Tag: Drax Power Station

Why the Humber represents Britain’s biggest decarbonisation opportunity

Richard Gwilliam, Head of Cluster Development at Drax

Key takeaways:

  • The Humber industrial cluster contributes £18 billion a year to the UK economy and supports 360,000 jobs in heavy industry and manufacturing.
  • As demand for industrial products with green credentials rises and net zero targets demand decarbonisation, businesses in the Humber need to begin implementing carbon capture at scale.
  • The size of the Humber and diversity of industries make it a significant challenge but if we get it right, the Humber will be a world leader in decarbonisation.
  • Without investment in decarbonisation infrastructure the region risks losing its status as a world leading industrial cluster putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

When the iconic Humber Bridge opened in June 1981, it did more than just set records for its size. It connected the region, uniting both communities and industries, and allowing the Humber to become what it is today: a thriving industrial hub that contributes more than £18 billion to the UK economy and supports some 360,000 jobs.

As the UK works towards a low-carbon future, the shift to a green economy will require new regional infrastructure, that once again unites the Humber’s people and businesses around a shared goal.

While the Humber Bridge connected the region across the estuary waters, a new subterranean pipeline that can transport the carbon captured from industries, will unify the region’s decarbonisation efforts.

It’s infrastructure that will be crucial in helping the UK reach its net zero goals, but also cement the Humber’s position as a global decarbonisation leader.

The Humber Bridge

Capturing carbon across the Humber

Capturing carbon, preventing emissions from entering the atmosphere and storing them safely and permanently, is a fundamental part of decarbonising the economy and tackling climate change. Aside from the chemical engineering required to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) from industrial emissions, one of the key challenges of carbon capture is how you transport it at scale to secure storage locations, such as below the North Sea bed where the carbon can be permanently trapped and sequestered.

Click to view/download

Engineers at Drax Power Station

At Drax, we’re pioneering bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology. But carbon capture will play an important role in decarbonising a wide range of industries. The Humber region not only produces about 20% of the UK’s electricity, it’s also a major hub for chemicals, refining, steel making and other carbon-intensive industries.

The consequence of this industrial mix is that the Humber’s carbon footprint per head of population is bigger than anywhere else in the country. At an international level it’s the second largest industrial cluster by CO2 emissions in the whole of Western Europe. If the UK is to reach net zero, the Humber must decarbonise. And carbon capture and storage will be instrumental in achieving that.

The scale of the challenge in the Humber also makes it an opportunity to significantly reduce the country’s overall emissions and break new ground, implementing carbon capture innovations across a wide range of industries. These diverse businesses can be united in their collective efforts and connected through shared decarbonisation infrastructure – equipment to capture emissions, pipelines to transport them, and a shared site to store them safely and permanently.

Economies of scale through shared infrastructure

The idea of a CO2 transport pipeline traversing the Humber might sound unusual, but large-scale natural gas pipelines have criss-crossed the region since the late 1960s when gas was dispatched from the Easington Terminal on the east Yorkshire coast under the Humber to Killingholme in North Lincolnshire. Further, the UK’s existing legislation creates an environment to ensure they can be operated safely and effectively. CO2 is a very stable molecule, compared to natural gas, and there are already thousands of miles of CO2 pipelines operating around the US, where it’s historically been used in oil recovery.

A shared pipeline also offers economies of scale for companies to implement carbon capture, allowing the Humber’s cluster of carbon-intensive industries to invest in vital infrastructure in a cost-effective way. The diversity of different industries in the region, from renewable baseload power generation at Drax to cutting-edge hydrogen production, also offers a chance to experiment and showcase what’s possible at scale.

The Humber’s position as an estuary onto the North Sea is also advantageous. Its expansive layers of porous sandstone offer an estimated 70 billion tonnes of potential CO2 storage space.

The Humber Estuary

 

But this isn’t just an opportunity to decarbonise the UK’s most emissions-intensive region, it’s a stage to present a new green industrial hub to the world. A hub that could create as many as 47,800 jobs, including high quality technical and construction roles, as well as other jobs throughout supply chains and the wider UK economy.

British innovation as a global export

As industries of all kinds across the world race to decarbonise, there’s an increasing demand for products with green credentials. If we can decarbonise products from the region, such as steel, it will give UK businesses a global edge. Failure to follow through on environmental ambitions, however, will not just damage the cluster’s status, it will put hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk.

Breaking new ground is difficult but there are first-mover advantages. The products and processes trialled and run at scale within the Humber offer intellectual property that industrial hubs around the world are searching for, creating a new export for the UK.

But this vision of a decarbonised Humber, that exports both its products and knowledge to the world, is only possible if we take the right action now. We have a genuine global leadership position. If we don’t act now, that will be lost.

