Tag: BECCS

[Carbon Capture Magazine article] Spiking Energy Demand

This story first appeared in Carbon Capture Magazine.

By Raj Swaminathan, Senior Vice President at Drax.

While there’s little debate that the greenhouse gas emissions that sit at the heart of our planet’s unprecedented warming come from fossil fuel consumption and other human activities, clawing back these carbon outputs is a multi-faceted issue. In addition to efforts to transition to renewable power sources like wind, solar, and biomass, which remain essential to mitigating this crisis, leading scientists agree that reducing emissions is not sufficient; we must go further and faster with carbon removals.

It’s estimated that we’ll need to capture and store as much as 9.5 billion metric tons of CO2 every year by 2050 to reverse legacy emissions enough to achieve international climate targets, according to the IPCC. Today, carbon removal facilities only capture a fraction of the emissions generated across the planet, and we urgently need a spectrum of high-quality solutions to scale our ability to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

At the same time, spiking energy demand – driven largely by the growing needs of data centers, particularly those underpinning artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain technology, as well as new industrial and manufacturing facilities – also means we need to increase generation capacity rapidly to avoid an energy security crisis. This becomes more difficult to achieve through intermittent sources like wind and solar alone, which can’t be turned up and down when the grid is strained, opening an opportunity for solutions that can provide renewable, baseload power while permanently removing carbon from the atmosphere to fill this vital need.

Bioenergy with CCS – a critical technology for decarbonization

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is a carbon removal technology that uses sustainably sourced biomass to generate renewable energy while permanently sequestering the carbon underground. Because BECCS is one of the only renewable sources that can generate baseload power around the clock, seven days a week, it can serve as the backbone of renewable power grids for when the sun isn’t shining, or the wind isn’t blowing – a role fossil fuels often fill today.

At the same time, BECCS captures post-combustion carbon at the stack and pipelines it into geologic storage, permanently securing it underground. These high-quality carbon removals are more straightforward to measure in comparison with other solutions like nature-based removals, making it much simpler to quantify the overall impact achieved.

Compared to other carbon capture technologies, BECCS also has more diversified revenue streams – including renewable power generation, government incentives for carbon storage, and the sale of carbon dioxide removals (CDR) credits to offset emissions for other companies and industries. Because of this diversification, BECCS not only provides a clearer path to profitability but also offers a high-quality CDR at a much lower price point than alternatives like direct air capture (DAC). This results in a more sustainable and scalable path to adoption.

Due to these advantages, BECCS is positioned to do much of the heavy lifting regarding carbon removals, but it doesn’t replace the need for additional carbon capture and renewable energy solutions. Technologies like DAC, while costlier to operate today, will play an important role in helping to reverse legacy emissions as well; in fact, BECCS could even power DAC facilities to ensure they’re running on renewable energy. The same is true for renewable power technologies – we need far more wind and solar capacity in addition to BECCS.

Pioneering BECCS in the US and UK

Drax believes that BECCS will be integral to decarbonizing the power sector and hard-to-abate industries. To this end, Drax has launched a new independent business unit this year that is focused on becoming the global leader in large-scale carbon removals. This business unit will oversee the development and construction of Drax’s new-build BECCS plants in the US and internationally, and it will work with a coalition of strategic partners to focus on an ambitious goal of removing at least 6 Mt of CO2 per year from the atmosphere.

Previously, Drax successfully completed two BECCS pilots at Drax Power Station, the UK’s largest power station that contributes approximately 4 percent of Britain’s generation output and 11 percent of its renewables. The Drax team is now working to outfit Drax Power Station with BECCS technology that will remove an estimated 8 Mtpa of carbon while generating 10 TWh of power. This is slated to be the first carbon-negative power station in the world and is key to achieving Drax’s goal of becoming a carbon-negative company.
Drax is also pursuing an initial target in the U.S. to have two BECCS plants built and operating by the 2030s. These will be the first large-scale, biomass-fueled power stations in North America, generating an estimated total of 4 Twh of power while sequestering approximately 6 Mt of CO2 per year.

BECCS is an essential technology to help achieve global decarbonization targets. While it doesn’t replace the need for additional carbon capture and renewable power generation alternatives, its unique advantages can help reverse carbon pollution from the past while meeting the energy demands of the future.

The EU’s embrace of carbon removals

By Kasia Wilk, Head of Public Affairs and Policy, EU & Asia

The UK may no longer be part of the European Union, but the decisions taken by its institutions still impact British businesses and consumers.

What happens in Brussels matters, even if Britain no longer has a seat at the decision table. You may not notice the link to the EU at first, but often technological changes have their roots in the decisions made by the organisation’s institutions.

Take for instance something as innocuous as your mobile phone charger. In recent years USB-C charging ports have increasingly become the standard across Apple and Android devices. This is no accident, an EU directive to mandate all devices for sale on the continent must have a universal USB-C charge port by the end of this year.

This European decision has made the world’s biggest tech companies reconfigure its global designs and supply chains.

If Brussels can influence how the world charges its mobile phones, you won’t be surprised to learn its decisions on climate change policy carry significant influence too.

Nearly all the UN IPCC’s pathways to net zero by 2050 require a significant scale-up of engineered carbon removals. Their importance has led the EU to begin significant policy development in this area.

