The first carbon dioxide has been captured using C-Capture technology at Drax Power Station in their innovative bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot
This moves Britain further ahead in the race to develop BECCS technologies - essential in the fight against climate change
The project could enable Drax to become the world's first negative emissions power station - reducing harmful greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere
The demonstration plant at the power station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, is using innovative technology, developed by Leeds-based C-Capture, to capture a tonne of CO2 a day, during the pilot.
It is the first-time carbon dioxide has been captured from the combustion of a 100% biomass feedstock anywhere in the world.
If the BECCS pilot can be scaled up to deliver negative emissions, Drax Power Station would be helping to remove the gases that cause global warning from the atmosphere at the same time as electricity is produced.
Engineers began commissioning the pilot plant in November with the first carbon now being captured, proving that the proprietary solvent developed by C-Capture can be used to isolate the carbon dioxide from the flue gases released when biomass is used to generate electricity.
Data being obtained about the CO2 capture process will continue to be analysed throughout the pilot to fully understand the potential of the technology and how it could be scaled up at Drax. Part of this will include identifying and developing ways to store and use the carbon dioxide being captured.
Drax has invested £400,000 in the pilot, which could be the first of several projects undertaken at the power station to deliver a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS.
Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said:
'Proving that this innovative carbon capture technology works is an exciting development and another important milestone in our BECCS project. Climate change affects us all so this is of real significance - not just for us at Drax, but also for the UK and the rest of the world.
'The successful deployment of BECCS requires us to identify ways in which the carbon dioxide we're now capturing can be stored or used in other processes and we're working with the government and other businesses on that.
'We're focused on working together to make the progress required for us to tackle climate change and enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.'
The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have estimated that BECCS could enable us to capture 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 - approximately half the nation's emissions target.
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 decarbonisation.
Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, Claire Perry, said:
'This innovative technology has the potential to make huge strides in our efforts to tackle climate change while kick-starting an entirely new cutting-edge industry in the UK. World-firsts like this will help us to realise our ambition of having a first operational plant by the mid-2020s as we continue to seize the opportunities of moving to a greener, cleaner economy - a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.'
Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture and Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of Leeds, said:
'This represents a major milestone on the road to achieving negative emissions through BECCS, which is going to be so important in the future. To see our technology working in a real environment like Drax is a tribute to the fantastic team of chemists and engineers who work on the project.'
Caspar Schoolderman, Director of Engineering at C-Capture added:
'Working at this scale is really where the engineering gets interesting. The challenge now is to get all the information we need to design and build a capture plant 10,000 times bigger. It's only really when we get to those sorts of scales that we can start to have an impact on the climate.'
Drax Power Station became the largest decarbonisation project in Europe by upgrading two thirds of its generating units to use biomass instead of coal. As part of the BECCS pilot, it will examine options for a similar re-purposing of existing infrastructure to deliver more carbon savings.
Work has already been undertaken to ensure the solvent C-Capture has developed is compatible with the biomass flue gas at Drax Power Station. This was completed last summer along with a lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-utilising the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station.
FGD equipment is vital for reducing sulphur emissions from coal, but it is no longer required to control sulphur on four of the generating units at Drax that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulphur.
C-Capture is a spin-out from the School of Chemistry at the University of Leeds, established through funding from IP Group Plc.
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Caption: L-R Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture , Drax Power CEO Andy Koss, Caspar Schoolderman, Director of Engineering at C-Capture, Carl Clayton, Drax Research and Innovation Engineer at the Drax BECCS plant, which has successfully captured carbon
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Drax Power Station is the single largest user of sustainable biomass for power in the world - around 70% of the electricity it produces is renewable, enough to power four million households.
Biomass, such as sustainably sourced compressed wood pellets, is a renewable fuel - the CO2 captured when it grew is equal to the emissions it releases when used to generate electricity so it does not contribute new carbon to the biosphere. When coupled with CCS, the overall process of biomass electricity generation removes more CO2 from the atmosphere than it releases.
