Drax powers up fourth biomass unit in further coal conversion

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 20 Aug 2018

Drax has switched on its fourth biomass generating unit – taking the power station a step closer to achieving its coal-free ambitions.

Work got under way on the conversion as part of a planned maintenance programme in June, with Drax’s team of engineers completing the work required, on schedule, in just over two months.

Having upgraded three of its coal units to use biomass, Drax is already the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe. The conversion of a fourth unit means it is on course to be off coal before the government’s 2025 deadline.

The regional power giant's biomass needs are fed from the ports of Immingham and Hull, with the former the world's largest renewable fuels terminal of its kind in the world. 

Andy Koss, Drax Power's chief executive, said: “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.

“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.”

Read more: Coal's cold shoulder in a sizzling summer of solar domination

The cost of conversion of the fourth generating unit is significantly below the level of previous conversions, at around £30 million, with redundant infrastructure left from when the company was first co-firing biomass used in the transformation.

Drax has already invested around £700 million in upgrading the first three units and associated supply chain infrastructure to use sustainable biomass instead of coal.

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.

Plans for the gas project have been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, which accepted the application for examination. The proposals will now be examined by the Planning Inspectorate and then considered by the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy with a decision expected in 2019.

Read more: Drax could help keep the fizz in the drinks sector as it captures carbon

In the UK there has been an 84 per cent reduction in coal-fired power generation in the last five years as low carbon generation has increased.

Nigel Adams, MP for Selby, said: “I’m delighted to see Unit Four in operation as a biomass unit, continuing the good work Drax is doing with its Beyond Coal strategy, protecting jobs and ensuring it continues to play a vital role in the Northern Powerhouse economy.”



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