured, the process results in negative net emissions. This also relies on the source of the biomass being truly sustainable.
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”.
The UK government is currently developing a carbon capture, usage, and storage pathway, which is due to be published by the end of this year. Meanwhile, the Norwegian government has recently pledged further funding for two new CCS demonstration projects, which it is hoped will lay the ground for CCS development across Europe.
Significant developments in CCS have been made across the Middle East, Asia, and the United States as can be seen in an interactive map of large-scale CCS projects, provided by the Global CCS Institute. The list includes two large projects in the UK, both categorised as being in early development.