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Drax power station biomass emissions ‘dangerous’, worse than coal claim environmentalists

August 18, 2017

By Paul Homewood


h/t Stewgreen


The local BBC Yorkshire news team have picked up this story about Drax. I wonder why Harrabin has not reported on it?




A UK power station is producing “dangerous” levels of air pollution, an environmental group has claimed.

Campaigners Biofuelwatch said emissions of dust particles from Drax’s plant near Selby, in North Yorkshire, had increased by 135%.

It said emissions of particulates from the site were 897 tonnes last year compared to 382 tonnes in 2008.

Drax, which switched from coal to biomass in 2013, said its emissions were “well within statutory limits”.

The environmental organisation said it carried out an investigation, in which it found Drax was releasing particulates – a mixture of tiny solid and liquid particles – “equivalent to adding three million diesel cars to the roads each year”.

In its report, Biofuelwatch said particulates were “an especially dangerous form of air pollution” and linked it to a number of health problems including cancers, heart disease and stroke.

“The smaller the particle, the deeper it can penetrate into the lungs and particles of PM2.5 [a diameter less than 2.5 micrometres] and below can even enter the bloodstream and travel to other organs, causing inflammation, DNA and tissue damage and restriction of blood vessels.”

Claire Robertson, author of the report at Biofuelwatch, criticised Selby District Council for the lack in air quality monitoring, saying it was “appalling” and called to end biomass subsidies.

The council said it had “no statutory duty to monitor emissions from the power station”.

‘Currently compliant’

In a statement, Drax Power CEO Andy Koss insisted emissions were in line with guidelines set out by the government.

“We manage all our emissions to the atmosphere and have invested heavily to make sure that we comply with all air emission limits. For example, last year we reduced our NOx emissions by 53%.”

The Environment Agency confirmed Drax was “currently compliant with its permit” and was within its emissions limits.

The power station uses about seven million tonnes of biomass or wood pellets a year, much of it imported, particularly from the US


Whatever we think about the dangers of air pollution, the comparison with diesel cars is particularly relevant. The report states that Drax’s emissions are equivalent to 3 million diesel cars, which is a quarter of the 12 million on UK roads.



Currently there is no mention of this story by Harrabin or McGrath on the BBC’s national news site:



Last year, Drax received subsidies of £558 million for its biomass operation, a figure that is expected to rise to around £800 million this year as the third biomass unit comes on stream.

  1. HotScot permalink
    August 18, 2017 9:56 am

    Why won’t this surprise anyone on your blog Paul.

    The good news is the greens condemn Drax, not we sceptics. The bad news is, they’ll make it an excuse to erect more windfarms.

  2. Ian Magness permalink
    August 18, 2017 9:58 am

    Drax is the ultimate greenie horror story that keeps on giving, especially when you consider the whole process involved, forest-to-processing-to-long distance transport-to-burning:
    – high carbon dioxide emissions;
    – high particulate emissions;
    – forest habitat destruction, especially in the USA;
    – ludicrous public subsidy;
    – insane “carbon accounting”;
    – vested interests and, frankly, corruption all round by the great and good.
    You could not make it up.

    • August 18, 2017 11:19 am

      Thank you for this reply. I have known since ca. 1980 that the burning of wood puts more carcinogens into the atmosphere than does the burning of fossil fuels.

      When working on my PhD in botany at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981, I had an Ecosystematics class to my major professor. One of our working trips included the riverine forests along the Roanoke River in North Carolina. I can still remember the huge river birch trees and other enormous specimens which grew in those river bank floodplains. All gone now thanks to Drax. Nothing left to slow flood waters along the Roanoke and other southern rivers. Where are the environmentalists? Crickets.

      Coal is abundant, coal is cleaner and coal does less harm to the environment. So let’s not use coal.

