Environmental impact - Drax
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Environmental impact

As a major electricity producer and retailer, and producer of sustainable biomass fuels, we take our responsibilities to society and the environment seriously.

Our Approach

We are committed to managing and monitoring our environmental impact. We seek to reduce the environmental impacts caused by our business through continual improvement of our operations, with particular focus on emissions to air, discharges to water, disposal of waste and the use of natural resources.

Each business unit reports monthly on environmental incidents and near misses, and the Board receives monthly reports. We also seek to respond to, and track actions taken from, any environmental complaints made in relation to our operations. We investigate all environmental events to ensure that root causes are established, and lessons are learned and shared across the business.

Environmental Management Systems

In the UK, our Generation assets are certified through their respective management systems to ISO 14001:2015 and are subject to regular external audits. In the US, our Pellet Production sites operate under an environmental management system that is aligned, but not certified, to the principles of ISO 14001:2015. During 2020, we established a platform to collate our environmental monitoring data for our US sites. This produces regular reports and provides alerts as environmental limits are close to being reached.

In 2020, across our UK sites, we had two confirmed minor permit breaches related to air emissions at Daldowie Fuel Plant during emissions testing. At Daldowie, we delivered sustained improvements to our odour minimisation strategy to address neighbourhood odour complaints, as required by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), which substantiated six complaints in 2020. In September 2020, we commissioned an additional regenerative thermal oxidiser, to further treat exhaust air before it is released to the atmosphere.

We are working to resolve an odour issue at Drax Golf Course, due to improper material being brought on site by a third party. As ultimate landowner, we are working with the Environment Agency (EA) and other stakeholders to resolve the issue.

In 2020, across our US sites, we had two notices of non-compliance issued by the authorities. One notice related to incorrect handling of wet electrostatic precipitator (WESP) material at our LaSalle site. The other notice related to exceeding VOC emissions limits at our Amite site in 2018. In 2020, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Drax agreed a $2.5 million settlement for the violation of VOC emissions limits, dating between 2016 and 2020. During 2020, the Board was kept informed and tracked progress in addressing corrective actions.

We established an open and direct partnership with the DEQ in the US states in which we operate to focus on settling the emissions to air actions and agreeing a path forward. We commissioned a full third-party environmental audit covering each of our US sites, with a focus on positive action plans to improve our environmental performance, and we track our actions to closure on a monthly basis.

Other Emissions to Air

In addition to carbon, we manage our other emissions to air, including sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulates.

In 2020, at Drax Power Station, we have focused on the new requirements of Annex V of the EU Industrial Emissions Directive and established a transition plan for compliance. We continue preparations to deliver improved performance considering the Industrial Emissions Directive. These new Best Available Techniques Reference Document (BREF) levels will become the reference point for setting permit conditions and have included tighter limits for emissions of nitrous oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), mercury and particulate matter (PM). Drax Power Station will operate within BREF limits from August 2021.

 Unit2020
2019
Biomass generation (1)
Nitrogen oxidest6,9717104
Sulphur dioxidet1,806986
Particulatest419415
Coal generation (2)
Nitrogen oxidest1,949746
Sulphur dioxidet1,209601
Particulatest14735
Gas generation (3)
Nitrogen oxidest578625
Carbon monoxidet28471
(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

 Unit20202019
Nitrogen oxidest3.314.76
Sulphur dioxidet2.241.68
Carbon monoxidet2.461.76
Particulatest0.310.04
(4) UK Biomass Production covers Daldowie Fuel Plant

US Biomass Production emissions to air

 Unit 2020 2019
Nitrogen oxidest 427 -
Carbon monoxidet 567 -
VOCst 2,983 -
Particulatest 489 -

Water Use

Our thermal generation sites use water for operational and cooling processes. Losses occur through steam and ancillary processes, and the remainder is discharged to the environment. In line with our permit requirements, procedures are in place to manage water system efficiency and usage and to ensure that all discharge consent limits are met.

Between 2019 and 2020, total water abstracted for thermal generation use increased. This reflects a new borehole permit at Blackburn Power Station and increased generation output at Shoreham Power Station in 2020.

Thermal Generation (5) Water Use

 Unit20202019
Total water abstractedm3242,472,306*177,215,811
Total water dischargedm3231,039,964*167,953,231
(5) Thermal Generation covers Blackburn, Damhead Creek, Drax, Rye House and Shoreham Power Stations

In 2020, 4,289,825,847 m3 of water reported as abstracted was used for hydro generation at the Galloway and Lanark Hydro Scheme. This volume is therefore not consumed and is returned to the natural environment.

Hydro Generation (6) Water Use

 Unit20202019
Total water abstractedm34,289,825,847*3,370,272,574
(6) Hydro Generation covers Galloway and Lanark Hydro Scheme

At Cruachan Pumped Storage Power Station, water is abstracted by pumping from Loch Awe into the upper reservoir, when grid generation is surplus. Water is then released back into Loch Awe when electricity generation is required. We closely monitor the arrangements for the cycling of this water and report as required to SEPA.

Pumped Storage (7,8) Water Use

 Unit20202019
Total water abstracted from reservoirm3294,022,644*263,015,328
Total water abstracted from Loch Awem3241,452,288*207,277,224
(7) Pumped Storage covers Cruachan Power Station
(8) Excluding volume of water collected via the aqueduct system
Note: “Total water abstracted” covers water data reported to the Environment Agency (EA) and Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) as abstraction.
* Limited external assurance using the assurance standard ISAE 3000 for 2020 data as indicated. For assurance statement and basis of reporting see https://www.drax.com/sustainability/approach/#assurance-statements

Biodiversity

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.