The opening months of 2024 has seen developments in the space gather at pace. In February, the EU Commission set out its proposals to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040 compared to levels in 1990. To achieve this, the Commission expects to scale-up industrial carbon removals like BECCS and DACCS alongside land-based techniques such as afforestation to 400 million tonnes of removals annually by 2040.

Released alongside the proposed target was the Industrial Carbon Management Strategy providing a roadmap for the removal and storage of millions of tonnes of CO₂ within the Union in the next three decades. This stressed the need to develop further policy options and support mechanisms for BECCS and DACCS.

With the need for large-scale carbon removals made clear, attention is now turning to how to certify and ensure credibility of removal projects. The EU institutions recently reached an agreement on the Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) which will likely become a blueprint for global for carbon dioxide removals (CDR) frameworks. This framework will create a critical foundation for scaling the voluntary market for CDRs in the EU, including BECCS.

Carbon removal companies like Drax want transparent and robust rules in the sector. It is vital that only high-quality removals, and removals that would not otherwise have taken place, are credited. The regulator also must prevent the same activity from being certified twice or using the same certificate twice. This is what the EU’s proposals aim to do, and it could be a blueprint for the UK and governments around the world. However, there remains room for improvement as the CRCF framework only covers removals within the EU’s borders, which means the international nature of the voluntary carbon removals market has not been considered.

Demand for CDRs is continuing to grow, with several high-profile international deals already announced. One example is our own memorandum of understanding with Respira which would enable the firm to buy up to 2 million metric tonnes of CDR certificates.

While progress is being made by Brussels, more policy development is needed in financially incentivising carbon removals through enhanced business models. Developments could include integrating carbon removals into compliance markets like the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme and introducing support schemes such as a Carbon Contracts for Difference. As the sector’s costs decrease through learning and economies of scale, the support frameworks could be tapered in the long-term ensuring value for money for consumers and governments.

While it can feel daunting standing at the foot of the hill staring at the summit, we know that the climate, our communities, and businesses across the continent are worth the sharp ascent.

Around 93% of emissions take place outside of the confines of the EU, but by acting swiftly Europe can lead the world on the development of a vibrant carbon removals industry.

At Drax, our aim is to become a global leader in carbon removals. We are currently progressing plans to deliver two BECCS projects – one in the UK and one in the US – by 2030, with both projects able to permanently remove a combined volume of 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.

We want to eventually be able to geologically sequester 20 million tonnes of carbon each year. Successful trials at our North Yorkshire power station in the UK enabled Drax to become the first company in the world to successfully capture carbon dioxide from the combustion of a 100% biomass feedstock.

BECCS will provide durable, high-integrity carbon removal credits and gigatonne scalability, and is the only technology that generates reliable, renewable power while removing carbon from the atmosphere.

With many Member States continuing to rely on fossil fuels to power their grids, biomass and BECCS conversions could be a vital role in making the EU’s ambition climate targets a reality. It is critical that the EU institutions continues to develop policy at pace to ensure businesses can have confidence to invest in carbon removal projects and the credits which come from them.

The EU has a remarkable opportunity to lead the world on this important area of climate policy, and it is one I hope they seize.

A prosperous future needs energy security and carbon removals – BECCS delivers both

  • Reaching net zero while delivering economic growth requires both energy security and carbon removals.
  • In the late 2020s, UK demand for energy is set to exceed secure and dispatchable supply by 5GW at peak times – leaving the country dependent on imported and intermittent sources to avoid shortages.
  • To bridge the energy security gap the Government needs to extend the lives of existing assets, including biomass and nuclear plants, and curb peak demand.
  • Drax plans to install Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) at Drax Power Station, if we secure the right support from Government this project will ensure the site continues to keep the lights on for millions of homes and businesses well into the future.
  • BECCS is a unique technology, nothing else generates renewable power while removing carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Bridging support for Drax Power Station from 2027 as a pathway to BECCS will mitigate the energy crunch and reduce dependency on intermittent generation.
  • There is a huge opportunity for carbon removals technology to assist with other industries in decarbonising, and further opportunities to reduce cost by sharing resources.
  • BECCS is only possible if we ensure high standards for carbon removals, and these standards must acknowledge the difference between engineered and natural solutions.

We all know that action is needed to tackle the global climate emergency. If we get these changes right, they will ultimately be beneficial to economies and society.

Industries of all kinds will need to reduce their CO2 emissions. While reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is vital, it is becoming clear that reductions alone are unlikely to be enough: it will also be necessary to remove GHGs from the atmosphere to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5C. Any residual emissions in hard-to-abate sectors like aviation or agriculture will require carbon removals at scale, in both a combination of nature and technology-based carbon removal solutions.

This vision of the future doesn’t have to mean low-growth economies or scarce energy supply. Instead, we can build and adapt our energy systems for a sustainable future that enables prosperous economies and thriving societies.

Today, energy systems are some of the world’s most emission-intensive sectors, though many are rapidly decarbonising. The UK has made excellent progress in delivering this, ahead of many other countries, with around 60% of its power now coming from low-carbon sources.

The continued evolution of the energy industry is also intrinsically connected to delivering carbon removals at scale.

