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Drax Drops Gas Plant Plan

February 25, 2021
tags:

By Paul Homewood

 

 

This news sums up everything that is wrong about UK energy policy:

 

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Drax has dropped plans to develop any new gas plants, including its plans to build Europe’s biggest CCGT plant as it moves to turn its back on fossil fuels.

In the company’s full year results for 2020, it set out its plans for carbon neutrality, committing to no new gas generation and the end of commercial coal in March 2021.

“Our focus is on renewable power,” said Will Gardiner, CEO of Drax Group. “Our carbon intensity is one of the lowest of all European power generators. We aim to be carbon negative by 2030 and are continuing to make progress. We are announcing today that we will not develop new gas fired power at Drax. This builds on our decision to end commercial coal generation and the recent sale of our existing gas power stations.”

https://www.current-news.co.uk/news/drax-drops-plan-for-europes-largest-new-gas-plant-as-it-turns-its-back-on-fossil-fuels 

For all the fancy talk about renewable energy, the decision to abandon the new CCGT plant, which Drax themselves have been praising for the last few years, is purely economic. The stark reality is that cannot make money under current policy, even with the help of Capacity Market support.

Because of obscene, market wrecking subsidies paid to renewables, gas power plants cannot compete on level terms, and consequently run well below viable capacity levels.

The UK is, of course, desperate for new gas power capacity, to fill the gaps when the wind stops blowing.

Meanwhile, Drax’s Annual Accounts show just how much they are raking in subsidies for biomass.

CfD subsidies totted up to £342 million last year, with ROCs bringing in an other whopping £495 million, a total of £837 million. With biomass generation of 14.1 TWh, this works out at an average of £48/MWh:

 

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And government hand outs don’t stop there, as Drax also earned £118 million for system support services, now so essential because of unreliable renewable generation:

 

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Without all of these subsidies, Drax would of course be bankrupt. Their strategy now is to continue to build the biomass side of the business, and hope to get more government money to subsidise carbon capture.

52 Comments
  1. February 25, 2021 7:00 pm

    Diesel train enthusiast’s rejoice
    Drax currently gets 24 massive train loads of American log chips per week thru Liverpool, Hull and mainly Immingham
    The latter 2 do not have electrified train lines.
    And the 24 will go up to 30 or more now.

    • 4 Eyes permalink
      February 25, 2021 11:49 pm

      And those American trees don’t grow as fast as they burn them

    • February 26, 2021 8:37 am

      After crossing the Atlantic in diesel engined ships, which are supplied by diesel engined American freight trains.

  2. 2hmp permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:01 pm

    Lemmings come to mind.

  3. GeoffB permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:06 pm

    Drax is a greens worst nightmare, why are they not campaigning against it….I would even support XR if they attacked the place……..

  4. Devoncamel permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:08 pm

    All that money for Drax to strip trees from the environment, ship the wood thousands of miles, burn it producing vast quantities of CO2 and still claim to be carbon neutral. Hypocrisy is a really good fuel.

    • Robin Guenier permalink
      February 25, 2021 9:10 pm

      strip trees from the environment‘.

      But is that true about Drax? Some might recall that I recently emailed my MP about Drax. In his reply he assured me that ‘generating stations utilising biomass only receive subsidies in respect of compliant biomass’, going on to say that one requirement for compliance is ‘that biomass fuels are derived from forest waste wood and residues’.

      Is is he right: does Drax never use wood from felled timber?

      He seemed very confident, assuring me that the criteria applicable in the UK ‘are amongst the toughest in the world and any generators that do not comply lose this financial support’.

      • Devoncamel permalink
        February 25, 2021 9:43 pm

        Robin, a C4 Despatches investigation back in 2018 asked similar questions.
        https://theecologist.org/2018/apr/16/hardwood-forests-cut-down-feed-drax-power-plant-channel-4-dispatches-claims
        A quick Google search is top loaded with Drax puff but you don’t have to look far before the sustainability claims fall apart. Drax is the single biggest emmiter of CO2 in the UK, producing 8% more than if coal were used. It burns more wood in a year than the UK produces.
        Short of going to the Drax US wood supply operation myself I’m certain none of it is sustainable, environmental or carbon neutral. It’s total hypocrisy and a rip off.

      • 4 Eyes permalink
        February 25, 2021 11:51 pm

        The word Waste there probably means trees that would not be used for anything else / sarc

      • February 26, 2021 8:31 am

        Robin,

        in view of the amount of wood chips that Drax consumes, is it even feasible that it comes from ‘waste wood and residues’. It surely is not economically viable either?

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        February 26, 2021 9:54 am

        Good points. Thanks.

      • February 26, 2021 8:54 am

        Lots of energy is used drying out the felled timber and converting it into wood pellets. How much CO2 content is in that energy?

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        February 26, 2021 9:42 am

        Thanks Devoncamel – useful stuff.

  5. Broadlands permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:19 pm

    “Instead, the space is likely to be used to build green carbon capture equipment to trap CO2 from its other four units, which have been switched from burning coal to burning what the company says is sustainable biomass If Drax can get the government subsidies, the hope is that it can create bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) on the site, with the carbon from the wood biomass it burns being piped to the Humber for storage under the North Sea.”

