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Half a century of coal-fired power generation ends

26 April 2023

Drax has announced that almost 50 years of power generation from coal at its North Yorkshire power station has come to an end.

Drax has announced that almost 50 years of power generation from coal at its North Yorkshire power station has come to an end.
• Drax Power Station was once Western Europe’s largest coal-fired power station but has been transformed into the UK’s single-largest generator of renewable electricity.
• Drax Power Station’s four biomass units generated 12.7TWh of electricity in 2022.

Global renewable energy company Drax has announced the official end of coal-fired generation at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire, marking a historic milestone in both the company and the UK’s transformation to a zero-carbon energy future.

Following the discovery of the Selby coalfield, construction of the coal-fired Drax Power Station began nearby in 1967. The power station started generating power out of its first unit in 1974 and in 1975, following the completion of two additional generators, the site officially opened. At the time, this provided enough power for around two million homes and in 1986, power generation capacity was doubled to just under 4GW.

Once the largest coal-fired power station in Western Europe, the plant is now the single largest generator of renewable power in the UK. Over the last decade four of the power station’s six generating units have been converted to use sustainable biomass, providing the UK with clean, green, and secure renewable electricity.

Following the end of the winter contingency agreement, Drax will now embark on a decommissioning process to remove coal-related infrastructure from the site which will start with the flue gas desulphurisation plant that was built in the 1990s to remove 90% of the sulphur from the plant’s air emissions.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said “By converting the plant to use sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, but we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world.

“We’re now planning to go further by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, and we are engaged in discussions with the UK Government to move this £2bn project forward.

“The global momentum for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass is growing as more countries work to reduce their emissions by moving away from fossil fuels to renewables while maintaining their energy security. In recent months, new projects have been announced in countries from Japan to Hungary. If BECCS were eventually added to each of these sites they would be able to remove carbon from the atmosphere while generating power.”

The UK Government aims to deploy 5Mt of engineered CO2 removals per annum from BECCS and other engineered GGR technologies by 2030, rising to 23Mt in 2035 and up to 81Mt in 2050 to keep the UK on a pathway to meet its legislated climate targets.

Source: Drax

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