Through projects like Zero Carbon Humber and the East Coast Cluster, alongside Net Zero Teesside, the region’s businesses have shown our collective commitment to implementing decarbonisation at scale through collaboration.

As a Track 1 cluster, the Humber presents one of the UK’s greatest opportunities to level up – attracting global businesses and investors, as well as protecting and creating skilled jobs. We need to seize this moment and put in place the infrastructure that will put the Humber at the forefront of a low-carbon future.

Updated expectations for full year 2022

RNS Number : 5930R
Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)

In response to increased pressure on European gas markets and associated concerns about electricity security of supply in the UK this winter, Drax continues to optimise its biomass generation and logistics. To accomplish this Drax is reprofiling biomass generation and supply from the summer to the winter, enabling it to provide high levels of reliable renewable electricity generation in the UK throughout the winter when demand is likely to be higher. 

The Group also expects to provide additional support from pumped storage hydro at Cruachan Power Station, building on a strong year to date performance, which reflects a high level of system support activities.

Separately, at the request of the UK Government, Drax has now entered into an agreement with National Grid – in its capacity as the electricity systems operator – pursuant to which its two coal-fired units at Drax Power Station will remain available to provide a “winter contingency” service to the UK power system from October 2022 until the end of March 2023. The units will not generate commercially for the duration of the agreement and only operate if and when instructed to do so by National Grid.

Under the terms of the agreement, Drax will be paid a fee for the service and compensated for costs incurred, including coal costs, in connection with the operation of the coal units in accordance with the agreement.

Full year expectations

Reflecting these factors, Drax now expects that full year Adjusted EBITDA(1) for 2022 will be slightly above the top of the range of analyst expectations(2), subject to continued good operational performance.

Notes:

(1)   Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, amortisation, excluding the impact of exceptional items and certain remeasurements.

(2)   As of 5 July 2022, analyst consensus for 2022 Adjusted EBITDA was £613 million, with a range of £584-£635 million. The details of this company collected consensus are displayed on the Group’s website.

https://www.drax.com/investors/announcements-events-reports/presentations/

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

Website: www.Drax.com

END

Six-month extension of coal operations at request of UK Government

View of Drax Power Station

RNS Number : 5919R
Drax Group plc
(“Drax” or the “Group”; Symbol:DRX)

In response to increased pressure on European gas markets and associated concerns about electricity security of supply in the UK this winter, the UK Government has asked owners of legacy coal-fired generation assets, including Drax, to work together with National Grid to temporarily extend the life of their coal generation assets to March 2023.

At the request of the UK Government, Drax has now entered into an agreement with National Grid – in its capacity as the electricity systems operator – pursuant to which its two coal-fired units at Drax Power Station will remain available to provide a “winter contingency” service to the UK power system from October 2022 until the end of March 2023. The units will not generate commercially for the duration of the agreement and only operate if and when instructed to do so by National Grid.

Under the terms of the agreement, Drax will be paid a fee for the service and compensated for costs incurred, including coal costs, in connection with the operation of the coal units in accordance with the agreement.

Will Gardiner, Drax’s Group CEO, said:

“At the request of the UK Government, Drax has agreed to delay the planned closure of its two coal-fired units and help bolster the UK’s energy security this winter.

“Drax has played a central role in ensuring Britain’s energy security over several decades and our workforce is proud to be providing this critical support to the UK energy system.

“Drax is the UK’s largest generator of renewable power, producing enough reliable, renewable electricity for 5 million households from our sustainable biomass and hydro operations and we remain committed to delivering a coal-free future.

“The UK’s long-term energy security depends on investment in innovative green technologies like bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), which provides reliable, renewable power whilst permanently removing CO2from the atmosphere.

“Drax aims to invest billions of pounds developing BECCS in the UK by 2030, provided that the UK Government has in place policies to support the feasibility and delivery of negative emissions technologies, which it has committed to developing this year.”

Drax ended commercial operations on its two-remaining coal-fired generation units in March 2021, and formal closure was planned for September 2022, following the fulfilment of the Group’s Capacity Market obligations on these units.

A limited six-month extension to March 2023 is not expected to result in a material level of coal generation(1). Throughout 2021, coal-fired generation accounted for 3% of the Group’s generation output and in the first three months of 2022, this was less than 1%, with the balance from renewables – sustainable biomass, pumped storage and hydro.

The decision to end coal generation supports the Group’s purpose of enabling a zero-carbon, lower-cost energy future and the transition to a flexible, renewable generation model. This has led to a more than 95% reduction in the Group’s Scope 1 and Scope 2 carbon emissions since 2012 and enabled Drax to become the UK’s largest source of renewable electricity by output.

Investment in renewables

To date, Drax has invested over £2 billion in renewables and UK security of supply, with options for a further £3 billionto be invested this decade, subject to the right investment environment. These investment options include the development of negative emissions technologies and pumped storage, which the UK Government has said are necessary to decarbonise the electricity generation sector by 2035 and reach net zero by 2050.