The two primary engineered carbon removals technologies are BECCS and Direct Air Capture and Storage (DACS). DACS can remove CO2 from ambient air and then store it underground. To do so, DACS requires a low carbon source of power. BECCS, by contrast, generates power using renewable biomass that absorbs CO2 as it grows. The CO2 is then captured and stored safely and permanently underground.

Done right, they both remove more CO2 than they emit – delivering carbon removals. But BECCS’ unique capability to deliver carbon removals while generating 24/7 baseload power means it can support energy security while helping to tackle climate change.

Delivering energy security in a net zero future

As society electrifies to meet net zero, the demand for power will substantially increase. Meeting these increases will require governments to work with the private sector to deploy a range of technologies. Increasing deployment of renewables like wind and solar around the world will be vital. But these intermittent sources will need complementary technologies like short and long-term energy storage, as well as baseload power generation that can ensure energy systems remain secure and stable.

BECCS is the only renewable energy and carbon removal technology that offers the full suite of system support services. This includes a reliable, stable source of power integrated with other intermittent renewables, something that will only become more important as energy systems decarbonise.

One example of the role biomass can play in global energy solutions comes from research we commissioned from Baringa, which finds that peak demand for UK energy will increase by up to 7GW by 2027. The closure of coal, older gas, and nuclear power stations, however, will also remove up to 7GW of secure capacity from the grid. This could be further exacerbated by ongoing costly delays in new power plants such as Hinkley Point C, which is not expected to be completed until 2031. This means the percentage of ‘secure’ capacity needed to cover peak demand in the UK is projected to decrease

Recent independent analysis by Public First, reaffirms that the UK will hit an energy security “crunch point” in 2028, and the UK’s demand for power is set to exceed secure dispatchable and baseload capacity by 7.5GW. This shortfall would leave the UK more dependent on intermittent domestic and international generation.

Therefore, existing assets like Drax Power Station will be even more critical to energy security. Bridging support for Drax Power Station from 2027 until BECCS is online will reduce the risk of energy shortages and reduce dependency on overseas sources, supporting energy security and decarbonisation through the crunch.

The Government’s Powering Up Britain strategy aims to set the course for delivering the UK’s net zero and energy security ambitions. A key part of this programme is carbon removals and the development and deployment of large-scale Power BECCS by 2030.

We’ve shown at our North Yorkshire site how BECCS is ready to work within the current energy ecosystem. It’s an opportunity to utilise existing infrastructure, convert coal power stations and adapt to an energy secure, net zero future.

In January 2024, the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, Claire Coutinho, approved the Development Consent Order (DCO) for our plans to convert two biomass units at Drax Power Station to BECCS.

Providing the coming months see real progress in our discussions and there is swift decision making, we stand ready to invest billions to develop what will become world’s largest engineered carbon removals project at Drax Power Station.

Our plans for Power BECCS in North Yorkshire would enable us to remove up to eight million tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere per year, while still generating secure, dispatchable, renewable power for millions of homes and businesses.

Without BECCS at Drax, the UK’s target of five million tonnes of carbon removals by 2030 would be difficult to achieve. The pioneering project would build on Yorkshire’s proud industrial heritage, as well as potentially delivering more than 10,000 jobs at the height of construction and position the county and the UK as leaders in the race to create and scale a technology required to capture greenhouse gas emissions.

The DCO approval is another milestone in the development of our BECCS plans and demonstrates both the continued role that Drax Power Station has in delivering UK energy security and the critical role it could have in delivering large-scale carbon dioxide removals to meet net zero targets.

It offers a model for energy security globally. While ensuring the phase-out of fossil fuels around the world, biomass offers a renewable, flexible alternative to reduce our dependency on forms of power such as coal. With BECCS, we can go further by transforming existing coal power stations from carbon emitters into carbon removers.

Decarbonisation across industries

Carbon dioxide removal technologies, like BECCS and DACS, can neutralise hard-to-abate and residual emissions across whole industrial clusters.

Furthermore, carbon removal hubs or clusters, with shared decarbonisation goals, technology, and infrastructure, offer locations where BECCS and DACS can help emissions-intensive industries decarbonise. Sharing infrastructure, like pipelines and storage locations can reduce the cost of deploying carbon removals by creating economies of scale.

Major industries like steel, cement, and chemicals, that employ millions of people around the world may only be viable in a net zero future with connections to carbon removals technologies. BECCS also offers these industries, that depend on energy-intensive processes, an alternative source of power from fossil fuels.

Baringa’s analysis found that Drax’s proposals for BECCS at Drax Power Station could save the UK up to £15bn in whole economy costs in meeting the country’s net zero goals between 2030 and 2050. It also demonstrates that without BECCS at Drax, meeting carbon reduction targets is more complicated and expensive and carbon savings would be needed in other sectors.

Research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading authority on climate science, also states that to tackle climate change, up to 9.5 billion tonnes of carbon removals via BECCS will be required globally per year by 2050. So as the world enters the pivotal decades to act on the climate crisis, governments around the world must take action. One idea of a decarbonisation hub is included in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which commits $3.5 billion to developing four regional Direct Air Capture Hubs.

The Inflation Reduction Act’s total $369 billion funding package focused on energy security and climate change contains a host of potential opportunities for BECCS deployment across renewable power generation, sustainable aviation fuel and hydrogen.

