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Europe’s first bioenergy carbon capture and storage pilot now underway

The commissioning of an innovative Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) pilot plant at Drax Power Station in the United Kingdom has started with the first carbon dioxide (CO2) expected to be captured in the coming weeks. "Our BECCS pilot project is the UK’s first step to delivering a key technology in the fight against climate change. If this project is successful, it could enable Drax to become the world’s first carbon negative power station," said Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group.

Andy Koss (left) CEO, Drax Power with Prof Chris Rayner, technical director, C-Capture Ltd (Foreground). Also in the photo (middleground) are Eva Penalver Garcia, Drax Group Research and Innovation Engineer and Rose McCarthy, C-Capture Chemist. In the background Carl Clayton, Drax Research and Innovation engineer and the BECCS pilot project manager, with Caspar Schoolderman, Director of Engineering, C-Capture Ltd (photo courtesy Drax Power).

Drax Power Ltd, a subsidiary of UK power utility major Drax Group plc has begun the commissioning of an innovative Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) pilot plant at Drax Power Station with the first carbon dioxide (CO2) expected to be captured in the coming weeks.

Starting to commission the pilot plant on the tenth anniversary of the Climate Change Act demonstrates the progress made in decarbonising energy in the UK – but there is much more to do and this will be our focus at the Edinburgh CCS Summit later this week, said Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group.

If successful, the six month pilot project will capture a tonne of CO2 a day from the gases produced when renewable power is generated using biomass at Drax – the UK’s biggest power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire.

Drax is partnering with Leeds-based C-Capture, a spin-out from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leeds, established through funding from IP Group Plc. Drax is investing GBP400 000 (≈ EUR 452 300) in what could be the first of several pilot projects undertaken at the power station to deliver a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS.

A strategic GHG removal technology

According to Drax, BECCS is “vital” to global efforts to combat climate change because the technology will mean the gases that cause global warning can be removed from the atmosphere at the same time as electricity is produced. This means power generation would start to reduce the carbon accumulating in the atmosphere – vital for tackling climate change.

At Drax we want to create a low carbon future – to do that we have to test the technologies that could allow us, as well as the UK and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, Gardiner said.

Drax Power Station became the largest decarbonisation project in Europe by upgrading two thirds of its generating units to use biomass instead of coal and, if the BECCS pilot is successful, it will examine options for a similar re-purposing of existing infrastructure to deliver more carbon savings.

The government’s Clean Growth Strategy identified BECCS as one of several greenhouse gas (GHG) removal technologies that could remove emissions from the atmosphere and help achieve long term decarbonisation. The Royal Academy and Royal Society of Engineers have estimated that BECCS could enable the UK to capture 50 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2050 – approximately half the nation’s emissions target.

This major milestone in developing cutting-edge technology to reduce emissions while growing the economy shows our modern Industrial Strategy in action. Backed by government funded innovation, Drax has helped put the UK on the map when it comes to carbon capture ahead of pivotal talks with global leaders in Edinburgh this week, which aim to supercharge the global deployment of this game-changing technology, said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry.

First phase completed

C-Capture‘s proprietary technology aims to remove or ‘scrub’ CO2 from large scale point sources of gas emissions using a solvent system. Over the summer work was undertaken to ensure the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. This was completed successfully along with a lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilising the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station.

FGD equipment is vital for reducing sulphur emissions from coal, but it is no longer required to control sulphur on four of the generating units at Drax that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulphur.

It’s clear that BECCS is one of a very limited number of viable negative emissions technologies, and is vital if we are to reach our CO2 emissions targets, not just in the UK, but around the world. Being a key part of Europe’s first BECCS demonstration project is a great opportunity to showcase C-Capture’s technology, and through working with Drax, show how we can make a real impact on climate change, said Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture and Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds.

The C-Capture team has now proceeded to the second phase of the pilot, with the installation of a demonstration unit. Once commissioned it will isolate the CO2 produced by the biomass combustion.

This is a very important milestone on the pathway to demonstrating and scaling up our exciting new technology. Working closely with the team from Drax has been a great experience, and we look forward to getting the demonstrator fully operational, and showing just how good our technology is, said Caspar Schoolderman, Director of Engineering at C-Capture.

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