BECCS project at Drax begins capturing carbon dioxide

By Erin Voegele | February 11, 2019

Drax Group has announced the first carbon dioxide has been captured at the bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot at Drax Power Station. The pilot uses technology developed by C-Capture, a spin-out from Leeds University.

Drax announced the achievement on Feb. 7, noting the project represents the first time carbon dioxide has been captured from the combustion of 100 percent biomass feedstock anywhere in the world.

The demonstration project will capture 1 metric ton per day of carbon dioxide. If the BECCS pilot can be scaled up, the Drax Power Station could produce carbon-negative electricity in the future.

According to Drax, engineers began commissioning the pilot plant in November. The first carbon is now being captured, which Drax is proving the proprietary solvent developed by C-Capture can be used to isolate the carbon dioxide from the flue gases released when biomass is used to generate electricity.

Drax indicated data being gathered about the carbon dioxide capture process will be analyzed throughout the pilot to fully understand the potential of the technology and how it could be scaled up at Drax. Part of that process will include identifying and developing ways to store and use the carbon dioxide that is captured.

“Proving that this innovative carbon capture technology works is an exciting development and another important milestone in our BECCS project,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group. “Climate change affects us all so this is of real significance—not just for us at Drax, but also for the U.K. and the rest of the world.

“The successful deployment of BECCS requires us to identify ways in which the carbon dioxide we’re now capturing can be stored or used in other processes and we’re working with the government and other businesses on that,” Gardiner continued.

“This represents a major milestone on the road to achieving negative emissions through BECCS, which is going to be so important in the future,” said Chris Rayner, founder of C-Capture and professor of organic chemistry at the University of Leeds. “To see our technology working in a real environment like Drax is a tribute to the fantastic team of chemists and engineers who work on the project.”

The U.K. Renewable Energy Association has spoken out in support of the BECCS pilot project at Drax. “This project shows that the U.K. can be a world leader in this cutting-edge technology, which is vital to limiting climate change,” said Benedict McAleenan on behalf of Biomass U.K. “Just cutting carbon emissions isn’t enough—we need to actually suck CO2 out of the air and lock it away.

“But we can only develop BECCS properly if we have a thriving bioenergy sector on which to build,” McAleenan continued. “So politicians need to recognize its importance and show it strong, long-term support.”

Drax announced plans for the BECCS pilot in May 2018 and said it would invest £400,000 ($514,520) in the project. Less than one year later, in November 2018, the BECCS project began commissioning. Earlier this month, C-Capture announced it has raised £3.5 million in new equity funding in a round led by BP Ventures, Drax and IP Group.