COP25: Drax to become carbon negative by 2030

UK energy company Drax will announce ambitions to become carbon negative by 2030 at the UN's COP25 climate summit in Madrid today (Tuesday, December 10).

COP25: Drax to become carbon negative by 2030

CCUS incubation area

The move will see the firm use bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that it produces – creating a negative carbon footprint.

CEO Will Gardiner, who will be making the announcement at COP25, made it clear that it was “only achievable” with an “effective negative emissions policy and investment framework” from the UK Government. 

The firm is currently running a successful BECCS pilot at its power station, capturing a tonne of carbon dioxide every day. The CCS array, which is being used in partnership with C-Capture, first began capturing carbon in February. Drax claims that it is the first of its kind anywhere around the globe and could eventually enable its Yorkshire site – a former coal-fired plant – to become the world’s first “negative emissions” power station.

After closing its remaining two coal generating units at Drax Power Station by 2025 and using carbon capture technology on its biomass power generating units, its operations would become carbon negative by 2030, it has claimed.

Halving emissions

The news follows an announcement in the summer that Drax had cut its absolute carbon emissions for the first half of 2019 by 52%, compared to the same period last year.

A further key driver for decarbonisation, Drax claims, is its work in boosting power system flexibility and strengthening its operations in preparation for a low-carbon, decentralised and digitised electricity system. It recorded a 92% increase in value derived from flexibility during the first half of 2019, compared to the first half of 2018, after UK Power Networks launched its ‘flexibility first’ vision.

Sustainable biomass is an important part of the UK’s long-term energy mix. Combining this renewable fuel with carbon capture and storage technology on Drax’s biomass generating units at its power station in North Yorkshire means the Group’s operations could capture 16 million tonnes of CO2 a year. In the first half of 2019, 94% of the power produced by Drax Power Station was renewable – delivering carbon savings of more than 80% compared to when it only used coal.

Just transition

Speaking about the carbon negative ambition, Will Gardiner said: “Drax’s ambition is to be carbon negative by 2030.  Having pioneered the use of sustainable biomass, Drax now produces 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity. With the right negative emissions policy, we can do much more, removing millions of tonnes of emissions from the atmosphere each year.

 “The UK Government is working on a policy and investment framework to encourage negative emissions technologies, which will enable the UK to be home to the world’s first carbon negative company. This is not just critical to beating the climate crisis, but also to enabling a just transition, protecting jobs and creating new opportunities for clean growth – delivering for the economy as well as for the environment.”

Important announcement

The move was welcomed by the Renewable Energy Association, who called it an “important announcement, and the senior adviser on Biomass UK.

Chief Executive of REA, Dr Nina Skorupska, saidThis ambition should be welcomed as not only evidence of the UK’s drive towards net zero, but the determination of first-moving private companies like Drax to remove more CO2 from the atmosphere than it releases across the entirety of its operations, without the use of offsets.”

Benedict McAleenan, Senior Adviser to Biomass UK saidThis announcement shows the important role that bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technology will play in our future energy system.

“Importantly, this ambition from Drax is underpinned by bioenergy, which has accelerated the UK towards its climate targets, accounting for 31.6% of electricity generation in 2018, more than half of which came from plant biomass. Bioenergy is key: we won’t reach Net Zero without BECCS, and we can’t have BECCS without bioenergy. ”

James Evison

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie