UK-headed global renewable energy company Drax Group plc has announced that it plans to establish a new independent business unit that will focus on becoming the global leader in delivering large-scale and high-integrity carbon dioxide removals (CDR).
The recent “global stocktake” at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) warned of the need to move faster to tackle the climate emergency.
Large-scale carbon dioxide removals (CDR), including Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), are widely regarded by the scientific community as being critical to meeting this challenge.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has projected that the world will need to remove between 0.5 and 9.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually via BECCS by 2050 to stay on course to limit global warming to the crucial 1.5°C target.
A separate US-headed entity
Working with coalition partners, the new business will offer a compelling proposition that combines Drax’s expertise in BECCS with the latest climate science.
The creation of this business brings to life years of hard work by many outstanding people across our Group and marks another step in Drax’s journey to enable a zero-carbon, lower-cost energy future. Our recent success is grounded in providing secure, renewable energy, and our future is focused on playing a critical role in tackling climate change through the generation of secure, renewable power and the large-scale removal of carbon dioxide, said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group.
The yet-to-be-named business will be operationally separate within the Drax Group and headquartered in Houston, Texas (TX), in the United States (US), and it will have an ambitious goal to remove at least 6 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually.
The new business will be led by Laurie Fitzmaurice, a senior energy infrastructure expert, who has nearly 30 years of experience in business development around the world, most recently for Amazon Web Services.
Drax intends to formally launch this new entity in the United States later this year and Laurie will be supported by a highly skilled management team with a track record of success in tackling climate change through the development and delivery of innovative technologies.
Laurie and her team will take ownership of delivering the Group’s strategy for BECCS in the US and internationally as set by the board of Drax Group plc.
I am excited to welcome Laurie as President of our new US-headquartered carbon removals business and look forward to working with her. We have a limited window of opportunity to capitalize on our first-mover advantage and I am confident that the time is right for this approach. The new entity will bring focus and will scale the company’s ability to deliver carbon removals to organizations looking to reduce their carbon footprints. Delivering the ambitious targets will see the new entity become a leader in the growing carbon trading market, Will Gardiner said.
CDR project development and credit sales
The new business will have day-to-day responsibility for project execution including project development, delivery and marketing, and sales of CDR credits and power and deployment of the Group’s multi-billion-dollar global BECCS CAPEX program.
Laurie will also use her experience to collaborate with strategic partners drawn from the scientific, academic, consulting, investment, and construction communities, in addition to civil society, to accelerate the global deployment of CDR technology.
The engineered carbon removals market has continued to grow exponentially over the last 12 months with 4.5 million tonnes purchased in 2023 – a sixfold increase from last year, according to cdr.fyi.
However, the total amount sold to date represents only 0.05 percent of the IPCC annual goal.
I am delighted to have been asked to lead Drax’s new US-based business at such a crucial point in the growth of the carbon removal industry. We have enormous potential to play a significant role in tackling climate change and improving the lives of millions of people across the world. By working with a coalition of partners, together we can accelerate the rate at which we can scale carbon removals and I encourage stakeholders who are keen to deliver on this ambition to work with us, said Laurie Fitzmaurice.
Deep emission reductions and job creation
In the UK, Drax’s plans for installing BECCS onto its Power Station in Yorkshire and its transformation into the world’s largest carbon removal facility have recently been granted planning approval by the UK Government.
The UK Government has also recently recognized the important role that biomass can play in delivering the UK’s plans for Net Zero as well as supporting energy security.
The delivery of this project will continue to be handled by a UK-based team within Drax Group.
New research published by Foresight Transitions, a specialized consultancy led by a team from Imperial College, London, concludes that BECCS is necessary to help the United States achieve its ambitious decarbonization scenarios, deliver a zero-carbon power system by 2035, and become net-negative by 2050.
The report “The role and value of BECCS in the USA” also highlights how deploying BECCS will not only enable deep emissions reductions but also have the potential to create thousands of jobs across multiple industries.
The study concludes that the integration of BECCS is a cost-effective solution, outweighing other technologies, whilst strengthening system reliability across the three major regional grids in the United States (CAISO, MISO, and ERCOT) and reducing interconnection delays.
This study set out to quantify the role and value of BECCS in the context of decarbonizing a variety of power systems in the USA. We consistently observed that BECCS provided substantial value through the cost-effective removal of CO2 from the atmosphere and also the baseload generation of renewable energy – a complement to other forms of renewable energy, commented Professor Niall McDowell, author of the Foresight Transitions research.