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Drax goes fourth with completed biomass conversion

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Major UK energy supplier Drax has switched on the fourth biomass generating unit at its power station in North Yorkshire, marking a significant step in what it claims to be Europe’s largest decarbonisation project.

Back in June this year, Drax took the coal-fired generating unit offline in preparation for its conversion to running on sustainable biomass. Three of the site’s six coal fuelled units had already been converted from coal to biomass.

According to a statement, the latest milestone means Drax is on course to be ‘off coal’ ahead of the UK Government’s 2025 deadline.

The work was completed on schedule, the project team reusing some redundant infrastructure left over from when the company was first co-firing biomass with coal on a large scale around eight years ago.

“This is another major milestone in the transformation of the power station. It will extend the life of the plant, protecting jobs, whilst delivering cleaner, reliable power for millions of homes and businesses,” says Drax Power CEO Andy Koss in a statement.

“It is testament to the engineering expertise, skill and ingenuity we have at Drax. The team has developed some very innovative solutions for this upgrade, using all the knowledge we’ve gained throughout the work we have done so far to transform the business using sustainable biomass.”

Drax has already invested approximately £700 million (approx. €779 million) in upgrading the first three units and associated supply chain infrastructure for biomass. The cost of the fourth generating unit’s conversion is around £30 million (approx. €33 million), which the company states is significantly less than the other conversions.

According to a company announcement, Drax will now continue its work to replace its remaining two coal units, with gas-fired power generating units. The Combined Cycle Gas Turbines it is looking to develop could deliver up to 3.6GW of capacity, as well as up to 200MW of battery storage.