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25 Apr 2023

Drax ends half a century of coal-fired power generation

Drax Group
Drax ends half a century of coal-fired power generation
Drax has announced that almost 50 years of power generation from coal at its North Yorkshire power station has come to an end.
  • Drax has announced that almost 50 years of power generation from coal at its North Yorkshire power station has come to an end.
  • Drax Power Station was once Western Europe’s largest coal-fired power station but has been transformed into the UK’s single-largest generator of renewable electricity.
  • Drax Power Station’s four biomass units generated 12.7TWh of electricity in 2022.

Global renewable energy company Drax has today announced the official end of coal-fired generation at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire, marking a historic milestone in both the company and the UK’s transformation to a zero-carbon energy future.

Following the discovery of the Selby coalfield, construction of the coal-fired Drax Power Station began nearby in 1967. The power station started generating power out of its first unit in 1974 and in 1975, following the completion of two additional generators, the site officially opened. At the time, this provided enough power for around two million homes and in 1986, power generation capacity was doubled to just under 4GW.

Once the largest coal-fired power station in Western Europe, the plant is now the single largest generator of renewable power in the UK. Over the last decade four of the power station’s six generating units have been converted to use sustainable biomass, providing the UK with clean, green, and secure renewable electricity.

Following the end of the winter contingency agreement, Drax will now embark on a decommissioning process to remove coal-related infrastructure from the site which will start with the flue gas desulphurisation plant that was built in the 1990s to remove 90% of the sulphur from the plant’s air emissions.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said:

“Ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark moment in our efforts to become a world-leading carbon negative company.

“I’d like to thank the many hundreds of people, including our staff, suppliers, and local communities, for all the hard work it has taken to transform Drax Power Station into the UK’s biggest renewable power source by output.

“By converting the plant to use sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, but we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world.

“We’re now planning to go further by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, and we are engaged in discussions with the UK Government to move this £2bn project forward.

“The global momentum for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass is growing as more countries work to reduce their emissions by moving away from fossil fuels to renewables while maintaining their energy security. In recent months, new projects have been announced in countries from Japan to Hungary. If BECCS were eventually added to each of these sites they would be able to remove carbon from the atmosphere while generating power.”

The UK Government aims to deploy 5Mt of engineered CO2 removals per annum from BECCS and other engineered GGR technologies by 2030, rising to 23Mt in 2035 and up to 81Mt in 2050 to keep the UK on a pathway to meet its legislated climate targets.

Through transforming the plant to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, Drax has reduced its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by approximately 99% since 2012.

ENDS

Media contacts:

Aidan Kerr
Media Manager
E: aidan.kerr@drax.com
T: 07849090368

Editor’s Notes:

  • Coal-fired generation began in 1974 when the first 660 MW unit was commissioned.
  • The station began co-firing biomass with coal in 2003, with the first of four full-unit conversions from coal to sustainable biomass taking place in 2013.
  • Drax’s UK generation assets are the country’s largest source of renewable power by output – 11% of annualised total, 19% of peak (up to 70% in-day peak) in 2022.

About Drax

Drax Group’s purpose is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future and in 2019 announced a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology.

Drax’s around 3,000 employees operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production and supply to third parties. For more information visit www.drax.com

Power generation:

Drax owns and operates a portfolio of renewable electricity generation assets in England and Scotland. The assets include the UK’s largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies five percent of the country’s electricity needs.

Having converted Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK’s biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. It is also where Drax is piloting the groundbreaking negative emissions technology BECCS within its CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage) Incubation Area.

Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station – a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan.

The Group also aims to build on its BECCS innovation at Drax Power Station with a target to deliver 4 million tonnes of negative CO2 emissions each year from new-build BECCS outside of the UK by 2030 and is currently developing models for North American and European markets.

Pellet production and supply:

The Group has 19 operational pellet plants and developments with nameplate production capacity of around 5 million tonnes a year.

Drax is targeting 8 million tonnes of production capacity by 2030, which will require the development of over 3 million tonnes of new biomass pellet production capacity. The pellets are produced using materials sourced from sustainably managed working forests and are supplied to third party customers in Europe and Asia for the generation of renewable power.

Drax’s pellet plants supply biomass used at its own power station in North Yorkshire, England to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK’s homes and businesses, and also to customers in Europe and Asia.

Customers: 

Drax supplies renewable electricity to UK businesses, offering a range of energy-related services including energy optimisation, as well as electric vehicle strategy and management.

To find out more go to the website www.energy.drax.com

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