Environmental impact - Drax

As the world comes to terms with the effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19), Group CEO Will Gardiner explains how Drax and its employees are working hard to ensure the country is supplied with the power it needs. Read More

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Environmental impact

Our responsibility for the environment goes beyond reducing our carbon emissions and we manage our wider environmental impact, including other emissions to air, water use, waste and biodiversity.

Our Approach

We are committed to managing, monitoring and reducing the environmental impact of our operations and the Group Environment policy outlines our approach.

The Environmental Management Systems (EMS) at our Generation sites in the UK are certified to ISO 14001. The EMS at our Pellet Production sites in the US are based on the principles of, but not certified to, ISO 14001.

We self-reported one environmental permit breach at Drax Power Station in 2019. The regulator categorised it as having no impact on human health, quality of life or the environment.

Other Emissions to Air

In addition to carbon, we manage our other emissions to air, including sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulates. Our UK Generation business sites comply with all UK and EU emissions limits and we report our data to the Environment Agency or Scottish Environment Protection Agency as required.

Our work in 2019 focused on future compliance with the requirements of the EU Best Available Techniques reference documents (BREFs), which will further reduce emission limits, entering into force in 2021.

At Drax Power Station, emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide and particulates continued to trend downward. This can be partially attributed to a reduction in total generation, as well as the first full year of operation of Unit 4 since its conversion to biomass from coal.

Our UK gas generation and biomass production sites are also permitted for releases to air by the Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency respectively. 2019 emissions to air were in line with expectations for the generation and production levels achieved.

Thermal Generation Emissions to Air by Fuel Type
Biomass Generation (1)
Nitrogen Oxidest7,104
Sulphur Dioxidet986
Coal Generation (2)
Nitrogen Oxidest746
Sulphur Dioxidet601
Gas Generation (3)
Nitrogen Oxidest625
Carbon Monoxidet71
(1) Biomass Generation covers units 1,2,3 and 4 at Drax Power Station
(2) Coal Generation covers units 5 and 6 at Drax Power Station
(3) Gas Generation covers Blackburn, Damhead Creek, Rye House and Shoreham Power Stations
UK Biomass Production (4) Emissions to Air
Nitrogen Oxidest4.76
Sulphur Dioxidet1.68
Carbon Monoxidet1.76
(4) UK Biomass Production covers Daldowie Fuel Plant

* Limited external assurance using the assurance standard ISAE 3000 for 2019 data as indicated. For assurance statement and basis of reporting see https://www.drax.com/assurance-statement/

Water Use

Water is utilised at our thermal generation sites for operational and cooling processes, and losses occur through steam and ancillary processes. Procedures are in place to manage water system efficiency and usage and to ensure that all discharge consent limits are met.

Thermal Generation (5) Water Use
Total water abstractedm3177,215,811*
Total water dischargedm3167,953,231*
(5) Thermal Generation covers Blackburn, Damhead Creek, Drax, Rye House and Shoreham Power Stations

The Galloway and Lanark Hydro Scheme utilises abstracted water that is returned to the environment immediately.

Hydro Generation (6) Water Use
Total water abstractedm33,370,272,574*
(6) Hydro Generation covers Galloway and Lanark Hydro Scheme 

At Cruachan Power Station, water abstracted from the upper reservoir is used for generation and water abstracted from Loch Awe is used for pumping.

Pumped Storage (7,8) Water Use
Total water abstracted from reservoirm3263,015,328*
Total water abstracted from Loch Awem3207,277,224*
(7) Pumped Storage covers Cruachan Power Station
(8) Excluding volume of water collected via the aqueduct system
‘Total water abstracted’ covers water data reported to the Environment Agency and Scottish Environment Protection Agency as abstraction.
* Limited external assurance using the assurance standard ISAE 3000 for 2019 data as indicated. For assurance statement and basis of reporting see https://www.drax.com/assurance-statement/


At Drax Group, we actively work with others to consider biodiversity and improve our management of it. Our Group sustainability policy requires that the biomass pellets we use do not adversely affect protected or vulnerable biodiversity and gives preference to biomass production that strengthens biodiversity. Across our biomass supply chain, we carry out regional risk assessments to identify biodiverse areas which may not be adequately protected by local legislation. With this knowledge, we can ensure that our suppliers are not just complying with their own local legislation but also applying additional protective measures where appropriate.

Our Skylark Centre and Nature Reserve is open to the public and regularly offers experiences for schoolchildren to learn about nature and ecology.

We also manage and maintain Barlow Mound, the restoration of which has had a positive impact on biodiversity locally. The ash disposal site has been transformed into a mix of agricultural grazing, woodland and wild flower meadows.