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Drax power station moving over to biomass

Friday, January 3, 2014

Meg Munn MP took part in a visit to Drax power station in Yorkshire which the Industry and Parliament Trust recently organised. The focus of the visit was the development of the use of biomass at the plant.

Drax currently provides 7 to 8% of the UK’s total power supply, and is the most efficient coal-fired power station operating. One boiler had been converted to use biomass in April and a phased commissioning process was now taking place. Plans are for a second unit to be converted next year, with the third of the six units at Drax being converted in 2016 if supplies of biomass can be secured.

The visit included a tour of the site showing how biomass arrives by rail in specially commissioned rail wagons. New domes to store the material have been built, consisting of a membrane that is inflated and then reinforced by spraying concrete layers onto it.

After the tour the group met Dorothy Thompson, Chief Executive, Nigel Burdett, Head of Environment and Peter Emery, Production Director. They outlined the importance of sustainability to them, which is at the heart of their biomass procurement process. They source from sustainably managed forests or agriculture, with significant amounts from waste products from other processes such as the paper industry and furniture making.

Moving Drax over to biomass will result in significant carbon savings relative to coal-fired and gas-fired power generation. Drax believe that their transformation to predominantly biomass fuelled power generation is essential if the UK is to meet its 2020 targets.

Meg said:

"This was a fascinating visit which helped me better understand both the benefits and challenges of changing from coal fired generation to predominantly biomass. It is an enormous undertaking but one that is necessary. Sustainability needs to be at the heart of power generation if we are to reduce our use of carbon and tackle climate change."

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