Drax Approach Supported By US NREL Study

US NREL Study Supports Drax's BECCS Approach - Carbon Herald
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The electricity generation method known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) received endorsement from a new report. America’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released a new study claiming BECCS has an importance to deliver President Joe Biden’s goal of 100% clean electricity in the US by 2035.

The news also boosts one of the major BECCS approach developers – the UK based energy major Drax Power Limited. 

Relevant: Drax Threatened By Alternative Carbon Capture Tech Approach

Drax operates two pilot bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) facilities at the Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire, UK, with plans for commercial-scale capture starting in 2027. 

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The plant has six generating units and four of them were converted from coal to biomass burning by 2017, with the other two ceasing operation in Q1 2021.

The company claims it can capture and store eight million tonnes of CO2 per year with the carbon capture installations on the two units. That would make it the largest BECCS project in the world.

NREL Report Statements

The NREL report states that BECCS results in a net negative emissions rate because carbon from the atmosphere is captured during photosynthesis and then sequestered after combustion.

On the other hand, it also highlights that the performance and cost of BECCS is highly uncertain given its low levels of current deployment.

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Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO commented on the reliability of the approach saying the evidence shows through deploying BECCS at scale the United States can cut its carbon emissions while simultaneously benefiting from reliable, homegrown renewable power to strengthen its energy independence.

“Drax is the world’s leader in developing power BECCS, having been the first company in the world to capture carbon dioxide from purely biomass combustion. We have been making very encouraging progress towards delivering BECCS in North America and progressing with site selection, government engagement and technology development,” explained Mr Gardiner.

He pointed out that with the increased level of support for carbon removal projects in the Inflation Reduction Act, the company is ready to invest billions in deploying BECCS at scale across the globe.

Criticism Of Drax BECCS Approach

Drax’s approach has been criticized by both energy experts and environmental groups. Burning biomass for energy could only be sustainable if the biomass is properly managed and meets certain sustainability criteria. In addition, the method degrades trees- the natural carbon sink we need for a safe climate.

Drax’s supply chains has also been linked to deforestation, which seriously affected the company’s integrity and reputation. 

Back 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. 

Relevant: Drax Announced Partnerships On New Biomass With Carbon Capture Innovation

Drax’s response to the global environmental movements against biomass was to remove deforestation from its pellet supplies. Still, the move is not enough to address emissions from biomass use even when implemented with carbon capture and storage.

The company needs to do much more to ensure sustainability of its energy generation to be worthy of receiving the substantial government renewable energy endorsements.

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