US ambassador visits Drax Power Station

By Drax Group | November 07, 2018

U.S. Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson visited Drax Power Station, near Selby in North Yorkshire, Oct. 25 to learn more about the U.K.’s largest power station and its contribution to the U.K. economy.

Johnson, the Ambassador of the United States of America to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland had a tour of the power station and heard about how Drax upgraded two thirds of its generating units to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, to become the biggest decarbonization project in Europe.

Around 60 percent of the biomass used by Drax to produce enough renewable electricity for 4 million households, comes from the sustainable working forests of the U.S. South—making it the biggest importer of U.S. agricultural products.

Drax also operates three pellet plants in the U.S. South, which produce biomass for the power station in North Yorkshire.

Johnson met with Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner and Drax Power CEO Andy Koss to hear about the transformation of the power station and their plans for the future.

He heard about their plans for a Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage pilot project, due to get underway this autumn, which if successful, could enable the power produced at Drax to become carbon negative—making a vital contribution to efforts to tackle climate change.

They also outlined proposals to repower the two remaining coal units to use gas and develop up to 200MW of battery storage, as well as the proposed £702 million acquisition of some of Scottish Power’s flexible and renewable power generation assets, including pumped storage and hydro, which Drax announced recently.

Johnson said, “Being here at Drax has been fascinating—the scale of the place is incredible, and the innovative projects and new technology being trialled here are very exciting.  

“Drax makes a really important contribution to the U.S. economy—I am pleased to be here to mark the important investment they make.”

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said, “We are delighted to welcome the Ambassador to Drax Power Station to celebrate the successful transatlantic relationship between Drax and the US, which plays a vital role in enabling us to source the biomass needed to produce enough flexible, renewable power for millions of homes and businesses in the U.K.

“We play a valuable role in the communities where we operate in the U.S., creating jobs and breathing new life into areas previously affected by industrial decline. Since the acquisition of a third pellet mill we now employ almost 250 people over there, with plans to grow our self-supply of biomass so we’re producing up to 30 percent of the pellets used at the power station.”

Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO added, “One of the biggest challenges we had when we converted two thirds of the power station to use biomass instead of coal, was in creating a completely new global supply chain for biomass.

“We invested around £700m million in new infrastructure both here at the power station, but also in the pellet mills we own and the port facilities we use in the U.S.—all of that has been vital to the success of the transformation of the business. We’re now the U.K.’s biggest renewable power producer, generating around 15 percent of the country’s renewable electricity.”

Drax contributed around £1.7 billion in GDP to the U.K. economy and supported more than 18,500 jobs here in 2016. That included more than £500 million to the Northern Powerhouse’s regional economy and support for 6,000 jobs here.