These include a $40 billion loan fund for projects which utilise innovative technology to reduce, avoid or sequester carbon, and $140 million to create a competitive purchasing programme for carbon removals.

Furthermore, the act increases the availability of the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture and storage projects, increasing their value from $50 a tonne of carbon removals to $85 per tonne. These are all promising steps to creating the market and environment needed to deploy technologies like BECCS and DACS.

We recently announced that we’re launching a new business focused on becoming the global leader in large-scale carbon removals, which will oversee the development and construction of our new-build BECCS plants in the US. These projects, through the investment they attract and the jobs they generate, can become key economic drivers in a given region.

The global opportunity for BECCS is clear. The market for carbon removals is growing. And we want to ensure BECCS offers a high-integrity form of carbon removals that delivers permanent carbon sequestration.

Ensuring high quality carbon markets

As pioneers in the field, we’re setting the bar for carbon removal standards, ensuring quality is intrinsic to Drax’s offering. To help achieve this, we’ve partnered with Stockholm Exergi and EcoEngineers to develop a world-leading methodology to ensure the integrity of BECCS carbon removals. Our paper, ‘Corporate climate claims: The case for including permanent carbon removals’ also looks at resetting the standard on corporate claims for carbon removals. Tackling climate change while advancing sustainability is at the heart of our purpose and we’re committed to supporting organisations – especially those with hard-to-abate emissions – work towards decarbonising and reaching climate targets.

From the biomass used to fuel BECCS, to capture and transport processes, it’s imperative the carbon removed is always greater than any carbon emitted throughout the process.

Building from a sustainable base, with a high set of standards can make BECCS a transformational technology in powering the future and delivering carbon removals. No other technology can do both. BECCS can generate renewable power. BECCS can remove emissions. BECCS can deliver a prosperous, net zero future for the world.

To find out more about BECCS and how carbon removals can support your company’s decarbonisation journey, visit draxcarbonremovals.com

Counting the cost: Why its critical that discussions around Net Zero are based on accurate numbers

Summary 

  • Ember’s modelling approach has used a number of assumptions that do not align with Drax’s current project ambitions or the government’s proposed design of the power-BECCS business model. 
  • Ember’s analysis is based on a four-unit deployment of BECCS. Drax’s current project plans and planning consent anticipate a two-unit conversion to BECCS. 
  • The analysis has also assumed a 25-year term for any power-BECCS contract, current government proposals are for a 15-year deal. 
  • The likely power-BECCS business model will be a dual CfD for carbon and power, with revenues earned in the Emissions Trading Scheme and Voluntary Carbon Market significantly reducing the amount of support required from the UK government. 
  • Ember have not given appropriate consideration to the counterfactual of BECCS at Drax. Baringa analysis shows that BECCS at Drax could, save the UK £15bn in whole economy costs between 2030 and 2050 providing a more efficient, cost effective and straightforward pathway to meeting Net Zero targets than other potential options 

Recent steps from the UK Government have been a vote of confidence in our plans to deliver bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at Drax’s power station in North Yorkshire, to deliver the world’s largest carbon dioxide removal facility. These decisions show the clear case and backing there is for Drax’s operations in Yorkshire and the Humber and the workers and communities that make this possible. Alongside planning consent, the Government also began consulting on a mechanism to facilitate large-scale biomass electricity generators to transition to power BECCS. As highlighted by the International Energy Agency, BECCS is the only technology that can both remove carbon and produce energy. These two steps together illustrate the decisions needed to ensure the UK’s energy security. 

Last week, we also saw a number of media reports about the cost of BECCS at Drax Power Station. Many of these reports were driven by a piece of analysis undertaken by Ember. Scrutiny on government expenditure is important, but it is critical that the assumptions made in determining the analysis are carefully considered and based on up-to-date information. 

Ember’s analysis ‘Drax’s BECCS project climbs in cost to the UK public’ has made a number of incorrect assumptions which do not align to the current proposed design of the power-BECCS business model or Drax’s current project ambitions. As a result, we believe Ember’s estimates relating to the £43bn overall cost of BECCS at Drax, as well as the projected £1.7bn yearly subsidy for BECCS at Drax is overstated.  

Three assumptions are of particular note: 

  1. Ember misunderstands Drax’s current plans to deploy power-BECCS at Drax Power Station. They have assumed that Drax converts all four biomass units to operate with carbon capture and storage. However, Drax’s current BECCS project plan, and recently successful Development Consent Order, anticipate a two-unit conversion. Any further development of BECCS beyond two units would require a change to the project plan, new engineering solutions and additional planning consents to be granted. This means that Ember’s assumptions have overestimated Drax’s BECCS deployment (and thus cost per year) by a factor of two.

  2. Ember has also misunderstood the currently intended structure of a power-BECCS business model. They have assumed that any contract for power-BECCS will be for a 25-year term. In their recent update on the design of the power-BECCS business model, published at the end of last year, the UK Government announced their minded-to position for a power-BECCS business model to have a term length of 15 years. This is broadly in line with business models proposed for other CCUS sectors. In their view, this provides a balance between subsidy costs and achieving negative emissions through delivering a larger volume of carbon removals. As a result, Ember’s assumption of a 25-year term does not accurately reflect the real-world policy development position and means that their assumption of the ‘lifetime costs’ of BECCS at Drax has been significantly overestimated.

