Drax pauses BECCS investment while waiting for government clarity

By Erin Voegele | March 21, 2023

Drax Group plc on March 21 announced it is pausing its investment in its U.K. bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECSS) project while it awaits clarity regarding the U.K. government’s commitment to support BECSS.

A statement released by Drax cites new research carried out by Baringa on behalf the company that shows biomass generation could play an increasingly critical role in ensuring the security of the U.K. energy supply in the late 2020s.

According to Bargina’s research, peak demand for electricity in Great Britain will increase by 4 gigawatts (GW) by 2027. Over the same period, the closure of coal, older gas generation and nuclear stations will remove up to 6.3 GW of capacity from the grid, causing dispatchable capacity to fall from 93 percent to 85 percent at times of peak demand. As a result, the system will need to rely on other forms of capacity, such as electricity interconnectors and intermittent renewable generation sources, such as wind and solar, to make up the 15 percent difference. Alternatively, steps may need to be taken to reduce consumption through voluntary demand reduction or forced turndown.

Drax Power Station is currently the largest provider of dispatchable power to the electricity system in Great Britain. It is also one of the only renewable sources of secure power supply, providing 2.6 GW of electricity from renewable biomass.

Drax said it welcomes the U.K. government’s support for carbon capture and storage (CCS) in its recent budget, but said its proposed BECSS project must have Track 1 status. Without Track 1 status, Drax Power Station may become unviable and unable to contribute secure power to the U.K. Until it receives this clarity, Drax said it will pause investment in its planned BECCS project at Drax Power Station.

“Whilst we welcome the Government’s ambition to invest billions in carbon capture and storage, we need a firm commitment to BECCS before we commit to investing £2bn into installing this technology at Drax Power Station,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax.

“Until we have this clarity, we are pausing our multi-million pound investment programme in the U.K. BECCS project and urge Government to use the planned announcement at the end of the month to outline their support for this,” Gardiner continued. “Any further delays to this project could impact the U.K.’s security of supply, net zero and levelling-up ambitions and the viability of Drax Power Station.”

A full copy of Drax’s announcement is available on the company’s website