July 15, 2024
World’s largest carbon capture plant is UK’s ‘next big white elephant’

In a move that has sparked widespread criticism from scientists and politicians alike, the UK government has approved plans to install carbon capture technology at Britain’s largest power plant.

Under the plans, power generator Drax will install so-called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology at two of four biomass units at the Drax power station in Yorkshire.

Drax switched from burning coal to burning biomass — mostly wood pellets — in 2019. The Drax power station, which produces around 4% of the UK’s power, mostly burns wood imported from North America. 

Despite the switch, the plant was identified last year by climate think tank Ember as the country’s single largest CO2 emitter

However, according to Drax, its power station is climate neutral because the emissions from the wood it burns are offset by the CO2 absorbed by regrowing trees in place of those that were cut down. 

By adding BECCS, the power station would become the world’s first “carbon-negative” power plant and the largest carbon capture plant globally, the company claims.  

The firm points to research published (albeit commissioned by the power company) from independent consultancy Baringa, suggesting the plant would strip 8 million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually.

“This research shows BECCS at Drax Power Station offers the most cost-effective, straightforward, and efficient way to help the country meet climate targets and could save billions of pounds, remove millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, and support the UK’s energy security,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group.

Drax’s carbon capture units are set to be installed in 2030.     

How will it work? 

BECCS is basically like putting a giant lid on a power plant, capturing its emissions, and storing them underground in liquid form.  

Under the approved plans, after the pellets are burned to produce power, flue gas containing emitted carbon dioxide would be cooled and treated before being sent through an absorption tower to remove the greenhouse gas.