No expected impact on BECCS

Drax continues to expect to take a final investment decision on its Drax Power Station BECCS project in 2024, subject to the right investment environment and, in 2022, is investing incrementally in the development of this option. This includes the removal of certain coal infrastructure. A six-month extension of coal is not expected to impact on the timing of a final investment decision or intended commissioning date for the project. Site preparation works for BECCS are ongoing and will accelerate following formal closure of the coal units in March 2023.

The UK Government recognises the important role which BECCS has to play in delivering net zero, requiring at least 5Mt of CO2 per year from BECCS and other engineered Greenhouse Gas Removals (GGR) by 2030. To support this ambition, in July 2022, the UK Government published a consultation on engineered GGR’s. Separately, in order to develop the financial model required to support BECCS – and reflective of its advanced technological readiness and the co-benefits of both power and negative emissions – the UK Government is expected to publish a power BECCS business model consultation during summer 2022.

The Group believes that negative emissions and BECCS represent a trillion-dollar global market opportunity and is separately continuing to develop options to deliver 4Mt of negative CO2 emissions each year from new-build BECCS outside of the UK by 2030.

Notes:

(1)   Drax will work with National Grid to source up to approximately 400,000 tonnes of additional coal (which together with current stocks is enough for c.1TWh of electricity generation) to deliver the service, and will only operate if and when instructed to do so by National Grid.

Enquiries:

Drax Investor Relations: Mark Strafford

+44 (0) 7730 763 949

Media:

Drax External Communications: Ali Lewis

+44 (0) 7712 670 888

Website: www.Drax.com

END

Transporting carbon – How to safely move CO2 from the atmosphere to permanent storage

Key points

  • Carbon capture usage and storage (CCUS) offers a unique opportunity to capture and store the UK’s emissions and help the country reach its climate goals.
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2) can be stored in geological reservoirs under the North Sea, but getting it from source to storage will need a large and safe CO2 transportation network.
  • The UK already has a long history and extensive infrastructure for transporting gas across the country for heating, cooking and power generation.
  • This provides a foundation of knowledge and experience on which to build a network to transport CO2.

Across the length of the UK is an underground network similar to the trainlines and roadways that crisscross the country above ground. These pipes aren’t carrying water or broadband, but gas. Natural gas is a cornerstone of the UK’s energy, powering our heating, cooking and electricity generation. But like the country’s energy network, the need to reduce emissions and meet the UK’s target of net zero emissions by 2050 is set to change this.

Today, this network of pipes takes fossil fuels from underground formations deep beneath the North Sea bed and distributes it around the UK to be burned – producing emissions. A similar system of subterranean pipelines could soon be used to transport captured emissions, such as CO2, away from industrial clusters around factories and power stations, locking them away underground, permanently and safely.

Conveyer system at Drax Power Station transporting sustainable wood pellets

The rise of CCUS technology is the driving force behind CO2 transportation. The process captures CO2 from emissions sources and transports it to sites such as deep natural storage enclaves far below the seabed.

Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) takes this a step further. BECCS uses sustainable biomass to generate renewable electricity. This biomass comes from sources, such as forest residues or agricultural waste products, which remove CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. Atmospheric COreleased in the combustion of the biomass is then captured, transported and stored at sites such as deep geological formations.

Across the whole BECCS process, CO2 has gone from the atmosphere to being permanently trapped away, reducing the overall amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and delivering what’s known as negative emissions.

BECCS is a crucial technology for reaching net zero emissions by 2050, but how can we ensure the CO2 is safely transported from the emissions source to storage sites?

Moving gases around safely

Moving gases of any kind through pipelines is all about pressure. Gases always travel from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. By compressing gas to a high pressure, it allows it to flow to other locations. Compressor stations along a gas pipeline help to maintain right the pressure, while metering stations check pressure levels and look out for leaks.

The greater the pressure difference between two points, the faster gases will flow. In the case of CO2, high absolute pressures also cause it to become what’s known as a supercritical fluid. This means it has the density of a liquid but the viscosity of a gas, properties that make it easier to transport through long pipelines.

Since 1967 when North Sea natural gas first arrived in the UK, our natural gas transmission network has expanded considerably, and is today made up of almost 290,000 km of pipelines that run the length of the country. Along with that physical footprint is an extensive knowledge pool and a set of well-enforced regulations monitoring their operation.

While moving gas through pipelines across the country is by no means new, the idea of CO2 transportation through pipelines is. But it’s not unprecedented, as it has been carried out since the 1980s at scale across North America. In contrast to BECCS, which would transport CO2 to remove and permanently store emissions, most of the CO2 transport in action today is used in oil enhanced recovery – a means of ejecting more fossil fuels from depleted oil wells. However, the principle of moving CO2 safely over long distances remains relevant – there are already 2,500 km of pipelines in the western USA, transporting as much as 50 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

“People might worry when there is something new moving around in the country, but the science community doesn’t have sleepless nights about CO2 pipelines,” says Dr Hannah Chalmers, from the University of Edinburgh. “It wouldn’t explode, like natural gas might, that’s just not how the molecule works. If it’s properly installed and regulated, there’s no reason to be concerned.”

CO2 is not the same as the methane-based natural gas that people use every day. For one, it is a much more stable, inert molecule, meaning it does not react with other molecules, and it doesn’t fuel explosions in the same way natural gas would.

CO2 has long been understood and there is a growing body of research around transporting and storing it in a safe efficient way that can make CCUS and BECCS a catalyst in reducing the UK’s emissions and future-proofing its economy.

Working with CO2 across the UK

Working with CO2 while it is in a supercritical state mean it’s not just easier to move around pipes. In this state CO2 can also be loaded onto ships in very large quantities, as well as injected into rock formations that once trapped oil and gas, or salt-dense water reserves.

Decades of extracting fossil fuels from the North Sea means it is extensively mapped and the rock formations well understood. The expansive layers of porous sandstone that lie beneath offer the UK an estimated 70 billion tonnes of potential CO2 storage space – something a number of industrial clusters on the UK’s east coast are exploring as part of their plans to decarbonise.

Source: CCS Image Library, Global CCS Institute [Click to view/download]

Drax is already running a pilot BECCS project at its power station in North Yorkshire. As part of the Zero Carbon Humber partnership and wider East Coast Cluster, Drax is involved in the development of large scale carbon storage capabilities in the North Sea that can serve the Humber and Teesside industrial clusters. As Drax moves towards its goal of becoming carbon negative by 2030, transporting CO2 safely at scale is a key focus.

“Much of the research and engineering has already been done around the infrastructure side of the project,” explains Richard Gwilliam, Head of Cluster Development at Drax. “Transporting and storing CO2 captured by the BECCS projects is well understood thanks to extensive engineering investigations already completed both onshore and offshore in the Yorkshire region.”

This also includes research and development into pipes of different materials, carrying CO2 at different pressures and temperatures, as well as fracture and safety testing.

The potential for the UK to build on this foundation and progress towards net zero is considerable. However, for it to fully manifest it will need commitment at a national level to building the additional infrastructure required. The results of such a commitment could be far reaching.

In the Humber alone, 20% of economic value comes from energy and emissions-intensive industries, and as many as 360,000 jobs are supported by industries like refining, petrochemicals, manufacturing and power generation. Putting in place the technology and infrastructure to capture, transport and store emissions will protect those industries while helping the UK reach its climate goals.

It’s just a matter of putting the pipes in place.

Go deeper: How do you store CO2 and what happens to it when you do?

The apprenticeships of the future

In brief

  • Apprenticeships are widely available at Drax, not just in engineering

  • Hear what our existing apprentices think about the opportunities they’ve taken

  • Discover where to find out more: could you be the next Drax apprentice?

Apprenticeships are changing – once mainly the domain of school leavers entering a trade, they are now a possibility for people at many different career stages, in countless industries.

At Drax, we offer a wide range of apprenticeships across a variety of business areas, from engineering to data science. The scheme covers costs to individuals without affecting employee salaries or benefits, whilst providing sufficient support and protected study time.

“Take the opportunity! We’re very lucky to have the chance to complete apprenticeships while working.”

— Beka Mantle, apprentice

By undertaking the apprenticeship, people can learn a new set of skills to improve their knowledge and expertise, boost their career opportunities and gain invaluable experience.

What is an apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is made up of learning with a training provider and practical experience on the job.

Apprenticeships can benefit Drax by attracting new talent while also developing existing colleagues and future-proofing our workforce to help achieve our ambition to become carbon negative by 2030.

Apprentice Q&A

The following insights from Drax employees highlight the opportunities that apprenticeships can give them and what they have learnt so far.

Joe Clements

Job title: Technical Engineering Trainee

Apprenticeship: Mechanical Engineering Pathway Continuation

Q: What are the benefits of an apprenticeship?

A: It’s put me in positions that I might not have found myself in before, forcing me to learn fast and adapt. It’s also benefiting Drax as I’m constantly learning and developing within my team. On completion, I should be ready to go straight into an engineering role.

Q: What are the challenges?

A: Balancing your work and study, especially as you grow into the role and take on more tasks. However, you’re guaranteed learning hours on a weekly basis.

Lois Cheatle

Job title: Finance Graduate

Apprenticeship: Accountancy and Taxation

Q: Why did you want to do an apprenticeship?

A: Having graduated from university and taken a year out, I wanted to further improve on the skills I’d learnt. An apprenticeship has allowed me to develop these skills both from learning on the job and having technical support from my training provider as I worked my way through my accountancy qualification.

It’s also given me the opportunity to develop soft skills such as communication and building relationships, which is part of the professional development side of the apprenticeship.

Alex Hegarty

Job title: Data Science Analyst

Apprenticeship: Data Science

Q: How was your apprenticeship application process?

A: It was fairly straightforward – Louisa Russell (Early Careers Manager at Drax) helped me with my enrolment. To qualify for the course, I had to complete a quiz to prove I had basic proficiency in programming.

Q: What’s the best thing about doing an apprenticeship?

A: Having experts with extensive knowledge of the subject who you can pester with questions.

Beka Mantle

Job title: 4E Business Lead

Apprenticeship: Improvement Specialist

Q: Have you felt supported? 

A: Very. My line manager is always checking in to see how I’m getting on and offering support, and I have catch ups with the Early Careers team. I also meet my apprenticeship tutor at least bi-weekly, and he’s always there to answer any questions and talk things through. I’m also lucky to have someone else on my team who’s working through the same apprenticeship – it’s great when we need to practise something or bounce ideas off each other.

Q: What would you say to anyone thinking of doing an apprenticeship? 

A: Take the opportunity! We’re very lucky to have the chance to complete apprenticeships while working, and I’m grateful to have the support of so many people around me while I’m on this journey.

Chris Hughes

Job Title: Seconded to Supplier Relationship Manager

Apprenticeship: Regulatory Compliance

Q: What’s the best thing about it?

A: Making new friends from different sectors, such as councils and environmental health, and gaining an insight into their working lives and how compliance plays its part. It’s also motivating to get continuous positive feedback about my strong coursework and presentations.

Jason Reeve

Job title: Collections Manager – line manager to Chris Hughes and Jessica Leason, Supplier Relationship Manager

Q: How do you manage study commitments?

A: I’ve made sure that both Chris and Jessica have had dedicated study time blocked out in their diaries. In our 1:1s, we’ve discussed progress and looked at the assessment criteria to make sure they’ve been involved with projects giving them valuable experience to support their apprenticeship.

Q: Why is it important to support colleagues doing apprenticeships?

A: It’s vital to develop your team – as a manager, a large part of my success is down to the skills and expertise my team brings to the table. Helping Chris and Jess through their apprenticeship has really aided their personal development, knowledge and skills. I soon started seeing the benefit in terms of what they were bringing to the team, their contribution to the department and their own confidence.

Their continued development through the scheme has helped keep their passion alive for their roles and driven their success.

Go deeper

Find out more about the apprenticeships we offer at Drax, as well as our other career opportunities here.

Global collaboration
is key to tackling
the climate crisis

Leaders from 40 countries are meeting today, albeit virtually, as part of President Joe Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate. The event provides an opportunity for world leaders to reaffirm global efforts in the fight against climate change, set a clear pathway to net zero emissions, while creating jobs and ensuring a just transition.

Since taking office President Biden has made bold climate commitments and brought the United States back into the Paris Agreement. Ahead of the two-day summit, he announced an ambitious 2030 emissions target and new Nationally Determined Contributions. The US joins other countries that have announced significant reduction goals. For example, the EU committed to reduce its emissions by at least 55%, also South Korea, Japan and China have all set net-zero targets by mid-century.

Here in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week outlined new climate commitments that will be enshrined in law. The ambitious new targets will see carbon emissions cut by 78% by 2035, almost 15 years earlier than previously planned. If delivered, this commitment which is in-line with the recommendations of the Climate Change Committee’s sixth carbon budget will put the UK at the forefront of climate action, and for the first time the targets include international aviation and shipping.

What makes climate change so difficult to tackle is that it requires collaboration from many different parties on a global scale never seen before. As a UK-North American sustainable energy company, with communities on both sides of the Atlantic, at Drax we are keenly aware of the need for thinking that transcends borders, creating a global opportunity for businesses and governments to work together towards a shared climate goal. That’s why we joined other businesses and investors in an open letter supporting the US government’s ambitious climate actions.

Collaboration between countries and industries

It’s widely recognised that negative emissions technologies will be key to global efforts to combat climate change.

At Drax we’re pioneering the negative emissions technology bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at our power station in North Yorkshire, which when up and running in 2027 will capture millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, sending it for secure storage, permanently locking it away deep under the North Sea.

