Europe’s first bioenergy carbon capture and storage pilot is underway

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 26 Nov 2018

Drax Power Station’s innovative carbon capture project is expected to see the first results in the coming weeks.

Commissioning is underway on the six month pilot, which if successful will capture a tonne of carbon dioxide a day from gases produced in the biomass combustion process. 

The £400,000 scheme, first announced in May, is the first of what may be several projects to demonstrate rapid, lower cost technology, further greening up the power supply, having switched from coal to renewable fuels.  

The UK’s largest power station receives wood pellets imported into Immingham and Hull, with the South Bank home to the world’s largest reception facilities for such cargoes. 

Immingham Renewable Fuels Terminal. 

Working with Leeds-based C-Capture, the Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage pilot plant is a further investment, following the upgrade of four of the six generating units to the material at Drax in recent years. 

If it is successful, the company will examine options for a similar re-purposing of existing infrastructure to deliver more carbon savings.

Will Gardiner, chief executive of Drax Group, said: “Our BECCS pilot project is the UK’s first step to delivering a key technology in the fight against climate change. If this project is successful, it could enable Drax to become the world’s first carbon negative power station – something many would never have dreamed possible a decade ago.

MORE: How an Immingham rail wagon specialist has invested to support Drax

“Starting to commission the pilot plant on the tenth anniversary of the Climate Change Act demonstrates the progress made in decarbonising energy in the UK – but there is much more to do and this will be our focus at the Edinburgh CCS Summit later this week.

“At Drax we want to create a low carbon future – to do that we have to test the technologies that could allow us, as well as the UK and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

The Royal Academy and Royal Society of Engineers have estimated that BECCS could allow for the capture 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 – approximately half the nation’s emissions target.

The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy has identified it as one of several greenhouse gas removal technologies that could remove emissions from the atmosphere and help achieve long term decarbonisation.

C-Capture founder Chris Rayner, Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds, said: “It’s clear that BECCS is one of a very limited number of viable negative emissions technologies, and is vital if we are to reach our CO2 emissions targets, not just in the UK, but around the world.

 “Being a key part of Europe’s first BECCS demonstration project is a great opportunity to showcase C-Capture’s technology, and through working with Drax, show how we can make a real impact on climate change.”

Over the summer work was undertaken to ensure the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. This was completed successfully along with a lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilising the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station.

Drax Power Station. The domes to the right of the coal hold the biomass ahead of burning.

FGD equipment is vital for reducing sulphur emissions from coal, but it is no longer required to control sulphur on four of the generating units at Drax that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulphur.

The C-Capture team has now proceeded to the second phase of the pilot, with the installation of a demonstration unit. Once commissioned it will isolate the carbon dioxide.

Caspar Schoolderman, director of engineering at C-Capture, added: “This is a very important milestone on the pathway to demonstrating and scaling up our exciting new technology. Working closely with the team from Drax has been a great experience, and we look forward to getting the demonstrator fully operational, and showing just how good our technology is.”

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