News | Published December 10 2019

Drax power plant announces plans to go carbon negative

Drax, the UK’s largest power station, has announced plans to go carbon negative by trapping a higher rate of carbon than it produces by the year 2030.

The North Yorkshire plant, which is responsible for generating five per cent of the UK’s power, already makes use of renewable energy sources such as wood pellet burning after having previously run solely on coal.

The Drax firm plans to scale-up a pilot carbon-capture project at its site, which currently prevents one tonne of carbon a day from entering the atmosphere. The company plans to install carbon-trapping technology at two of the plant’s units by the end of the next decade, which could keep as much as eight million tonnes of carbon-dioxide per year out of the atmosphere.

However, one expert has warned that more action will be needed to have a tangible impact on the country’s carbon goal.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Nilay Shah, who leads the chemical engineering department at Imperial College London, said that the UK would need to accumulate up to 150 million tonnes of “negative emissions” in order to meet the government’s net zero carbon target.

Furthermore, with the Drax plant’s government subsidies set to expire in 2027, its privileges will need to be extended if it is to so much as realise its vision of trapping eight million tonnes of carbon per annum. It currently receives £2 million a day in support from the government.

The carbon-capture project at the site itself will form part of a two-pronged carbon negative programme, with the Drax firm saying that the sustainably farmed trees that provide its wood pellets would also absorb further carbon emissions as they grow. The plant’s only surviving pair of coal units are to be closed by the end of 2025.

The firm will hope that its carbon negative plans will reassure campaigners who have raised concerns that wood-burning is not a carbon neutral method of generating power, given that young trees planted in place of those cut down are incapable of absorbing as much carbon.

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
December 10 2019

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