The bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot project is now underway and represents the first-time carbon dioxide has been captured from the combustion of a 100 per cent biomass feedstock anywhere in the world.
The technology is claimed to be essential in the fight against climate change with its supporters saying it could move Britain further ahead in the race to develop BECCS technologies.
The demonstration plant at the power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, is using technology developed by Leeds-based C-Capture, to capture a tonne of CO2 a day, during the pilot.
A spokesperson said that the BECCS pilot, which Drax has invested £400,000 in, can be scaled up to deliver negative emissions, meaning that in effect Drax Power Station would be helping to remove the gases that cause global warning from the atmosphere at the same time as electricity is produced.
Engineers began commissioning the pilot plant in November with the first carbon now being captured.
A spokesperson said this was proving that the proprietary solvent developed by C-Capture can be used to isolate the carbon dioxide from the flue gases released when biomass is used to generate electricity.
Data being obtained about the CO2 capture process will continue to be analysed throughout the pilot to fully understand the potential of the technology and how it could be scaled up at Drax. Part of this will include identifying and developing ways to store and use the carbon dioxide being captured.
Drax said the scheme could be the first of several projects undertaken at the power station to deliver a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS.
Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said: “Proving that this innovative carbon capture technology works is an exciting development and another important milestone in our BECCS project. Climate change affects us all so this is of real significance - not just for us at Drax, but also for the UK and the rest of the world. The successful deployment of BECCS requires us to identify ways in which the carbon dioxide we’re now capturing can be stored or used in other processes and we’re working with the government and other businesses on that.
“We’re focused on working together to make the progress required for us to tackle climate change and enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.”
Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture and Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds, said: “This represents a major milestone on the road to achieving negative emissions through BECCS, which is going to be so important in the future. To see our technology working in a real environment like Drax is a tribute to the fantastic team of chemists and engineers who work on the project.”
Caspar Schoolderman, Director of Engineering at C-Capture added: “Working at this scale is really where the engineering gets interesting. The challenge now is to get all the information we need to design and build a capture plant 10,000 times bigger.”
Work has already been undertaken to ensure the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. This was completed last summer along with a lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilising the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station.
The Royal Academy and Royal Society of Engineers have estimated that BECCS could enable the UK to capture 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 – approximately half the nation’s emissions target.
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy identified BECCS as one of several greenhouse gas removal technologies that could remove emissions from the atmosphere and help achieve long term decarbonisation.
Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, said: “This innovative technology has the potential to make huge strides in our efforts to tackle climate change while kick-starting an entirely new cutting-edge industry in the UK.
“World-firsts like this will help us to realise our ambition of having a first operational plant by the mid-2020s as we continue to seize the opportunities of moving to a greener, cleaner economy – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”
Drax Power Station became the largest decarbonisation project in Europe by upgrading two thirds of its generating units to use biomass instead of coal.