  3. August 18, 2017 10:00 am

    The UK energy and climate policy is driven by political aspiration with careful ‘cherry picking’ of data to match. Drax is economically non-viable without massive subsidy as shown here – yet is rated carbon neutral and within emission limits, which is almost laughable. Diesel cars and the naive drivers who bought them are the latest target when the real polluter is not in the sight picture.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 18, 2017 12:59 pm

      Drivers who purchased diesel cars are not naïve. There are many who were just plain lied to by Gordon Brown’s government or found that as a result of Labour’s policy, few petrol versions were on offer. I was happy to buy my first diesel especially when travelling in Europe where diesel in generally cheaper than petrol. Living in the country where roads flood regularly, a diesel is well ahead of a petrol engine with its delicate ignition system.

      • roger permalink
        August 18, 2017 2:14 pm

        Yes indeed.
        ” CEO Andy Koss insisted emissions were in line with guidelines set out by the government.”
        As were diesel emissions up until a few weeks ago.
        Never trust a government that acts on “settled science”.
        There obviously is no such thing.

      • Dave Ward permalink
        August 18, 2017 8:54 pm

        “Where roads flood regularly, a diesel is well ahead of a petrol engine with its delicate ignition system”

        Only if the engine air intake is well protected from floodwater – and many are not, being mounted low down behind the grille. With the very high compression ratio needed for diesel engines, a few of drops of water in the cylinder will spell disaster…

  4. Mike Jackson permalink
    August 18, 2017 10:01 am

    I went across to the Biofuelwatch web site to see what they were about and where they slotted in to the eco-spectrum.

    Most if their “aims and objects” page is blather but go have a look at this page:

    No further comment from me is needed!

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      August 18, 2017 11:06 am

      Great link, thanks. Basically all burning is bad and all solar / wind is good: true 1984 treatment of history and technology.
      Drax should revert to coal burning asap for UK economy!
      Also, the Ferrybridge planned dismantling should certainly be stopped until we have back-up, (the green-blob are keen to accelerate dismantling in case the light is seen).

      • Mike Jackson permalink
        August 18, 2017 12:58 pm

        Your last in parentheses sums the mindset up perfectly.

        We will make progress when, and only when, politicians once more become more interested in the welfare of the people they are elected to serve than in burnishing their haloes and worrying about their “legacy”.

        Shame we can’t send them on a quick trip to the 23rd century to show just how remembered they are likely to be. In some cases, next decade would suffice and rightly so!

  5. Joe Public permalink
    August 18, 2017 10:11 am

    “The local BBC Yorkshire news team have picked up this story about Drax. I wonder why Harrabin has not reported on it?

    Maybe passive gratitude for this beano explains why:

    Renewable energy: Burning US trees in UK power stations
    By Roger Harrabin
    Environment analyst, Georgia, US

    “The implications are complicated and disputed, but it is clear that EU leaders did not have burning American wood in mind when they mandated that 20% of Europe’s energy should come from “renewable” sources.

    So I travelled with Drax representatives to a timber operation in southern Georgia run by their main supplier, the timber firm Plum Creek.

  6. 2hmp permalink
    August 18, 2017 10:16 am

    Does Theresa May or any of her cabinet colleagues know of this ? If so what are they doing about it ?. Who told Theresa May to continue to support the Climate Change Act ? Is she foolish or too busy to question things?

    • Gerry, England permalink
      August 18, 2017 12:54 pm

      No they don’t know and won’t know because they can’t be educated by anyone outside the bubble. Waste of time trying. Only events can make it through the bubble wall.

  7. August 18, 2017 10:42 am

    I recall that many years ago the Eggborough coal-fired power station started to co-fire with biomass (wood, willow, miscanthus etc), but stopped the practice because of increased pollution and other problems. They obviously weren’t receiving enough subsidies in those days,