The government's Clean Growth Strategy identified 'sustainable biomass power stations used in tandem with CCUS technology' as a potential route to achieving long-term decarbonisation between now and 2050.
Drax is in discussions with the British Beer and Pub Association to see if it could help keep the fizz in the drinks industry as part of its efforts to ensure the carbon captured during the BECCS pilot project is used in another process or industry.
There are other markets which Drax expects to provide significant opportunities such as using the CO2 captured in the creation of synthetic fuels.
Drax is also working with the Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, CATCH and other interested parties to explore the role CCUS can play in turning the Humber Estuary into the world's first 'net-zero- carbon cluster by 2040.
It has plans to Repower its two remaining coal generating units to use high efficiency, flexible gas. By reusing some of its existing infrastructure, including the grid connection and cooling towers, the development will be cost effective and very competitive. It could also enable Drax to stop using coal as soon as 2023, well ahead of the government's 2025 deadline, reducing its emissions whilst playing a vital role in supporting the system as more renewables come online.
C-Capture is a spin out from the Chemistry Department at Leeds University and has attracted support from IP Group, the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy's Energy Entrepreneurs Fund and the CO2 Capture Project for CO2 capture technology, which has potential in a range of areas including biogas upgrading, natural gas sweetening and hydrogen production.
The government has provided £2.2 million in support to C-Capture to develop the carbon capture technology.
Drax Group's ambition is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. Its 2,600-strong staff operate across three principal areas of activity - electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production.
Drax owns and operates a portfolio of flexible, low carbon and renewable electricity generation assets across Britain. The assets include the UK's largest power station, based at Selby, North Yorkshire, which supplies six percent of the country's electricity needs.
Having converted two thirds of Drax Power Station to use sustainable biomass instead of coal it has become the UK's biggest renewable power generator and the largest decarbonisation project in Europe.
Its pumped storage, hydro and energy from waste assets in Scotland include Cruachan Power Station - a flexible pumped storage facility within the hollowed-out mountain Ben Cruachan. It also owns and operates four gas power stations in England.
Drax owns two B2B energy supply businesses:
Haven Power, based in Ipswich, supplies electricity and energy services to large Industrial and Commercial sector businesses.
Opus Energy, based in Oxford, Northampton and Cardiff, provides electricity, energy services and gas to small and medium sized (SME) businesses.
Drax owns and operates three pellet mills in the US South which manufacture compressed wood pellets (biomass) produced from sustainably managed working forests. These pellet mills supply around 20% of the biomass used by Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire to generate flexible, renewable power for the UK's homes and businesses.
For more information visit www.drax.com
C-Capture designs world-leading chemical processes for carbon dioxide removal. It has patented a unique, solvent-based technology which offers a safe, low-cost way to remove carbon dioxide from emissions sources such as power stations, industrial plants and anaerobic digestion for positive environmental benefit. In May 2018 C-Capture announced a partnership with Drax Group to run a pilot of its technology at the North Yorkshire power station, which will see carbon dioxide captured from biomass used in power generation, and show how C-Capture's technology can be used as part of a process to remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (BECCS). C-Capture is proud of the potential its technology offers to mitigate climate change as part of the growing market for environmentally-conscious power generation and industrial processes. The company was formed in 2009 as a spin-out from Leeds University, and is backed by IP Group, Drax and BP Ventures. IP Group was set up with a mission to evolve great ideas, mainly from partner universities, into world-changing businesses.
About the University of Leeds
The University of Leeds has created more than 100 spin-out companies, with a market capitalisation in excess of £500 million. Seven of these spin-out companies are market listed on AIM, which is more than any other university in the UK. The University is also home to the EPSRC funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy, and has extensive experience in energy research through the interdisciplinary Energy Leeds initiative.
The University is preparing to launch its £40m Nexus innovation and enterprise centre later this year. Nexus will provide business and industry with easy access to world-leading academic experts and their ground-breaking research, high quality facilities and cutting edge equipment at the University. nexusleeds.co.uk
For more information visit www.leeds.ac.uk