Experts on both sides of the Atlantic consider BECCS essential for reaching net zero. The UK’s Climate Change Committee says it will play a major role in removing CO2 emissions that will remain in the UK economy after 2050 from industries such as aviation and agriculture that will be difficult to fully decarbonise. Meanwhile, a report published last year by New York’s Columbia University revealed that rapid development of BECCS is needed within the next 10 years in order to curb climate change and a recent report from Baringa, commissioned by Drax, showed it will be a lot more expensive for the UK to reach its legally binding fifth carbon budget between 2028 and 2031 without BECCS.

A shared economic opportunity

Globally as many as 65 million well-paid jobs could be created through investment in clean energy systems. In the UK, BECCS and negative emissions are not just essential in preventing the impact of climate change but will also be a key component of a post-Covid economy.

Government and private investments in clean energy technologies can create thousands of well-paid jobs, new careers, education opportunities and upskill workforces. Developing BECCS at Drax Power Station, for example, would support around 17,000 jobs during the peak of construction in 2028, including roles in construction, local supply chains and the wider economy. It would also act as an anchor project for the Zero Carbon Humber initiative, which aims to create the world’s first net zero industrial cluster. Developing a carbon capture, usage, and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen industrial cluster could spearhead the creation and support of tens of thousands of jobs across the Humber region and more than 200,000 around the UK in 2039.

Under the Humber Bridge

Additional jobs would be supported and created throughout our international supply chain. This includes the rail, shipping and forestry industries that are integral to rural communities in the US South and Western Canada.

A global company

As a British-North American company, Drax embodies the positive impact that clean energy investments have. We directly employ 3,400 people in the US, Canada, and the UK, and indirectly support thousands of families through our supply chains on both sides of the Atlantic. Drax is strongly committed to supporting the communities where we operate by investing in local initiatives to support the environment, jobs, education, and skills.

From the working forests of the US South and Western Canada to the Yorkshire and Humber region, and Scotland, we have a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030. At Drax, we believe the challenge of climate change is an opportunity to improve the environment we live in. We have reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by over 80% and transformed into Europe’s largest decarbonisation project. Drax Power Station is the most advanced BECCS project in the world and we stand ready to invest in this cutting-edge carbon capture and removal technology. We can then share our expertise with the rest of the world – a world where major economies are committing to a net zero future and benefiting from a green economic recovery.

If we are to reach the targets set in Paris, global leaders must lock in this opportunity and make this the decade of delivery.

Standing together
against climate
change

Global leadership illustration

Tackling climate change requires global collaboration. As a UK-US sustainable energy company, with communities on both sides of the Atlantic, we at Drax are keenly aware of the need for thinking that transcends countries and borders.

Joe Biden has become the 46th President of my native country at a crucial time to ensure there is global leadership and collaboration on climate change. Starting with re-joining the Paris Agreement, I am confident that the new administration can make a significant difference to this once-in-a-lifetime challenge.

This is why Drax and our partners are mobilising a transatlantic coalition of negative emissions producers. This can foster collaboration and shared learning between the different technologies and techniques for carbon removal that are essential to decarbonise the global economy.

Biomass storage domes at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire at sunset

Biomass storage domes at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire

Whilst political and technical challenges lie ahead, clear long-term policies that spur collaboration, drive innovation and enable technologies at scale are essential in achieving the UK and US’ aligned targets of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Collaboration between countries and industries

What makes climate change so difficult to tackle is that it requires collaboration from many different parties on a scale like few other projects. This is why the Paris Agreement and this year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow are so vital.

Sustainable biomass wood pellets being safely loaded at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge onto a vessel destined for Drax Power Station

Our effort towards delivering negative emissions using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) is another example of ambitious decarbonisation that is most impactful as part of an integrated, collaborative energy system. The technology depends upon sustainable forest management in regions, such as the US South where our American communities operate. Carbon capture using sustainable bioenergy will help Drax to be carbon negative by 2030 – an ambition I announced at COP25, just over a year ago in Madrid.

Will Gardiner at Powering Past Coal Alliance event in the UK Pavilion at COP25 in Madrid

Will Gardiner announcing Drax’s carbon negative ambition at COP25 in Madrid (December 2019).

Experts on both sides of the Atlantic consider BECCS essential for net zero. The UK’s Climate Change Committee says it will play a major role in tackling carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions that will remain in the UK economy after 2050, from industries such as aviation and agriculture that will be difficult to fully decarbonise. Meanwhile, a report published last year by New York’s Columbia University revealed that rapid development of BECCS is needed within the next 10 years in order to curb climate change.

A variety of negative emissions technologies are required to capture between 10% and 20% of the 35 billion metric tonnes of carbon produced annually that the International Energy Agency says is needed to prevent the worst effects of climate change.

We believe that sharing our experience and expertise in areas such as forestry, bioenergy, and carbon capture will be crucial in helping more countries, industries and businesses deploy a range of technologies.

A formal coalition of negative emissions producers that brings together approaches including land management, afforestation and reforestation, as well as technical solutions like direct air capture (DAC), as well as BECCS, would offer an avenue to ensure knowledge is shared globally.

