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  • Drax follows the biomass strategy

    Follows the biomass

    UK's biggest power station sticks to a strategy of developing of the renewable energy sources. On successful reformatting of three plant units, they aim to get UK government subsidy support in order to convert unit 4 to biomass burning.

    A power giant on the UK energy market

    Drax is the biggest power station in the United Kingdom, situated in North Yorkshire, England. With a capacity level of around 3,960 megawatts it is capable of providing around 7% of total UK energy consumption. It was founded in 1974 and originally was managed by the Central Electricity Generating Board. In consequent years the owners of the enterprise changed several times and currently it is operated by Drax Group plc. The Drax power station is capable of co-firing of petcoke and biomass, but still it emits the biggest amount of greenhouse emissions, particularly CO2, of all the other energy plants in the United Kingdom. A large contribution in the environmental pollution and a CPF – a tax for electricity, produced from fossil fuels, gave some cogent reasons for the Drax's authorities to reconsider the main energy sources. As a result, the Drax's managing group came up with an idea to convert a part of the station to burning solely biomass.

    Drax's conversion to biomass

    It was in 2003, when Drax began co-firing biomass in order to reduce the greenhouse effects and in 2012 they announced about the plans to make the power station exclusively biomass-burning. One of the three units for reconstruction, was planned to be accomplished by June 2013, the second by 2014 and the third by 2017. Currently, two of them are completely biomass-burning and the third one is 85 percent biomass-fired. The converting process is estimated to cost around £700 million. The sum is to cover the reconstruction of the firing systems by themselves and also supplies of wood pellets, their transportation and storage. The amounts of wood pellets are varying between seven and eight million tons per year, which requires a great deal of carefully elaborated logistics to be applied to this issue. The best part of the necessary amount is to be imported from the North America, so the key question here is port facilities. Port of Tyne, Port of Hull and Immingham with their joint efforts are capable of carrying this task out. As wood pellets lose their properties when got wet, the special type of wagon was developed, which can contain the largest possible amount of wood pellets, preventing them from getting wet.

    State subsidy for complete switch to biomass

    After successful conversion of the first units, the plant authorities were very excited about the results they had achieved. On completion of the first stage of the modernization, Dorothy Thompson, the Drax's CEO said that they are already estimating the conversion process of the unit four and assessing, what is more efficient: either reconstruction of the existing co-firing system, or investing in new facilities.

    Recently, Drax announced, that they aren't going to pre-qualify the coal-firing unit 4 for this year's capacity auction. The reasons for that are their goals to get government subsidy support to convert the unit to fully biomass-fired. The Drag's options in terms of the coal-firing unit 4 are either to apply for a capacity market contract, or to try and get the government subsidy for converting to biomass-using section. But the capacity contract is for the next four years, which makes the conversion possible no sooner than 2020, so it was agreed to promote the latter variant.

    To sum up, the complete conversion to the biomass-burning is vital both from environmental and economic points of view, so we are looking forward to further advancement in this issue.

    Reference information

    Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) was a chief energy administrative agency in the United Kingdom since its foundation in 1957 till the privatization of 1990's.

    Drax Group plc. is a British power association, founded in 2005. The main enterprises of the Drax group are Drax Power Limited, Drax power station, near Selby, Haven Energy, the UK’s leading supplier of sustainable biomass energy to business, and Billington Bioenergy, the UK’s one of the largest suppliers of wood pellets for domestic biomass energy systems.

    Carbon Price Floor (CPF) is a UK's tax on the energy received from fossil fuels introduced in 2013 with a figure of £0.44 per gigajoule for coal, reaching £1.6 by 2016.

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