  8. Robert Fairless permalink
    August 18, 2017 10:47 am

    This is a folly beyond measure created and supported by the political elite. It is government sponsored at huge expense for the taxpayer.
    The start of it was the Climate Change Act 2008 §which gave legislative legitimacy to an Act of supreme madness. It effectively destroyed a once efficient energy industry and has brought us to the brink of energy bankruptcy where the supply of electricity, now so essential to every activity, is at risk with probably only two weeks reserve power available at any time.
    Drax Power Stations been forced to change from coal to burning wood pellets supported by three expensive factories in North America which processes the destruction of thousands of acres of forest. The justification for this madness is supported by false science and fraudulent paperwork. As a result Drax now produces more pollution than it did when burning coal. It this run at a profit? It is a joke question because next year subsidies will amount to £800 million.
    Then there are wind turbines; they are neither clean nor green and make a few people very rich but at a cost of billions to the country.
    The renewables Directive is an EU directive which mandates the level of renewable energy to be produced in each country including the UK. When we leave what is the betting that the UK will adopt the targets? It is yet another monstrous scam which will only encourage, at huge expense, many more thousands of wind turbines.
    Will this insanity continue? It is making too many people rich and supports too many false scientists for any return to sanity to succeed.

  9. August 18, 2017 11:32 am

    This Drax story is massively serious. How is it that our benighted civil servants, in the relevant govnt departments, seem so oblivious to all such information ? Beats me.

    Bur, Paul, I am no great fan of the Met Office, nor our weather forecasters, but were you not a tiny bit unkind the other day in castigating them for hedging a few bets, as to exactly where the remains of Gert, some 3000 miles away, was going to his the UK in a few days’ time ? Or was there a point I missed ?

    • August 18, 2017 12:50 pm

      Gert is now dead and is no longer mentioned by the Wet Office in its forecasts. History has been rewritten.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        August 18, 2017 12:51 pm

        Does this mean that their accurate forecasting of 5 days out is a myth? Who would have thought.

      • NeilC permalink
        August 18, 2017 2:56 pm

        Gerry, as well as 5 days, add 5 months, 5 years and 5 decades can also be included in fairyland. So why do the government listen to them? Oh because they tell us climate change will kill us and it’s all our fault and the government can tax the sh1t out of us.

  10. Bitter&twisted permalink
    August 18, 2017 11:32 am

    “Currently there is no mention of this story by Harrabin or McGrath on the BBC’s national news site”

    Because it does not agree with BBC dogma.

    • August 18, 2017 9:19 pm

      But if you scroll down a tad…

      “Scotland’s largest solar farm gets green light.”

      At 57 degrees north.

  11. Tim Hammond permalink
    August 18, 2017 11:41 am

    So then let’s see the extra deaths this produces. 3 million diesel cars should mean a substantial increase in deaths in the area shouldn’t it?

    This is a great test of whether PMs actually are harmful – I’m betting you see no effect whatsoever.

    • roger permalink
      August 18, 2017 2:25 pm

      Surely this figure will rise as the third biomass unit comes on stream this year.
      Could it be worse than we thought?

  12. CheshireRed permalink
    August 18, 2017 12:19 pm

    Imagine my surprise.

  13. Gerry, England permalink
    August 18, 2017 12:50 pm

    This falls under the ‘you couldn’t make it up’ category. So in order to say that burning US trees at Drax does not constitute a health risk they have to say that the PM2.5s it emits are not harmful. While at the same time saying that the same PM2.5s emitted by diesel vehicles are harmful. Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.

    I presume Harrabin was wined and dined to a luxurious level when visiting the biomass scammers. I wonder if there was a fat brown envelope to ensure favourable coverage.

    • Nigel S permalink
      August 18, 2017 2:12 pm

      You cannot hope to bribe or twist
      (thank God!) the British journalist.
      But, seeing what the man will do
      unbribed, there’s no occasion to.

      Humbert Wolfe

  14. stewgreen permalink
    August 18, 2017 1:21 pm

    The old trick of making power stations look dirty with the photo
    The title of the BBC article is
    \\Drax power station emissions ‘dangerous’, claim environmentalists//
    The photo below actually just shows cooling towers, which only emit steam

    Also I pointed out that Paul Murphy in his tweet was following BBC practice of illustrating a power station with a darkened photo that helps their wind/solar subsidy mates
    He retweeted my words trying to make light, but look at the photo he chose

