Drax submits plans for pioneering BECCS project 

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Energy giant Drax has formally submitted plans for its multi-billion-pound bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) project at its North Yorkshire power station.

The company said work to build the flagship BECCS plant - which would be one of the first such facilities anywhere in the world - could start in 2024, if planning approval is granted.

BECCS plants combine biomass power plants with carbon capture and storage capabilities to capture emissions that result from burning biomass feedstocks, such as wood chips. Advocates of the approach maintain that as the trees that produce the wood chips are sourced from sustainably managed forests and soak up CO2 as they grow, the capturing of the resulting emissions mean the technology can have a negative impact on concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Once operational the two new units combined could capture as much as eight million tonnes of CO2 per year, Drax said, which would make the site the largest carbon capture and storage project in the world.

Drax is planning to invest £2bn in the 2020s to develop the BECCS units, which it hailed as "a vital new technology needed to address the climate crisis".

"BECCS at Drax will not only permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, but it will also generate the reliable, renewable power this country needs," said Will Gardiner, CEO at Drax Group. "No other technology can do both." 

The submission of its application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate follows two public consultations, where Drax said it gained input from the public and key stakeholders on its BECCS plans.  

The news came as Drax also announced this week that it has partnered with Japanese shipping company MOL Drybulk to reduce the emissions and fuel costs associated with shipping biomass feedstocks by deploying wind power technology on its vessels.

The companies plan to develop wind-powered vessels which will be used to transport bulk cargoes of Drax's wood pellets to its customers in Japan, where the biomass is used to generate renewable energy.

The newly built vessels will be fitted with MOL's wind Challenge hard sail technology, with the first ship expected to be in the water by 2025.

Biomass power remains controversial with some environmental groups, who maintain that soaring demand for wood chips could drive land use change and lead to the sourcing of feedstocks from poorly managed forests that could result in higher-than-expected emissions. But Drax and other biomass power operators maintain that they are careful to ensure the feedstocks they source are sustainable and that the emergence of BECCS technologies means the sector could play a critical role in delivering negative emissions.


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