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Drax Moves Forward with Co-Firing

While U.K. power giant Drax has canceled its plans for dedicated biomass facilities because it views the government support as insufficient, it does seem to be moving forward with its biomass co-firing promise at Drax Power Station.
By Lisa Gibson | March 16, 2012

While U.K. power giant Drax has canceled its plans for dedicated biomass facilities because it views the government support as insufficient, it does seem to be moving forward with its biomass co-firing promise at Drax Power Station in Selby, North Yorkshire.

Drax will overhaul handling and storage facilities at the 4,000 MW co-fired plant, allowing a higher percentage of biomass to be used alongside coal. The upgrades should allow a blend of up to 20 percent biomass feedstock, as the company works toward a fuel mix comprised predominantly of biomass, according to CEO Dorothy Thompson.

Drax announced this week that it has given the £50 million ($79 million) infrastructure project contract to Shepherd Construction and will begin work soon.

The well-known power producer has not kept its qualms with government support for biomass quiet. The Renewables Obligation is banded by technology type and the new support levels are reviewed every four years. The last review was in October, and the U.K. Department of Energy & Climate Change proposed to leave dedicated biomass support at the current 1.5 renewable energy credits (ROC) per megawatt hour (MWh) through March 2016, reducing it to 1.4 ROCs per MWh beginning April 2016. Co-firing with combined-heat-and-power is also proposed to remain at 1 ROC, and support levels for new additions, enhanced cofiring of biomass and biomass conversion, are proposed at 1 ROC per MWh.

Even as Drax invests a substantial amount of money into this new handling system, Thompson cautions that further advancements toward its biomass fuel goal at Drax Power Station is dependent on adequate government support.

While it’s not alone in canceling or pausing plans because of U.K. support levels, plenty of companies with operations in the U.K., such as RWE, are moving ahead with co-firing plans and even total conversions to biomass. It leaves me to wonder what additional support is needed for some companies, while others are forging ahead with only the support that’s in place.

That said, I’m always in favor of more government support for biomass energy.

 

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