  3. Ember has assumed that a power-BECCS project receives a Contract for Difference (CfD) on power market revenues only, assuming a strike price of £230/MWh. This approach ignores the primary purpose of BECCS which is its ability to produce negative emissions and facilitate the decarbonisation of some of the hardest and/or most expensive sectors of the economy such as aviation and agriculture.

 

Since some of the earliest proposed designs of the power-BECCS business model were announced back in August 2022, the Government has clearly stated its intent to ensure that remuneration for power-BECCS facilities takes into account both revenues earnable in the power market and in the carbon market. This position has led Government to develop a business model under a ‘dual CfD’ approach; a CfD on power (CfDe) and a CfD on carbon (CfDc). Under this approach, on the CfDc, the Government is exploring options to how a BECCS project will be able to access revenues in carbon markets such as the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM) revenues, which displaces revenues under the CfDc. These markets have the potential to bring in private revenues to support BECCS facilities and would reduce the amount of support required from the UK government and the taxpayer under the CfDc. This approach is aligned with the ‘polluter pays’ principle of decarbonisation whereby CO2 intensive companies provide funding to support decarbonisation measures such as BECCS. Examples of this hybrid approach to supporting BECCS projects can be seen with Orsted’s ‘Kalundborg Hub’ which is partly supported by Danish state subsidies and an agreement with Microsoft to purchase negative emissions in the VCM.  

This hybrid (dual CfD) approach means that, even if you take Ember’s £230/MWh cost of BECCS at face value, UK energy bill payers will not face a £1.7bn annual bill as claimed. ETS and/or VCM revenues supporting the project (via the CfDc) would have the potential to significantly reduce the amount of Government support required for the project. Later this year, the UK Government intends to consult on the integration of negative emissions into the UK ETS and the role of VCMs.  

Ember’s analysis has also not given appropriate consideration to the counterfactual to BECCS at Drax, i.e. what is the incremental cost of the UK meeting its legally binding net zero targets in the absence of the carbon removals delivered by Drax Power Station’s BECCS units? For example, the backing data of Ember’s ‘Cutting the Bills’ report, outlines how a 98% clean electricity system can be achieved by 2030 and the contribution that 0.6GW of BECCS must make in order to achieve this target and reduce electricity bills by £300 per year. For context, 0.6GW of BECCS is approximately equivalent to the power output of one and a half operational Drax BECCS units.  

In a report commissioned by Drax and published by Baringa this week, their modelling shows that two units of BECCS at Drax could, if implemented, save the UK £15bn in whole economy costs between 2030 and 2050 providing a more efficient, cost effective, and straightforward pathway to meeting Net Zero targets than other potential options. The other potential options include an investment of £8.5 billion in synthetic natural gas production (using biomass to create gas for consumption in industry etc.), an increase in biomass imports to feed this increase in synthetic natural gas production, the rollout of an additional 735,000 more heat pumps in hard-to-treat homes costing £5 billion, and the additional deployment of onshore and offshore wind costing £3 billion plus associated storage and network costs. Whilst it is recognised that it is impossible to accurately predict the future and no counterfactual can be 100% accurate, it is nonetheless important to develop robust assumptions for a counterfactual to understand savings as well as costs. The overall savings delivered by BECCS at Drax in meeting net zero far outweigh the costs associated with its deployment.  

In conclusion, Drax recognises the importance of ensuring that all CCUS and energy projects in the UK represent good value for money for the taxpayer and that differing parties may have different views and assumptions when modelling the cost of a project. We believe that Ember’s interpretation of both the scope of Drax’s BECCS project and the business model being developed to support power-BECCS deployment in the UK has resulted in an inaccurate and overstated picture of the cost of Drax’s BECCS project to UK electricity consumers. We remain committed to discussing these matters with government and remain confident in our ability to demonstrate that our project is value for money and expect that once the power-BECCS business model has been finalised, it is highly likely that the government will publish a full account of the strike price of Drax’s BECCS project, as they do with other CfD supported projects 

Development of UK CCS infrastructure and BECCS business model

Drax notes the announcement by the UK Government of further policy support for the development of carbon capture utilisation and storage clusters (CCUS) in the UK, including an update on the Track-1 expansion and Track-2 processes.

The UK Government has also reiterated its ambition to deploy at least 5 MtCO2/year of engineered greenhouse gas removals by 2030, potentially scaling to 23 MtCO2/year by 2035 and up to 81 MtCO2/year by 2050, and published its latest position on the design of a Power BECCS business model, which includes a 15-year CfD with a dual payment mechanism linked to both low-carbon electricity and negative emissions.

Drax Group CEO, Will Gardiner said:

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO

“Today’s announcements by the Government will further progress the development of CCUS clusters in the UK and are an important step forward in facilitating the deployment of large-scale BECCS.

“We welcome the publication of further details on a BECCS business model and the Government’s continued commitment to deploy at least five million tonnes of greenhouse gas removals by 2030, which we believe can only be achieved through delivering BECCS at Drax Power Station.

“BECCS has the potential to deliver carbon removals whilst generating renewable power and installing this technology at Drax Power Station will enable it to continue to play a critical role in the UK’s energy security, creating and supporting thousands of jobs in the Humber region and helping the country meet its Net Zero targets.”

