Environment - Drax
Environment

As a major electricity producer, we take our responsibilities to society and the environment very seriously. We manage, monitor and reduce the environmental impacts caused by our business through continual improvement of our operations, where practical. We pay particular attention to emissions to air, discharges to water, disposal of waste and the use of natural resources. We are certified by the environmental management system standard, ISO 14001:2015, and are subject to external audits twice a year.

For a review of our sustainability performance, see our reporting reporting and policy pages.

Environmental performance

Emissions to air

The principal emissions from Drax Power Station are carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), hydrogen chloride (HCl), and particulates (dust). We are constantly investing and innovating in emissions abatement technology and consider this a high priority.

Our coal units all use flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) equipment, which reduces emissions of SO2 to within current and anticipated regulatory limits before the flue gas is released via the chimney into the atmosphere.

In 2008 we completed a programme to retrofit all units with primary low NOx technology – Boosted Over Fire Air systems – to ensure compliance with the NOx limits under the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) which were strengthened in 2008.

In order to meet the requirements of the European Union’s Industrial Emissions Directive which superseded the LCPD from 2016, we are investing tens of millions of pounds to implement a number of further NOx abatement measures. We are working with Doosan Babcock to reduce the NOx emissions at Drax Power Station through the installation of Selective Non-Catalytic Reduction (SNCR) technology. We also use ZoloBoss technology to measure gas composition and temperature via an array of lasers fitted to the sidewalls of our furnaces. The lasers scan for furnace exit gases – the gathered information is then added to other emissions data to provide a real-time feedback to optimise combustion in order to optimise emissions of NOx and carbon monoxide.

Drax Power Station complies with all UK and EU emissions limits and we report on our data to the Environment Agency (EA) on a quarterly basis. The EA strictly controls and scrutinises our data and makes it publicly available.

Discharges to water

Water is a key resource to Drax power station, with the majority of the cooling water abstracted from the River Ouse. Other sources include the Sherwood Sandstone Aquifer and the town’s mains. The water we abstract is principally used for cooling our electricity generation units with some used within the steam system and other ancillary processes. From this we return in the region of half of the water abstracted back to the River Ouse, with procedures in place to manage and monitor the water systems on-site so as to ensure all discharge consent limits are met.

Disposals to land

We manage waste from our operations in a responsible manner and in 2015, we diverted 94% of non-ash waste from landfill.

When coal is combusted, ash is left as a residue. The finer particles of ash, pulverised fuel ash (PFA), are collected from the flue gas by electrostatic precipitators. The heavier ash, furnace bottom ash (FBA), falls to the bottom of the boiler. The majority of ash is sold to the construction industry, with the remainder sent for landfill at the power station’s adjacent Barlow Mound ash disposal site. Over time this site has been developed into farmland, woodland and wetland that provides a haven to many species of wildlife. Members of the public can visit the Skylark Centre and Nature Reserve, Drax.

The ash content of compressed wood pellets is much lower than coal. Less ash is produced as we make electricity with pellets. We consider biomass ash is a valuable product – not waste – and we are currently exploring suitable markets. Now that we are generating more than two thirds of our electricity using compressed wood pellets rather than coal, we are producing much less coal ash. As of mid-2016, several of our coal ash customers are trialling wood pellet ash and we are working with universities to find new, innovative applications for it, for example within agriculture.

We pay landfill tax on the PFA disposed at the Barlow Mound. Through the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme, we are able to claim a tax credit against our donations to recognised environmental bodies.

Additional information on our environmental performance and compliance is found in our annual report.

Environmental policy
  • Drax Group plc recognises its responsibilities to society and the environment and we are committed to being an innovative leader in the management of the environment across all of our activities and all of our business decisions
  • We regard compliance with legislation as a minimum level of achievement. Furthermore, we are committed to managing, monitoring and reducing where practicable the environmental impacts caused by our business through continual improvement of our operations, in particular emissions to air, discharges to water, disposal of waste and the use of natural resources
  • We will maintain a reputation for effective environmental management, in part by the certification of relevant production facilities to the international environmental standard, ISO 14001. This system will be used to set and periodically review our objectives and targets
  • We will discuss our activities with our stakeholders, engaging with them to help refine and broaden our understanding, taking note of their views and investigating any concerns promptly
  • We will promote environmental awareness among our employees, business partners and contractors, ensuring they understand the environmental aspects of their activities, that they act responsibly and are competent to carry out their jobs