We are committed to sustainability. It underpins all we do and the future of our business encompasses all three aspects of sustainable development – environmental, social and economic.
We have a major role to play in helping to protect and enhance the environment. This is in line with the wider goals of sustainable development. Our approach contributes to a sustainable, low-carbon economy and offers opportunities for economic growth and job creation.
For over a decade, we have been leading the way in developing new technology, techniques and processes to enable the sustainable sourcing, generation and supply of electricity from biomass. We take low-value wood from working, sustainable forests and turn it into a high density fuel that is easy to transport and which we use to generate reliable, renewable energy precisely when it’s needed. This allows us to cut our carbon emissions by more than 80% when compared with coal.
|Secondary residues tonnes||Branches, tops and bark tonnes||Diseased wood & storm salvage tonnes||Thinnings tonnes||Low grade roundwood tonnes||Agri tonnes||Country total tonnes|
Numbers may not add up due to rounding
Cultivating sustainable biomass is at the heart of our approach. We are setting the standards in responsible sourcing, holding fast to a clear set of principles that mean we never cause deforestation or woodland decline, and require all suppliers to pass tough sustainability audits. In addition to all our biomass material passing our own rigorous audit process and complying with strict UK sustainability criteria, we are also taking a leading role in the Sustainable Biomass Program, to ensure sourcing practices are continually upheld and improved.
Feedstocks from certified forests
One way to demonstrate the sustainability of our compressed wood pellets is for them to come with a Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®), FSC® – C119787, or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) Forest Management certificate. These certificates provide evidence that responsible forestry working practices are in place where the feedstocks originate. We are also certified for both FSC and PEFC Chain of Custody and require our suppliers to hold Chain of Custody certification to provide additional evidence of the quality of the management systems of the suppliers concerned have been assessed by independent third parties. In 2016, 87% of the biomass used at Drax Power Station had a certification claim, up from 69.9% in 2015.
Sustainable Biomass Program
In 2013, we co-founded the Sustainable Biomass Program (SBP) with six other companies. SBP was set up to provide a tool for assuring that woody biomass is supplied from legal and sustainable sources. That tool is a unique certification scheme designed for woody biomass, mostly in the form of wood pellets and wood chips, used in industrial, large-scale energy production.
SBP was founded because, while the standards of forest certification schemes – which SBP aligns closely with – cover the sustainability of the forest products, GHG reporting is not covered in their scopes and uptake of them is low in some areas of the world.
SBP certification is achieved via a rigorous assessment of wood pellet and wood chip producers and biomass traders carried out by independent, third party certification bodies and scrutinised by an independent technical committee.
The Renewables Obligation sets out the basis on which Drax is required to determine and report on the life cycle GHG emissions associated with its supply chain. Every supplier is required to give detailed information on what type/s of fibre is/are used to make wood pellets along with full details of their sources, the distances and vehicle types involved in their production, the production process itself, data about fuel and energy usage, plus any sea-freight data (including what type of vessel was used, over which route, over what distance). GHG calculations are carried out for all material consumed by us using The UK Solid and Gaseous Biomass Carbon Calculator and we report this data monthly to Ofgem.
The UK Government has set a limit on the maximum supply chain GHG emissions permitted in order for biomass to be eligible for support under the RO. The current limit for CO2 emissions from life cycle analysis of biomass supplies is 79.2 g CO2-eq / MJ – reducing to 50 g CO2-eq / MJ by 2025.
In 2016 the average supply chain GHG emissions from all of Drax’s biomass supplies amounted to 33.9 g CO2-eq / MJ. The UK Government has provided a benchmark figure for GHG emission from coal which is 250.8 g CO2-eq / MJ, therefore in 2016 Drax saved around 86% of CO2-eq emissions compared to the coal benchmark.
GHG emissions are affected by a wide range of factors including cultivation, harvesting and transportation. For Drax the majority of our pellets are shipped to the UK from North America.
The impact of shipping emissions is determined by both distance and vessel size. For longer distances (e.g. from North America) it is essential to use large-scale vessels capable of transporting more than 40,000 tonnes of wood pellets each time (sometimes up to 60,000 tonnes); this significantly reduces the emissions per tonne of wood pellets. Within Europe shipping distances are much shorter and therefore smaller vessels can be utilised, which also allows vessels to access small ports that can reduce inland transportation.
Drax uses specially designed rail wagons to transport the biomass pellets direct from port to power station. This is dramatically more carbon efficient than road transport.
We secure reliable coal supply from known sources and from jurisdictions and counterparties that are vetted against our various compliance policies. In 2016, 28% of the 2,712,087 tonnes coal we used came from UK deep and surface mines with the remainder coming from major supply basins around the world, including the US and Colombia.