Details of the update from the UK Government:

Track-1 expansion – the Government has agreed Heads of Terms with the operator of the East Coast Cluster CO2 transport and storage network and will now consider the best time to launch an expansion process for the East Coast Cluster from 2024.

Track-2 cluster deployment – the Government has confirmed plans for the assessment of an initial “anchor phase” of capture projects connecting to the Acorn and Viking clusters, which will target projects for deployment in 2028/9, and the development of a “buildout phase” for additional projects to connect thereafter.

The updates on Track-1 expansion and Track-2 cluster deployment continue to affirm that there are two potential routes which could support BECCS at Drax Power Station as well as wider CCS projects in the Humber region by 2030 – the East Coast Cluster and Viking CCS cluster. Drax is in discussions with all relevant stakeholders in the region about the potential of deploying BECCS at Drax Power Station.

Separately, Drax continues to expect that a public consultation on a bridging mechanism will commence shortly.

Notes:

Links to documents

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/carbon-capture-usage-and-storage-ccus-december-2023-statement/ccus-december-2023-statement

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/6581851efc07f3000d8d447d/ggr-power-beccs-business-models-december-2023.pdf

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations:
Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications:
Chris Mostyn
[email protected]
+44 (0) 7548 838 896

Andy Low
[email protected]
+44 (0) 7841 068 415

Website: www.Drax.com

END

Raising the Standard in Carbon Removals

By Angela Hepworth, Commercial Director at Drax

In their Sixth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has clearly stated that to limit warming to 1.5C we will need carbon dioxide removals (CDRs) on a gigaton scale. The magnitude of this challenge lays starkly before us, but in equal measure with the size of the task, its importance has never been more evident.

It’s long been accepted that the world must decarbonise by reducing emissions, but the necessity of carbon removals is more newly recognised. CDRs are now acknowledged to be a crucial part of the effort to achieve net zero emissions, both to neutralise hard-to-abate emissions and sectors (like mining, transportation and aviation) and to remove excess historic carbon, or overshoot, already in the atmosphere.

At Drax we are developing Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), which is unique in its ability to deliver renewable power and remove carbon from the atmosphere simultaneously.

Engineered carbon removal technologies like BECCS are crucial to achieving long-term climate goals. BECCS is the most scalable of these technologies that can be deployed rapidly and is affordable compared with other permanent removal solutions.

Credibility, transparency and trust

Historically, the voluntary carbon market has struggled with demonstrating credibility, transparency and trust and this has proven to be a significant weight on the industry’s ability to scale. We have seen reports of low-quality offsets sold as high integrity credits and projects that don’t deliver the carbon benefits claimed, which has diminished investor trust in the market as a whole.

To address these concerns, we are now seeing significant initiatives being put in place to implement the high standards and good governance in carbon removals credits that we need to effectively scale the market to levels required. The Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Markets (ICVCM) is a prime example of this, serving as an independent governance body for the voluntary carbon market.

The ICVCM is working to champion standards across the industry and has set out its Core Carbon Principles (CCPs) – set of principles that all carbon offsets and removals must meet in order to be considered high integrity.

We welcome this initiative and hope it will raise standards across the market.

Similar to what we are seeing in the AI industry at present, in order to build trust in this nascent market and in turn scale it, it is also imperative that industry looks outside of itself and engages with other stakeholders who are impacted or interested in it. We must; develop ethical principles and guidelines for the design, development and deployment of carbon markets; implement transparent and accountable mechanisms for the oversight and governance of them; educate and engage the public and stakeholders on the benefits of CDRs; empower and protect the customers; and foster collaboration and dialogue among the industry, academia, civil society and policymakers.

Why we need standards for BECCS

At Drax we already recognise that addressing quality concerns is the only way that the market will work for everybody – buyers rightly want to have confidence that they are buying a high-integrity removals which are robustly quantified and verified, sellers need to be able to demonstrate the validity of their claims, and government needs a well-functioning market and a baseline from which to regulate it.

Our partnership with Stockholm Exergi and EcoEngineers is doing just that – developing a world-leading methodology to ensure the integrity of BECCS CDRs. The methodology was created to align with the ICVCM’s CCPs and to closely consider how to ensure everyone around the table is getting what they need:

  • Quantification: For the methodology to be successful it requires a thorough approach to quantifying net-negative carbon removals from BECCS. Quantification in the methodology starts with the gross volume of CO2 we capture and store, then subtracts any supply chain emissions, and/or emissions associated with the carbon capture and storage process, as well as any “leakage” impacts (increases in CO2 emissions outside the project boundary). We have intentionally developed this approach to be both robust and conservative so that BECCS CDRs verified under the methodology are a truly net negative product.
  • Guardrails: It is also crucial in any methodology for BECCS that there are robust guardrails in place to ensure biomass used comes from sustainable sources – for example, from forests where the carbon stock is stable or increasing, and excluding biomass sourced from sensitive areas where there’s high levels of biodiversity. Our methodology also provides that any potential social or environmental risks must be evaluated and mitigated for biomass to be used.
  • Verification: We aim to register our credits with one of the major registries, and once a methodology is adopted, we will ensure that our credits are independently verified to confirm that they meet all the requirements set out in the standard, and that there is robust governance in place, for example to ensure credits cannot be double counted.