Direct air capture (DAC) facility

Direct air capture (DAC) facility

It would also offer flexibility in countries’ paths to net zero emissions. If one approach under-delivers, other technologies can work together to compensate and meet CO2 removal targets.

As with renewable energy, working in partnership with governments is essential to develop these innovations into the cost-effective, large scale solutions needed to meet climate targets in the mid-century.

A shared economic opportunity

I agree whole heartedly that a nation’s economy and environment are intrinsically linked – something many leaders are now saying, including President Biden. The recently approved US economic stimulus bill, supported by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and which allocates $35 billion for new clean energy initiatives, is a positive step for climate technology and job creation.

Globally as many as 65 million well-paid jobs could be created through investment in clean energy systems. In the UK, BECCS and negative emissions are not just essential in preventing the impact of climate change, but are also a vital economic force as the world begins to recover from the effects of COVID-19.

Engineer inside the turbine hall of Drax Power Station

Government and private investments in clean energy technologies can create thousands of well-paid jobs, new careers, education opportunities and upskill workforces. Developing BECCS at Drax Power Station, for example, would support around 17,000 jobs during the peak of construction in 2028, including roles in construction, local supply chains and the wider economy.

Additional jobs would be supported and created throughout our international supply chain. This includes the rail, shipping and forestry industries that are integral to rural communities in the US South.

We are also partnered with 11 other organisations in the UK’s Humber region to develop a carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and hydrogen industrial cluster with the potential to spearhead creating and supporting more than 200,000 jobs around the UK in 2039.

The expertise and equipment needed for such a project can be shared, traded and exported to other industrial clusters around the world, allowing us to help reach global climate goals and drive global standards for CCUS and biomass sustainability.

Clear, long-term policies are essential here, not just to help develop technology but to mitigate risk and encourage investment. These are the next crucial steps needed to deploy negative emissions at the scale required to impact CO2 emissions and lives of people.

Engineer at BECCS pilot project within Drax Power Station

At Drax we directly employ almost 3,000 people in the US and UK, and indirectly support thousands of families through our supply chains on both sides of the Atlantic. Drax Power Station is the most advanced BECCS project in the world and we stand ready to invest in this cutting-edge carbon capture and removal technology. We can then share our expertise with the United States and the rest of the world – a world where major economies are committing to a net zero future and benefiting from a green economic recovery.

The UK needs negative emissions from BECCS to reach net zero – here’s why

Early morning sunrise at Drax Power Station

Reaching the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 means every aspect of the economy, from shops to super computers, must reduce its carbon footprint – all the way down their supply chains – as close to zero as possible.

But as the country transforms, one thing is certain: demand for electricity will remain. In fact, with increased electrification of heating and transport, there will be a greater demand for power from renewable, carbon dioxide (CO2)-free sources. Bioenergy is one way of providing this power without reliance on the weather and can offer essential grid-stability services, as provided by Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire.

Close up of electricity pylon tower

Close up of electricity pylon tower

Beyond just power generation, more and more reports highlight the important role the next evolution of bioenergy has to play in a net zero UK. And that is bioenergy with carbon capture and storage or BECCS.

A carbon negative source of power, abating emissions from other industries

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) says negative emissions are essential for the UK to offset difficult-to-decarbonise sectors of the economy and meet its net zero target. This may include direct air capture (DAC) and other negative emissions technologies, as well as BECCS.

BECCS power generation uses biomass grown in sustainably managed forests as fuel to generate electricity. As these forests absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while growing, they offset the amount of COreleased by the fuel when used, making the whole power production process carbon neutral. Adding carbon capture and storage to this process results in removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than is emitted, making it carbon negative.

Pine trees grown for planting in the forests of the US South where more carbon is stored and more wood inventory is grown each year than fibre is extracted for wood products such as biomass pellets

Pine trees grown for planting in the forests of the US South where more carbon is stored and more wood inventory is grown each year than fibre is extracted for wood products such as biomass pellets

This means BECCS can be used to abate, or offset, emissions from other parts of the economy that might remain even as it decarbonises. A report by The Energy Systems Catapult, modelling different approaches for the UK to reach net zero by or before 2050, suggests carbon-intensive industries such as aviation and agriculture will always produce residual emissions.

The need to counteract the remaining emissions of industries such as these make negative emissions an essential part of reaching net zero. While the report suggests that direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS) will also play an important role in bringing CO2 levels down, it will take time for the technology to be developed and deployed at the scale needed.

Meanwhile, carbon capture use and storage (CCUS) technology is already deployed at scale in Norway, the US, Australia and Canada. These processes for capturing and storing carbon are applicable to biomass power generation, such as at Drax Power Station, which means BECCS is ready to deploy at scale from a technology perspective today.

