Drax Power has signed an £18m design-and-build contract with C Spencer for the supply of biomass co-firing infrastructure at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire.

The deal will see Spencer provide rail unloading equipment and biomass storage-and-handling facilities for the co-firing systems that are being developed at Drax’s 4,000MW power station.

Co-firing involves mixing and burning of renewable biomass materials with coal and is regarded as having significant potential for reducing CO2 emissions. According to Drax, the rail unloading and storage systems represent a major component of the new co-firing facility at Drax and are designed to receive and transport processed biomass materials to be fired in the power station’s coal-fired boilers.

Once completed, the biomass facility will be the largest of its type in the world, providing Drax with a total capacity of 500MW of renewable energy.

Drax estimates that the facility will reduce Drax Power Station emissions by more than two 2.5m tonnes per year, in line with the company's climate-change policy.

Work on the infrastructure will begin immediately with installation of the equipment scheduled for the first half of 2010.

Dorothy Thompson, chief executive of Drax, said: ‘This contract marks the final, critical step in the execution of our co-firing project and we are very pleased to be establishing a new working relationship with Spencer.

‘Combined with our intention to develop 900MW of dedicated biomass-fired capacity, through the construction of three 300MW renewable energy plants, Drax will, on current forecasts, become responsible for around 15 per cent of the UK’s renewable electricity.

‘At Drax, we are only too aware of the need to tackle climate change and the competence we have developed in biomass procurement and project execution means that we are able to play our part in the move towards a low-carbon economy, while at the same time delivering reliable and secure supplies of electricity.’

Charlie Spencer, chief executive of Spencer, added: ‘Reducing CO2 emissions is something that is of great concern to everyone and we are looking forward to working on a project that will see Drax take a significant step forward through increasing its renewable energy capabilities.

‘The contract award recognises our ability to deliver technically challenging materials-handling projects on a turnkey basis. Spencer’s in-house team of multi-disciplined professional engineers has been mobilised to work closely with Drax to ensure successful and timely completion of the work.’

In addition to its co-firing biomass station, Drax is in the process of installing new turbines on more than one-third of its generating units. The new turbines are expected to provide additional savings of one million tonnes of CO2 emissions. Drax hopes this will contribute to an overall decrease of 17.5 per cent by 2012.