Drax Throws the Switch on Fourth Biomass Unit

The UK’s Drax Group has switched on its fourth biomass generating unit – taking the power station in North Yorkshire a step closer to achieving its coal-free ambitions.
Drax Throws the Switch on Fourth Biomass Unit
Courtesy of Drax

Work got under way on the conversion as part of a planned maintenance program in June, with Drax’s team of engineers completing the work required, on schedule, in just over two months.

Having upgraded three of its coal units to use biomass, Drax is already the biggest decarbonization project in Europe. The conversion of a fourth unit means it is on course to be off coal before the government’s 2025 deadline.

To convert the unit the project team re-used some redundant infrastructure left from when the company was first co-firing biomass with coal on a large scale, around eight years ago

Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO, said, “This is another major milestone in the transformation of the power station. It will extend the life of the plant, protecting jobs, whilst delivering cleaner, reliable power for millions of homes and businesses.”

The cost of conversion of the fourth generating unit is significantly below the level of previous conversions, at around £30 million ($38.5 million).

Drax has already invested around £700 million ($900 million) in upgrading the first three units and associated supply chain infrastructure to use sustainable biomass instead of coal.

The fourth unit will help the power station, at Selby in North Yorkshire, to deliver vital reliable and flexible power needed by the grid to maintain secure supplies as more renewables come online and the sector continues to decarbonize.

Drax will now continue its work to replace its remaining two coal units, with gas-fired power generating units. The Combined Cycle Gas Turbines it is looking to develop could deliver up to 3.6GW of capacity, as well as up to 200MW of battery storage.

Drax’s plans for the gas project have been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, which accepted the application for examination. The proposals will now be examined by the Planning Inspectorate and then considered by the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy with a decision expected in 2019.


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\"Drax is already the biggest decarbonization project in Europe\" Correction: This is the largest fossil fuel \"decarbonization\" in Europe, but it still has tremendous carbon emissions. Even though energy from from forests is renewable, that doesn\'t make it good for the climate. Drax is culpable for some of the dirtiest and most extensive biomass practices on the planet, with noxious emissions that will be left to linger in the atmosphere for decades after our timetable set to reach a stable climate.