A new bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) technique is to be trialled at Drax power station in Yorkshire.
The first of its kind in Europe, the project could make the non-coal part of the Drax plant carbon negative.
The project is being carried out in partnership with ‘‘clean energy” technology company C-Capture. Drax is to invest £400,000 into the study which it hopes will lead to a rapid, lower cost demonstration of BECCS.
Drax Group chief executive Will Gardiner said if the world was to achieve targets agreed in the Paris Agreement for climate change, negative emissions were “a must” and BECCS was a leading technology to help achieve it.
“This pilot is the UK’s first step, but it won’t be the only one at Drax,” he said. “We will soon have four operational biomass units, which provide us with a great opportunity to test different technologies that could allow Drax, the country and the world, to deliver negative emissions and start to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
In 2016 Drax completed the conversion of three coal fired boilers to run on biomass which is made up of wooden pellets.
The first stage will investigate if a solvent, developed by C-Capture, is compatible with the biomass flue gas at the power station.
A lab-scale study into the feasibility of re-using the flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) absorbers at the power station will also be carried out to assess potential capture rates.
Drax said FGD equipment was vital for reducing sulphur emissions from coal, but it had now become redundant on the three generating units that have been upgraded to use biomass, because the wood pellets used produce minimal levels of sulphur.
Depending on the outcome of the feasibility study, the C-Capture team will proceed to the second phase of the pilot in the autumn. A demonstration unit will then be installed to isolate the carbon dioxide produced by the biomass combustion.
The power station said by converting to biomass, it had become the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. It said if the new pilot was successful, it would examine options for a similar re-purposing of existing infrastructure to deliver more carbon savings.
It is not the first time carbon capture and storage (CCS) has been trialled at the plant. In 2015, the government scrapped its £1bn funding for the controversial White Rose CCS project.
The White Rose scheme would have involved construction of a stand-alone power plant next to the existing Drax Power Station site near Selby. It would have captured about 2M.t of CO2 per year, to be transported through a pipeline for storage under the North Sea.
However Drax said unlike previous CCS projects it had been involved with, the new project was an early pilot for a new technology on biomass rather than coal.
The first stage of the project is due to kick off this month.