Our history - Drax

Our history


The Selby coalfield is discovered and the Central Electricity Generating Board begins building Drax Power Station to use its coal. Two other recently-built coal power stations, Ferrybridge C and Eggborough, begin generating electricity.


Drax Power Station begins generating electricity after its first 660MW unit is commissioned. It is the most advanced and efficient coal-fired power station ever built in the UK.


Drax Power Station is officially opened with three generators and a total generating capacity of just under 2,000MW. It has the capability to power around two million homes.


Drax doubles in size and capacity, becoming the largest power station in the UK.


Drax becomes the first power station to invest in retrofitted flue gas desulpherisation (FGD) equipment. Once fully operational in 1995, it removes 90% of sulphur dioxide emissions, making it the cleanest coal-fired power station in the UK.


Drax Power Station comes under the ownership of National Power, one of three power generation companies created as part of the privatisation of the electricity industry in England and Wales.


The power station is acquired by the US-based AES corporation for £1.87 billion.


AES and Drax part ways after one of the power station’s major customers goes into administration. As creditors, various financial institutions take control of Drax Power Station.

Drax Power Station starts co-firing biomass, as a renewable energy alternative to coal.


Drax Power station starts research and development for direct fuel injection of biomass into its coal generating units. Bypassing the pulverising mills directly into the boiler for greater throughput.


Drax Power Station undergoes refinancing and Drax Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange.


Boosted-over-fire-air (BOFA) technology is retrofitted to all boilers and emissions of nitrous oxide (NOX) are reduced ensuring Drax Power Station is compliant with a strengthened Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD).


Drax Group acquires Haven Power, enabling the group to supply a proportion of the electricity it generates directly to businesses and organisations.

This was the year the engineering team at Drax overcame final challenges and successfully adapted the boilers to combust wood pellets, proving that co-firing (the process of using two fuels to power one boiler) could work.


Drax Power Station completes a five-year, £100 million plus project – the largest steam turbine modernisation programme in UK history – to upgrade its high- and low-pressure turbines. This saves around one million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking 275,000 cars off the UK’s roads.

That same year, Drax commits to transforming the business into a mainly biomass-fuelled generator using compressed wood pellets in place of coal. It plans to upgrade the three generating units that came online in the early 1970s.


The first of three power generating units is successfully upgraded to use compressed wood pellets in April.

In December, new biomass receipt, storage and distribution systems to support the move from fossil fuels to renewables are officially opened. The new rail unloading bay (RUB 2) receives the first state-of-the-art biomass wagons.


The second power generating unit is upgraded to biomass in May.

Additionally, Drax completes construction of four large storage domes used to house the biomass supply. Each dome is bigger than the Royal Albert Hall, can hold 75,000 tonnes of high-density wood pellets and is explosion proof.


Drax Biomass Inc. completes construction of two new pellet manufacturing facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana. It also opens its port facility on the Mississippi River in Greater Baton Rouge.

Work is undertaken to partially upgrade a third coal unit to run on compressed wood pellets. Drax awaits European Commission approval for the full conversion.


The group announces that 70% of the electricity it generates is through compressed wood pellets – around 20% of the UK’s renewable power. Only 30% of its electricity is coal-fired.


Drax acquires Opus Energy, the UK’s largest non-domestic energy supplier outside of the Big 6. A third pellet mill – LaSalle BioEnergy in Louisiana – is purchased by Drax Biomass.

In April, Drax Biomass purchases a third pellet mill. LaSalle BioEnergy in Louisiana is commissioned in November.


Will Gardiner becomes Group Chief Executive, as Dorothy Thompson retires.

A fourth coal-fired power generating unit is taken offline at Drax. Over the summer it is upgraded to run on biomass.

In May, Drax announced that it is to pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe which, if successful, could make the renewable electricity produced at its North Yorkshire power station carbon negative.

In December, Drax acquires Scottish Power’s portfolio of pumped storage, hydro and gas-fired generation from Iberdrola.


The capacity of Drax’s power generation and storage assets increases to 6.5 gigawatts (GW), following the acquisition of Cruachan Power Station, Galloway and Lanark hydro schemes, and Damhead Creek, Rye House, Shoreham and Blackburn Mill power stations.

In a world first, research engineers at Drax Power Station capture the carbon dioxide (CO2) from an operational plant fuelled by 100% biomass feedstock.

The company records a 52% reduction in its carbon emissions in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2018. It uses its half-year financial results to announce that 94% of the electricity generated at Drax Power Station is now renewable.

Drax partners with Equinor and National Grid Ventures in September, launching Zero Carbon Humber – a partnership to build the world’s first zero carbon industrial cluster and decarbonise the North of England.

At COP25 in Madrid, CEO Will Gardiner announced that Drax’s world-leading ambition is to be a carbon negative company by 2030.


Drax announces that almost 50 years of coal-fired electricity generation at Drax Power Station are expected to come to an end in March 2021, well ahead of the UK deadline.

Drax delivers a comprehensive support package to local communities hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes laptops for school students, free energy for care homes and face masks for a York hospital. Drax Power Station cooling towers were also lit up blue in support of the NHS.

In the summer, Cruachan Power Station began a six-year, ‘world-first’ power system stability contract with National Grid ESO. A month later, Drax revealed that its hydroelectric pumped storage plant would receive cutting edge technology to improve its efficiency.

Drax announces a partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group for a BECCS pilot project to get underway in the autumn of that year.

In December, Drax announced the sale of gas assets to use the proceeds to develop its biomass supply chain and accelerate its ambition to become a carbon negative business by 2030.