As well as counteracting remaining emissions, however, BECCS can also help to decarbonise other industries by enabling the growth of a different low carbon fuel: hydrogen.

Enabling a hydrogen economy

The CCC’s ‘Hydrogen in a low-carbon economy report’ highlights the needs for carbon zero alternatives to fossil fuels – in particular, hydrogen or H2.

Hydrogen produced in a test tube

Hydrogen produced in a test tube

When combusted, hydrogen only produces heat and water vapour, while the ability to store it for long periods makes it a cleaner replacement to the natural gas used in heating today. Hydrogen can also be stored as a liquid, which, coupled with its high energy density makes it a carbon zero alternative to petrol and diesel in heavy transport.

There are various ways BECCS can assist the creation of a hydrogen economy. Most promising is the use of biomass to produce hydrogen through a method known as gasification. In this process solid organic material is heated to more than 700°C but prevented from combusting. This causes the material to break down into gases: hydrogen and carbon monoxide (CO). The CO then reacts with water to form CO2 and more H2.

While CO2 is also produced as part of the process, biomass material absorbs CO2 while it grows, making the overall process carbon neutral. However, by deploying carbon capture here, the hydrogen production can also be made carbon negative.

BECCS can more indirectly become an enabler of hydrogen production. The Zero Carbon Humber partnership envisages Drax Power Station as the anchor project for CCUS infrastructure in the region, allowing for the production of ‘blue’ hydrogen. Blue hydrogen is produced using natural gas, a fossil fuel. However, the resulting carbon emissions could be captured. The CO2 would then be transported and stored using the same system of pipelines and a natural aquifer under the North Sea as used by BECCS facilities at Drax.

This way of clustering BECCS power and hydrogen production would also allow other industries such as manufactures, steel mills and refineries, to decarbonise.

Lowering the cost of flexible electricity

One of the challenges in transforming the energy system and wider economy to net zero is accounting for the cost of the transition.

The Energy Systems Catapult’s analysis found that it could be kept as low as 1-2% of GDP, while a report by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) projects that deploying BECCS would have little impact on the total cost of the power system if deployed for its negative emissions potential.

The NIC’s modelling found, when taking into consideration the costs and generation capacity of different sources, BECCS would likely be run as a baseload source of power in a net zero future. This would maximise its negative emissions potential.

This means BECCS units would run frequently and for long periods, uninterrupted by changes in the weather, rather than jumping into action to account for peaks in demand. This, coupled with its ability to abate emissions, means BECCS – alongside intermittent renewables such as wind and solar – could provide the UK with zero carbon electricity at a significantly lower cost than that of constructing a new fleet of nuclear power stations.

The report also goes on to say that a fleet of hydrogen-fuelled power stations could also be used to generate flexible back-up electricity, which therefore could be substantially cheaper than relying on a fleet of new baseload nuclear plants.

However, for this to work effectively, decisions need to be made sooner rather than later as to what approach the UK takes to shape the energy system before 2050.

The time to act is now

What is consistent across many different reports is that BECCS will be essential for any version of the future where the UK reaches net zero by 2050. But, it will not happen organically.

Sunset and evening clouds over the River Humber near Sunk Island, East Riding of Yorkshire

Sunset and evening clouds over the River Humber near Sunk Island, East Riding of Yorkshire

A joint Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering Greenhouse Gas Removal report, includes research into BECCS, DACCS and other forms of negative emissions in its list of key actions for the UK to reach net zero. It also calls for the UK to capitalise on its access to natural aquifers and former oil and gas wells for CO2 storage in locations such as the North Sea, as well as its engineering expertise, to establish the infrastructure needed for CO2 transport and storage.

However, this will require policies and funding structures that make it economical. A report by Vivid Economics for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) highlights that – just as incentives have made wind and solar viable and integral parts of the UK’s energy mix – BECCS and other technologies, need the same clear, long-term strategy to enable companies to make secure investments and innovate.

However, for policies to make the impact needed to ramp BECCS up to the levels necessary to bring the UK to net zero, action is needed now. The report outlines policies that could be implemented immediately, such as contracts for difference, or negative emissions obligations for residual emitters. For BECCS deployment to expand significantly in the 2030s, a suitable policy framework will need to be put in place in the 2020s.

Beyond just decarbonising the UK, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlights that BECCS could be of even more importance globally. Differing scales of BECCS deployment are illustrated in its scenarios where global warming is kept to within 1.5oC levels of pre-industrial levels, as per the Paris Climate agreement.

BECCS has the potential to play a vital role in power generation, creating a hydrogen economy and offsetting other emissions. As it continues to progress, it is becoming increasingly effective and cost efficient, offering a key component of a net zero UK.

Learn more about carbon capture, usage and storage in our series: