Humber-wide carbon capture potential excites project anchor Drax

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 27 Feb 2019

Drax’s pilot carbon capture programme has the potential to become the anchor for a pan-Humber solution to ozone antagonising gases, banishing them under the North Sea and cleaning up the huge heavy industry cluster. 

Momentum is once again building behind a plan for vast underground pipelines, with the Energy Estuary providing a location to ensure sustainability in electricity generation, manufacturing and refining, with an infrastructure project worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

It could also prove to be a magnet for further investment, providing a build-ready option for eradicating emissions not found elsewhere.

Original proposals put forward. 

Speaking as the regional power giant released strong annual results, weeks after the first successful capture trials, Andy Koss, chief executive at Drax Power, told how it was an opportunity to drive down the cost of biomass and extend the life of energy generation at Drax for decades.

Read more: Drax returns to profit as annual earnings surge

Mr Koss said: “Is really exciting, and it is how we become a carbon negative generator if we can capture and sequester the carbon, and that will really extend the life of the plant.

“Government seems very interested again. This is a key technology to ensure we meet our future carbon budgets as a country. We think the Humber cluster is ideally placed to be the first cluster to have it up and running in the 2020s. It could be great for jobs and growth in the region. We are looking to work very closely with government to make it a reality.  

“There is a lot of interest and enthusiasm here. We are working very closely with Humber LEP and a number of bodies representing industry in the Humber. Everyone is very much behind preserving heavy industry around the Humber region, and trying to do it in a much lower carbon way. 

“More co-ordination is required, then getting in front of Government and making the case.”

Why the Humber makes sense for carbon capture and storage as the concentration was assessed in early stage work.  

There was a strong push a decade ago with plans drawn up for North and South Bank spurs from major emitters to depleted gas fields in the near North Sea.

Mr Koss said it had been developed quite far, before the plug was pulled four years ago. 

“The pipeline was progressing through planning consents before a competition was stopped in Whitehall in 2015,” he said of a funding route that came to a halt.

“Industry is here. We are an anchor project and there was a pipeline corridor. It could be revitalised, the Humber cluster, it is ideally placed, and we think it is easy to renew. We would have to go through another planning process, but it had all the consents, all the stakeholder engagement.”

Lord Haskins is including it in the local industrial strategy work, and spoke at a recent government inquiry into the technology.  British Steel and Total Lindsey Oil Refinery, both identified in the graphic above, have also pledged continued support.

Read more: Carbon capture first at Drax

On the results, Mr Koss said: “We have gone from £229 million to £250 million, which is very strong growth - 9 per cent year on year -  and we’re really pleased about the strong performance from each of the businesses, and particularly pleased with power generation.” 

He said it was a “really exciting time” with the carbon capture, as well as the £700 million acquisition of ScottishPower’s gas and hydro generation portfolio. 

“We’ve gone from a big power station to a portfolio spanning the length and breadth of the UK,” he said.  

Further capacity is being sought for US pellet production as it seeks to ramp up pellet supply from the current 1.5 million tonnes of the required 7.7 million tonnes. 

“We aim to get to 30 per cent, and we have some expansion options. We’re driving down the cost of biomass. Subsidy support runs out in 2027, so this is about extending the life of the plant.

“We’re reducing the cost of pellets, and upgrading turbines in the first three converted units, making them much more efficient, and we’re starting the first of those this year.”

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