Drax pulls out of White Rose CCS project

UK energy company Drax has pulled out of plans to develop one of the world’s first commercial scale carbon capture and storage coal-fired power plants.

The company has been a key partner in the White Rose CCS project, which plans to build a new CCS-enabled coal-fired power station next to Drax’s existing plant near Selby, North Yorkshire.

Drax Power Station from the air, with biomass storage domes visible at the bottom right

The proposed power station will capture 90 per cent of its carbon emissions, which will be transported through a new pipeline to a permanent storage site beneath the North Sea.

The decision to pull out has reportedly been driven by the government’s reductions in renewables subsidies.

Drax says that it remains committed to fulfilling its current work on feasibility and technology development project at the site but that, once this complete it will not be investing further and will withdraw as a partner of Capture Power Ltd, the developer of the project. The company stressed that it will continue to make the site owned by Drax, along with the infrastructure at the Power Plant, available for the project to be built.

An illustration of the White Rose CCS Plant
An illustration of the White Rose CCS Plant

Leigh Hacket, CEO of Capture Power ltd, said that he’s disappointed with Drax’s decision, but is hopeful that it won’t derail the project. A final decision on the project is expected once the feasibility study is complete.

In more positive news for the CCS industry, Norway’s Technology Centre Mongstad (the world’s largest and most advanced facility for CCS testing) has hailed the signing contracts with new test vendors including GE, Alstom and Carbon Clean Solutions Ltd (CCSL) as a vital step in the commercialization of CCS.

According to TCM large scale testing will demonstrate the technologies at industrial scale and provide final confidence in the maturity of the carbon capture technology for full scale commercial deployment, reducing emissions from power plants and other large industrial point sources of CO2.

Drax’s plan’s to switch half of the existing plant to biomass-burning are unaffected by the latest decision.

Academia overview: Dr Niall MacDowell, lecturer in energy and environmental technology and policy at Imperial College London

It is important to realise that CCS is a reliable form of power generation that is competitive on price with renewable energy. The technology is mature and has been deployed at commercial scale in Canada – in fact, the Canadian Boundary Dam plant has already stated that if they were doing the project again, the would be able to do it for 70% of the price of the first project.

From the perspective of the UK, developing a CCS industry is absolutely critical to the least-cost decarbonisation of the economy. The Energy Technologies Institute and other institutions around the world have shown that without CCS, the cost of reaching UK climate change targets will at least double.

The really disappointing thing here is that the revised stance on incentivising low carbon power has been used by climate change deniers in the US as evidence that there is no urgency to act on climate change. This implies that whilst the government are revising an internal, national policy, it has potentially serious ramifications for the global effort to transition to a low carbon economy; how can we exhort China and India to decrease emissions, if we are taking retroactive steps at home?