    • August 18, 2017 6:49 pm

      Looks like poor Paul Murphy has been strongarmed into letting Drax have a reply

  15. stewgreen permalink
    August 18, 2017 1:30 pm

    @Gerry it’s actually worse than you said
    On the same day that Biomasswatch tricky PR guys were feeeding out this report
    Drax/GranthamImperal tricky PR guys were feeding out another report “Electric cars are twice as green as 5 years ago”
    in the Times

    See the contadiction between them
    #1 Drax flaky claim that Drax powered EVs are twice as green *
    is matched by
    #2 Biofuelwatch claim same Drax powered EVs cause twice as high particulates

    * (they mean that cos UK has more renewables the car spends less time being powered by coal or gas power station
    ..only thing is that people charge their cars at night, when solar power zero)

  16. Nigel S permalink
    August 18, 2017 2:26 pm

    The reference to ‘3 million diesel cars’ was a clear sign that the whole thing is bogus, the criticism as well as the wood burning of course. It’s like firms that blame Global Warming or Brexit for their poor performance, a strong signal to sell any shares immediately. My mother was a successful amateur investor in later life, she was a mathematician and had worked on the design of Britain’s first supersonic wind tunnel after graduating. She made it a rule to go to AGMs to get a good look at the board and to look for signs of distraction; spending too much on HQ, too many holidays in Bahamas, sleeping with their secretaries and so on.

    • August 18, 2017 6:46 pm

      Will we see ‘sustainable’ wood-burning cars any time soon?

  17. August 18, 2017 9:24 pm

    Wood burning pickup truck lumbering along.

    I notice the incompetent clipboard wielding jobsworths at the English Environment Agency are avoiding the biomass pollution thing – having screwed up royally multiple times with inept and blundering combustion regulations….

    That said I’m told farmers and arborists have to get (EA) permits to burn assorted bits of wood, specifying quantity and species…. The guys that related this info were quite glum about it…

    • Nigel S permalink
      August 19, 2017 5:45 am

      Excellent film and a well executed project on a lovely old Ford. The essentially satirical nature of the project was obviously upsetting the ‘Pious’ driving film makers who retaliated with the tight focus shots of missing ‘slack jawed yokel’ teeth. Disappointing but all too familiar.

  18. Steve Borodin permalink
    August 19, 2017 10:22 am

    “equivalent to adding three million diesel cars to the roads each year”.

    Really? I make that 12 million new cars in the next 4 years.

  19. richard verney permalink
    August 19, 2017 12:19 pm

    How much CO2 is produced is all down to the calorific value of what is being burnt. The greater the calorific value, the less amount of fuel is needed per kWh of energy produced.

    Dry wood (and biomass is not necessarily fully dried) has a calorific value of between 14400 to 17400 kJ/kg. This compares favourably with ‘dirty’ lignite of about 16300 kJ/kg , but not favourably with ‘clean’ anthracite of 32500 – 34000 kJ/kg.

    But more materially, biomass is very unfavopurable compared to methane 55530 kj/kg.

    Biomass produces far more CO2 than the coal being burnt at Drax, and a much better option would have been to phase out coal in favour of gas powered generation. This would significantly have reduced CO2, whereas burning Biomass (apart from Enron style accounting) actually, in the real world, increases CO2.

  20. August 19, 2017 6:51 pm

    The main point to all this is that the Govt. lied about the emissions of wood compared to coal.The politicians involved ignored the engineering data,and invented their own “truth”,in order to push forward the big Green Lie.

  21. August 19, 2017 7:07 pm

    A further point,the main one of course,is that CO2 has no measurable effect on global warming or climate change.
    Repeal the Climate Change Act,and apologise to the miners would be the decent thing to do.

  22. August 19, 2017 7:13 pm

    Utterly scumbugulous politicians. How do they ever sleep at night, and how and why do they always seem to get away with these outright lies ? How can we prosecure/persecute them out of office and all pensions etc, that they have acquired through villainous lying ?

  23. August 20, 2017 6:48 pm

    At least, Drax does not blast its stinky particulate laden exhaust straight into my face as I walk along the street. (It has a tall smokestack. Why can’t the UK’s buses and trucks have tall smoke stacks too?)

  24. August 21, 2017 7:42 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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