UK-based renewable power generator Drax will pilot the first bioenergy carbon capture storage (BECCS) project of its kind in Europe, which, if successful, could make the renewable electricity produced at its North Yorkshire power station carbon negative.
The demonstration project will see Drax partner with C-Capture and invest £400,000 (US$539,000) in what could be the first of several pilot projects undertaken at Drax to deliver a rapid, lower-cost demonstration of BECCS. C-Capture is a spin-out from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Leeds, established through funding from IP Group Plc.
We have developed fundamentally new chemistry to capture CO2 and have shown that it should be suitable for capturing the carbon produced from bioenergy processes. The key part is now to move it from our own facilities and into the real world at Drax. Through the pilot scheme we aim to demonstrate that the technology we’ve developed is a cost-effective way to achieve one of the holy grails of CO2 emissions strategies – negative emissions in power production, which is where we believe the potential CO2 emissions reductions are likely to be the greatest.—Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture and Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds
C-Capture uses new amine-free solvent materials for CO2 capture with superior performance characteristics, whilst maintaining low cost for commercial viability"
Drax Power Station became the largest decarbonization project in Europe by upgrading its existing facilities and, if the pilot is successful, it will examine options for a similar re-purposing of existing infrastructure to deliver more carbon savings.
A report by the Energy Technology Institute in 2016 suggested that by the 2050s BECCS could deliver roughly 55 million tonnes of net negative emissions a year in the UK—approximately half the nation’s emissions target.
The first phase of the project, starting this month, will look to see if the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. A lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilizing the flue gas desulfurization (FGD) absorbers at the power station will also be carried out to assess potential capture rates.
FGD equipment is vital for reducing sulfur emissions from coal, but has become redundant on three of the generating units at Drax that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulfur.
Depending on the outcome of a feasibility study, the C-Capture team will proceed to the second phase of the pilot in the autumn, when a demonstration unit will be installed to isolate the carbon dioxide produced by the biomass combustion.
This pilot is the UK’s first step, but it won’t be the only one at Drax. We will soon have four operational biomass units, which provide us with a great opportunity to test different technologies that could allow Drax, the country and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.—Will Gardiner, CEO, Drax Group
Unlike previous CCS projects with which Drax has been involved, this is an early pilot for a new technology. It will examine the potential of a new form of carbon capture, post combustion on biomass, rather than coal.
The government’s Clean Growth Strategy identified BECCS as one of several greenhouse gas removal technologies that could remove emissions from the atmosphere and help achieve long term decarbonization.