U.K.'s Drax power plant to burn wood instead of coal

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Drax power station, Britain’s largest coal-fired power station, is set to become one of Europe’s biggest generators of renewable energy.

The Drax power plant, which has a power generation capacity of more than 3.9 GW, will be transformed into a predominantly biomass-fueled generator by burning renewable biomass in place of coal, and in April 2013 it finished converting one of its generating units to biomass. It plans to convert a further two units by 2016.

Located in North Yorkshire, England, the $1.1 billion plant now burns wood pellets rather than coal, reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent. It will provide renewable power to around 1 million homes.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey opened the Drax coal-to-biomass conversion plant, announcing that the U.K. government is awarding funding to further the White Rose carbon capture and storage project, also based at the site.

“Our coal industry has powered Britain for more than a century, and today we’re seeing a clear roadmap for its future – whether by converting existing coal plants to cleaner fuels, or building state-of-the-art power stations that mean coal is truly clean. While at the same time creating new green jobs for Yorkshire," Davey said.

White Rose is the first project to be allocated funds under government’s $1.64 billion CCS commercialization program.

Alstom, Drax and BOC are the project co-developers. The three partners have formed a company called Capture Power limited that would be responsible for the development, implementation and operation of the proposed new plant.

As part of this cooperation, Alstom would have responsibility for construction of the power plant together with the carbon dioxide processing unit and BOC would have responsibility for the construction of the air separation unit that supplies oxygen for combustion. Drax would have responsibility for the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the power plant and the carbon dioxide processing facility with BOC having responsibility for the O&M of the air separation unit.

National Grid would construct and operate a large capacity carbon dioxide transport pipeline and permanent carbon dioxide undersea storage facilities at a North Sea site. This work would take forward a proposal that has benefitted from the European Commission’s European Energy Reform Program (EEPR) fund.

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