Taking the methodology forward

Pioneering this work for BECCS standards is an important step toward increasing investment in BECCS CDRs – a climate critical technology – and it needs to be done collaboratively. It has been developed in partnership with Stockholm Exergy and EcoEngineers and we are now working to gather feedback from other stakeholders with the aim of making it comprehensive and representative.

As a part of this we’d like to invite further feedback – from other developers, standards bodies, potential customers and others, and welcome constructive comment on the text.

The methodology has also been submitted to the European Commission to help shape their proposals for the framework for CDRs that they are developing.

It is in the interest of all parties to work towards common standards for CDRs, to avoid current fragmentation of standards that causes confusion for customers, and we appreciate your feedback on this important work as we drive it forward.

Capturing the opportunity

We have an opportunity to change our current climate trajectory, but that will only happen if we take action now. We to need to reduce emissions and rapidly scale the market for high integrity, sustainable CDRs. Putting the required standards and governance into place to build a resilient and trustworthy carbon removals market is a core part of that.

We hope that this methodology has a part to play in that work and that it will bring us one step closer to manifesting the potential of BECCS done well at scale.

Read the Methodology

Read the Executive Summary

Methodology Enquiries

To discuss or provide feedback on the Methodology please contact [email protected]

Track-1 expansion process update

As part of the update, DESNZ set out its draft expectation to run the Track-1 extension and Track-2 processes in parallel, subject to T&S capacity and ministerial sign off. Following the designation of the Viking CCS cluster as a Track-2 cluster in July 2023, there are now two potential routes which could support the Drax Power Station BECCS project and wider CCS in the Humber region by 2030 – the East Coast Cluster and Viking CCS cluster.

DESNZ also set out an indicative timeline that shortlisted projects would commence negotiations from Autumn 2024. DESNZ will now receive feedback on its draft proposals pending further updates and the publication of final guidance in due course.

Will Gardiner, Drax CEO, said:

“The Government’s statements are a helpful step forward not just for BECCS in the UK, but for the wider fight against climate change. We can only reach net zero by investing in critical, new green technologies such as BECCS. I welcome the Government’s draft position and urge them to progress with both Track-1 expansion and Track-2 processes in parallel this winter”.

Separately, in August 2023 the UK Government published a Biomass Strategy which set out its position on the use of biomass in the UK’s plans for delivering net zero. The Biomass Strategy outlined the potential “extraordinary” role which biomass can play across the economy in power, heating and transport, including a priority role for BECCS, which is seen as critical for meeting net zero plans due to its ability to provide large-scale carbon dioxide removals. This is in addition to formal bilateral discussions between Drax and the Government in relation to a potential bridging mechanism between the end of the current renewable schemes in 2027 and the commissioning of BECCS at Drax Power Station.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations:
Mark Strafford
+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications:
Aidan Kerr
+44 (0) 0784 909 0368

Website: www.Drax.com

END

Can the EU lead certification of carbon removals globally?

By Kasia Wilk, Head of Public Affairs and Policy for Europe and Asia, Drax 

Key takeaways: 

  • Certification of carbon removals provides a mechanism to verify and ensure the credibility of carbon removal projects and their outcomes 
  • EU’s proposed certification mechanism is first of its kind but does not fully reflect the international dimension of carbon markets: it is unclear how removals outside of the EU and certificates issued outside of the EU will be treated. 
  • Understanding the use case of the certified units is equally important to the success of the regulation. Voluntary markets and corporate claims are essential to support the scale up of the industry. If the EU recognises and handles this challenge it could lead the world in carbon removals certification. 
  • EU climate policies should prioritise support for carbon removal solutions that are technically ready, economically feasible, permanent and have additional co-benefits. 
  • Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) is unique in its ability to deliver renewable power and remove carbon from the atmosphere simultaneously.   
  • Sustainability of biomass is heavily regulated by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). It is one of the strictest set of sustainability criteria for forest biomass in the world.  

Why do we need carbon removals?  

This summer was the warmest month ever recorded, the impact of climate change is being felt here and now. Tackling the causes of global warming is now more pressing than ever. We are currently on track for a 14% rise in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This could lead to temperatures increasing by more than double the Paris Climate Agreement’s 1.5 degrees target and bringing about even more extreme weather. Urgent action is needed now to revert this catastrophic trend. It’s increasingly clear that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) will be essential to reach Net Zero by 2050 as these technologies balance out those emissions that are difficult to avoid as well as help companies remove their historic emissions. They do so by capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) that is already in the atmosphere and removing it and storing it permanently. According to the Sixth Assessment Report of the UN’s IPCC, nearly all pathways to Net Zero by 2050 will require a significant scale-up of carbon removals. Carbon removal technologies are developing at pace and can make a significant contribution to tackling climate change. Nevertheless, to get the sector to where it needs to be by mid-century requires the right policies and investment to support deployment. 

The EU has already taken a number of steps to support the development of carbon removals. The CCS Directive establishes a regulatory framework for the geological storage of CO2 and the proposal for a Carbon Removal Certification Framework (CRCF) will support the development of a voluntary carbon market which is a cornerstone for the development of CDR. 

However, to support the scaling up of the sector it is essential to (1) assess the scale of removals required, (2) define binding EU targets and (3) develop roadmaps for the scale up of carbon removals in Europe. It is also important to coordinate Member State commitments, ensuring their plans for deployment can be realised through greater cooperation. 

