Drax power station

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{{#Badges: CoalSwarm|Navbar-UnitedKingdomandcoal}}Drax Power Station was a 3,960-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power station in North Yorkshire, England -- the United Kingdom's largest coal-fired power plant.

Starting in 2013 and through August 2018, Drax converted four of its six units to 100% biomass.[1][2] The company plans to convert its remaining two coal units to gas turbine units totaling 3600 MW with 200 MW battery storage,[3] before Britain's 2025 coal phase-out.[4]

A carbon capture and storage project known as White Rose was proposed at the site, but was cancelled due to lack of funding.[5]


The undated satellite photo below shows the power station near Selby, North Yorkshire.

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Background on existing power station

The Drax power station consisted of six 660 MW generating units, commissioned from 1974 to 1986. It has a maximum capacity of 3,945 MW, producing around 24 Terawatt-hours (TWh) annually[6] -- making it the largest coal power station in the UK.[7]

Drax employs over 700 people and provides about 7% of Britain's electrical power demand.[8][9]

The six units are served by independent wet limestone-gypsum flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) plant, which removes at least 90% of the sulphur dioxide from the flue gases. The station's chimney is the tallest in the UK.[10] The station has a maximum potential consumption of 36,000 metric tons (tonnes) of coal a day, and uses between 7,000,000 and 11,000,000 metric tons annually. Coal is partly supplied by nearby Kellingley Colliery, with the bulk coming from Poland. The Drax station generates around 1,500,000 of ash and 22,800,000 of carbon dioxide each year.[11]

Converting to biomass and gas

In September 2012 Drax Group announced the conversion to full firing with biomass of three of its six units. The first unit was scheduled to be online by June 2013, the second unit in 2014, and the third by 2017.[12] Drax Group's decision was enabled by a new UK government policy, effective in April 2013, to award renewable obligation certificates per megawatt of power generation from coal power plants that are fully converted to burn biomass; Drax CEO Dorothy Thompson stated the company intended to become a predominately biomass-fuelled energy producer.[13]

By July 2013 one firing unit had been converted.[14] The second unit was converted by May 2014.[15] In December 2016 the European Competition Commission approved UK government subsidies for the conversion of the third unit to biomass burning.[16][17] Unit 3 was converted to biomass by end-2016.[1]

In July 2017 Drax submitted a planning application to convert one and possibly two of its three remaining coal-fired units to gas by 2023-2024, in the hope of winning a 15-year subsidy contract for providing backup power in winter. The announcement came as Drax group posted a pre-tax loss of £83m in the first half of 2017. Britain is aiming to phase out coal-fired power entirely by 2025, which would force the closure of the coal units.[4]

In August 2018 unit 4 was converted to biomass-burning.[2]

Nonviolent direct action against Drax

On the morning of June 13, 2008, 40 Camp for Climate Action activists, a small number disguised as railway workers, flagged down and stopped a coal train on its way to Drax Power Station. Protesters climbed onto the train and unloaded almost 20 tons of coal onto the tracks[18] while others chained themselves to the train. A banner was unfurled reading 'Leave it in the Ground!'. Riot police stormed the train and removed the protesters around midnight. 29 were arrested[19].

White Rose CCS Project

The White Rose CCS Project is a proposed 426 MW coal-fired power station with carbon capture and storage. In February 2011 a consortium of Alstom UK Ltd, Drax Power Limited and National Grid announced that they were seeking EU NER300 funding for a new oxy-fired CCS demonstration project based at the site of the existing Drax Power Station.

The initial press release stated that National Grid, "together with an experienced offshore partner, will develop a transportation system out to the southern North Sea where the CO2 will be permanently stored."[20]

In late October 2012 the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced that the project had been short-listed as one of four bidders "for the next phase of the UK’s £1bn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) competition."[21]

In April 2014 the European Commission confirmed that the White Rose CCS project was in line to receive a 300m-euro boost from the EU, expected in June 2014.[12]

In July 2014 the project was awarded "up to €300 million" from the European Union NER300 programme. The media release announcing the decision stated that the new coal fired power station "will burn coal with the potential to co-fire sustainable biomass."[22]

A final investment decision is expected in 2016, with construction soon following, and carbon sequestration between 2019-2020.[23]

