British energy company Drax announced a partnership with the University of Nottingham and Promethean Particles on a two-month trial of pioneering new bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) process.
The process would be implemented at Drax’s North Yorkshire power station – Selby power plant.
According to the companies, the new technology is innovative and could shape the future of the key route to net zero for heavy industry.
It also allows Drax to test more pioneering carbon capture technology to meet its goal of delivering negative emission energy.
As Drax is using biomass to produce energy, the process involves feeding the emissions generated by burning biomass through a unit that separates out the CO2. The gas is captured by a type of solid sorbent called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), which Promethean Particles are a global pioneer in its development and deployment.
Normally the carbon capture processes use liquid solvents for capturing CO2 that come with their own environmental challenges across the lifecycle. The metal-organic frameworks then soak up the CO2 in their porous structure.
According to Professor Ed Lester, the University of Nottingham’s project lead, this initiative would test how these solid adsorbents perform in an industrial setting. He also points out this innovation is gathering a lot of interest across many industrial sectors that currently generate large amounts of CO2.
“This partnership with the University of Nottingham and Promethean Particles is part of our long-term innovation program and will allow Drax to understand the future potential of this technology, as we continue to innovate and grow as a business,” said Jason Shipstone, Drax’s chief innovation officer.
The main goal of the trial is to allow all three organizations involved to understand if this new carbon capture process works well in real conditions on large-scale projects.
Drax is a company that counts on using biomass and carbon capture and storage for sustainable energy production. The company has received strong criticism from environmental groups as biomass burning for energy is fundamentally not seen as a sustainable source of energy.
In 2019 six countries filed a lawsuit with the European General Court in Luxembourg, claiming that forest-grown wood shouldn’t be counted as a source of renewable energy under the EU’s 2018 Renewable Energy Directive (RED) II.
Drax’s response to the environmental movement against biomass was to remove deforestation from its pellet supply chains. Organizations claim the move is not enough to address emissions from biomass use and continue to press the company to stop labeling its electricity as ‘renewable’ and do more to ensure sustainability.
Drax’s approach could undermine the fight against climate change. Biomass burning for energy even without carbon capture translates into returning CO2 emissions sequestered by trees back to the atmosphere. Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydrogen are deemed much more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of meeting global energy needs.