The importance of certification 

Certification of carbon removals is essential for driving technological development and deployment. It provides a mechanism to verify and ensure the credibility of carbon removal projects and their outcomes. We need transparent and robust rules and procedures to ensure that only high-quality removals and removals that would not otherwise have taken place are credited, and to prevent the same activity from being certified twice or using the same certificate twice. This is what the EU proposal for a regulation establishing a Union certification framework for carbon removals aims to do. 

The proposed certification mechanism is a world-first and positions the EU as the leader in the field, addressing the need for removals in climate policy and providing a stringent, transparent regulatory oversight on certification. It has the potential to set high-quality criteria, create much needed standards for growing the carbon removal market and address many of the shortcomings that hamper its growth today. 

Yet, the scope of the EU certification proposal does not go far enough. It is currently limited to removals within the EU and it is unclear how removals outside of the EU and certificates issued outside of the EU will be treated, despite the important international dimension of climate policy. 

The European Commission has said that international carbon markets can play a key role in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions cost-effectively. Although specifics are still under development, the Paris Agreement provides a robust and ambitious basis for the use of international markets and reinforces international targets, transparency and the accountability. Recognising the importance of international carbon markets, Article 6 of the agreement: 

  • allows parties to use international trading of emission allowances to help achieve emissions reduction targets 
  • establishes a framework for common robust accounting rules, and 
  • creates a new, more ambitious market mechanism.

The lack of international consideration in the Commission’s proposals for certifying carbon removals could be challenging in the long run – particularly in light of the foreseen end uses of certified removal units, including their international exchange through voluntary carbon markets.  

To mitigate this, the Commission should consider two additional scenarios as part of the discussions on the scope of this voluntary certification framework: 

  • Credits generated outside the EU – EU businesses will still be able to use voluntary markets to purchase credits from projects in other jurisdictions, outside of the EU.  These could not be subject to the same high standards, unless they are being given the option to comply with the voluntary framework. 
  • Linking compliance markets – While integration of carbon removals with the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) framework will be assessed by the European Commission over the next few years, this proposal should take account of future potential linking of compliance markets.  Should removals be fungible in those linked ETS markets, it will be within the EU’s interest to ensure removals outside the EU are subject to the requirements and standards of the EU CRCF. 

How to assess and compare the existing CDRs methods? 

All carbon removal technologies will have a role to play in tackling climate change. However, they all differ in terms of process, permanence and technological readiness. To reach its Net Zero targets, EU climate policies should prioritise support for carbon removal solutions that are technically ready, economically feasible and permanent. They should take into account additional co-benefits for local communities, power systems and the environment, as well as the potential to be deployed at scale to ensure these technologies can make maximum contribution to the achievement of EU climate goals. 

BECCS is one of the best examples of this. When compared to other technologies, BECCS is unique in its ability to deliver renewable power and remove carbon from the atmosphere simultaneously whilst generating thousands of jobs across its value chain. 

It is also very well regulated. Sustainability of biomass is already covered by the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The sustainability criteria for biomass in RED were updated in 2023 and has been formally adopted by the European Parliament. It is one of the strictest set of sustainability criteria for forest biomass in the world. It applies equally to domestic and imported biomass and protects against over-sourcing. It also safeguards biodiversity, ensures forest regeneration and sets strict limits on all supply chain emissions, including transportation. The 2023 revision of the RED (REDIII) specifically took account of the projected growth in biomass demand to 2050, including for BECCS, and amended the sustainability criteria appropriately.  

BECCS projects will see carbon capture equipment installed in plants that will also produce power, heat or fuels. In many cases the technology will be retrofitted to existing plants. Regulatory consistency here will be paramount.  

The detailed methodologies that will be developed under the certification framework will need to reflect the vast array of existing regulations, such as RED, to support deployment of these technologies, stimulate investment – and ascertain EU climate leadership – supporting domestic technologies/ or technologies in the region. 

What are the end uses of certified removals? 

Understanding the use case of the certified units is essential to the success of the regulation. The Commission proposal alludes to different end-uses, such as the compilation of national and corporate greenhouse gas inventories, the proof of climate-related corporate claims, or the exchange of verified carbon removal units through voluntary carbon markets. 

However, ongoing debates in the European Parliament – including on related files such as the Green Claims Directive – seem to threaten some uses. Banning claims based on offsetting would reduce incentives for companies to take supplementary action outside their value chains and deter the necessary investment going into the sector.  

Whilst emissions reductions should remain the absolute priority, carbon removals are essential to meet net zero targets and to address residual emissions and potentially historical emissions. The sector needs to start scaling up now for the EU to reach its climate targets in the coming decades. We cannot afford to wait until 2040 for a compliance market to begin scaling up carbon removals as it will be too late.  This is why voluntary markets and claims are critical.  

Companies should be incentivized to make some claims now provided they are on track with their GHG emissions reduction targets. At the same time, the EU should ensure consistency with other pieces of legislation such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) which also covers the use of carbon credits. 

Coming back to the international dimension, it will be important in that context to clarify how removals from outside the EU are to be treated on the EU market given the extraterritorial dimension of certain pieces of EU legislation and global nature of supply chains.