In September 2015 UK power generator Drax said it will quit funding the White Rose CCS project when the feasibility study on the project is completed within six to 12 months. The company said that “dramatic” changes to the company’s profitability, partly caused by government cuts in support for renewable energy, forced the company to cut spending. However, the company said the site for the White Rose project, next to Drax’s existing coal-fired plant, would continue to be available for the project.[24]

In November 2015 the UK Government confirmed that the £1 billion capital budget for the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Competition was no longer available. Commenting on the news, CEO of Capture Power Leigh Hackett said: “It is too early to make any definitive decisions about the future of the White Rose CCS Project, however, it is difficult to imagine its continuation in the absence of crucial Government support.”[25] Energy and climate change minister Andrea Leadsom said that £31m of taxpayer’s money had been spent on White Rose. The future of the plant is uncertain, but appears to be shelved unless government funding is restored.[26] Giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Capture Power finance director Richard Simon-Lewis said: "We are now in transition to closure mode."[27]

In April 2016 UK energy secretary Amber Rudd refused development consent for the White Rose carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, as Capture Power had itself conceded during the application process that there are “no contingent funds to cover the absence of these government-sourced funds” and that no alternative sources of funding had been identified.[5]

Project Details of proposed CCS power station

  • Sponsor: Capture Power Limited[28]
  • Parent company: Alstom, Drax Power Limited, and National Grid
  • Developer: Alstom (power plant and CO2 processing), BOC (air separation unit)[28]
  • Location: Selby, North Yorkshire, UK
  • Coordinates: 53.735833,-0.996389 (exact)
  • Status: Cancelled
  • Capacity: 426 MW
  • Type: Oxyfuel, Carbon capture and storage
  • Start date:
  • Coal Type: Hard coal
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing: European Union


Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Biomass Stack Emission Estimates for Drax power plants in the UK 2013-2017," Southern Environmental Law Center, March 1, 2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Drax closer to coal-free future with fourth biomass unit conversion," Drax, August 20, 2018
  3. "Drax moves closer to coal-free future with unit four conversion," Drax, June 6, 2018
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Drax looking at 'coal-free future' as it reveals £83m pre-tax loss," Guardian, July 19, 2017
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Energy secretary refuses planning consent for White Rose CCS scheme," Utilityh Week, 19/04/2016
  6. Drax Group website
  7. Richard Wachman, "Drax scraps plans for UK biomass plants," The Guardian, Feb. 21, 2012.
  8. Drax flue gas stack
  9. Drax Group website
  10. Drax flue gas stack
  11. Drax Group website
  12. 12.0 12.1 Matt McGrath, "EU green light for UK carbon capture and storage project," BBC, Apr 17, 2014.
  13. Drax biomass support boosts Haven offering for customers. Haven Power (2 August 2012). Retrieved on 23 January 2013.
  14. Drax's biomass-fired unit 'performing beautifully'. Scunthorpe Telegraph (16 July 2013). Retrieved on 11 November 2014.
  15. McKenna, John (13 May 2014). Fuel shortage forces Drax co-firing. processengineering.theengineer.co.uk. Retrieved on 30 April 2015.
  16. Vaughan, Adam (29 December 2016). "European commission approves Drax biomass subsidy", The Guardian. Retrieved on 19 December 2016. 
  17. EU green light for Drax 3. renews.biz (18 December 2016). Retrieved on 19 December 2016.
  18. "Coal train ambushed near power station in climate change protest", The Guardian, June 14, 2008.
  19. "Police arrest 29 coal train protesters", Reuters UK, June 14, 2008.
  20. Alstom, "Alstom confirms joint application for CCS project funding", Media Release, February 10, 2011.
  21. Department of Energy and Climate Change, "Short list for UK’s £1bn CCS competition announced", Media Release, October 30, 2012.
  22. "White Rose CCS Project secures award decision on European NER300 funding", Media Release, July 8, 2014.
  23. "White Rose CCS Project," Global CCS Institute, updated 7/5/2015
  24. "Drax pulls out of £1bn carbon capture project," BBC, 25 September 2015
  25. "Government withdraws CCS Commercialisation Programme," White Rose, 25/11/2015
  26. "Spending watchdog to examine scrapping of £1bn carbon capture plant," Guardian, Jan 31, 2016
  27. "CCS SCHEME CLOSURE NEARS," Insider Media, 22 Jan 2016
  28. 28.0 28.1 "About White Rose," Capture Power, accessed July 2014

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External Articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Drax power station. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.