    Green carbon capture piped under the North Sea? The amount stored would be trivial to the atmosphere. A pipe dream indeed. And the subsidies doled out in the name of climate change will be wasted.

  6. George Herraghty permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:23 pm

    Absolute madness:
    In Scotland, the figures show that between 2014 and 2016, a total of 6,409 acres of forestry were felled to make way for wind farm developments – the equivalent of ten square miles!

    • Tonyb permalink
      February 25, 2021 9:37 pm

      As each giant wind turbine needs 50 acres of land for each 1 MW of power it’s a win win situation that Drax cuts down trees for its biomass plants, then builds wind turbines on the cleared land. A virtuous green circle where everyone is a winner

  7. Joe Public permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:38 pm

    As of 3 minutes ago:

  8. February 25, 2021 7:47 pm

    The insanity continues. It is the result of the policies of a string of ignorant Minsters of Energy, none of whom has ever had a clue about the policies they have put in place to subsidise unreliable, asynchronous and intermittent generation.

    There is still time to buy a generator.

  9. Joe Public permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:48 pm

    Off topic, but too-good a laugh to not share:

  10. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 25, 2021 7:50 pm

    I bet if there was a government subsidy available to burn gas then Drax would be at it like a drunk in a distillery. Hang the green credentials.

  11. February 25, 2021 8:49 pm

    Local BBC news
    #1 Drax caves into activists, no new gas plant
    instead they will burn more wood

    #2 Hull, exBP biofuel plant to restart after 3 years

    #3 The East Yorks Council has finally passed the Climate Emergency motion
    they will spend the next year deciding on policies.

  12. February 25, 2021 9:09 pm

    Here’s the activists’ thread
    as ever be careful of taking things at face value
    We only know what they do, not their motivations.
    They could be deluded, market rigging mafia, the Russians etc.

  13. February 25, 2021 9:11 pm

    Some activist there brought this news
    as if their motivation is to bump off the competitors solar/wind

  14. February 25, 2021 9:15 pm

    As ever GreenBritain is not a safe place for business

    Maybe investors should look at places like Georgia or Indonesia
    for proper cheap reliable energy
    and for governments than don’t impose sudden dogmatic costly greendream regulations.

  15. February 25, 2021 9:33 pm

    Wasn’t the gas plant supposed to be zero-CO2 anyway
    cos it would have carbon-capture eventually.
    So are they admitting CCS will never work ?

  16. February 25, 2021 9:40 pm

    One problem is that Biomass is such a green sounding and friendly word.. Weather dependent power stations is nowhere near as friendly a phrase as ‘renewable energy’ so perhaps we need a harsher real world phrase for Biomass. . Is ‘wood pellets’ evocative enough?

  17. Penda100 permalink
    February 25, 2021 9:53 pm

    Perhaps not such a nice Green company after all. From the DT 19 Feb “Drax Amite processes wood from local forests in Mississippi into pellets that are shipped to the UK to be burned as renewable energy at the company’s facility in Yorkshire.
    It has been fined by the Mississippi Department on Environmental Quality (MDEQ) for breaching limits on volatile organic compounds, which can exacerbate respiratory conditions, since 2017.”

  18. Ian Miller permalink
    February 25, 2021 10:11 pm

    Why do the Greens not object ? Because it is negative for the economy, and clearly their plan for us is to suck every subsidy out of already bankrupt system.
    What about a paper given to the Government from a large business group saying that wood chips burning releases masses of CO2 into the atmosphere ? The insane idiot academics who have passed this fiasco should be made to fully account for their utter madness.
    We need REAL people to run our energy policy. These academics devoid of Common Sense are good for absolutely NOTHING !

  19. February 25, 2021 10:15 pm

    Some of the wood pellet plants it’s buying in Canada use gas
    to dry the “renewable” biomass.

  20. Mack permalink
    February 25, 2021 10:41 pm

    Drax claims that it aspires to be ‘carbon negative by 2030’.

    Really? On any metric, other than in Green fantasy land, this claim is completely ridiculous.

    Burning biomass produces more carbon emissions than clean coal or gas. Just because the UK and the EU ordained biomass burning as ‘carbon neutral’, even though, scientifically, it isn’t, doesn’t make it so. When one factors in the origins of the biomass being incinerated at Drax and the transportation methods from source, the claims by Drax become even more risible.

    We, on the skeptical side of the argument, are often labelled as ‘flat earthers’ for our failure to address reality. But, increasingly, it seems, we have become the new Gallileans dealing with a consensus that has turned science upside down. It’s funny how our opponents accuse us of doing or believing exactly what they are doing themselves. Well, it would be funny if they weren’t crippling Western Civilisation and condemning us to a future of penury and misery.

  21. europeanonion permalink
    February 26, 2021 9:14 am

    Biomass can be deadly according to the EPA in the United States:

    (Extracts from their website)

    Smoke may smell good, but it’s not good for you. The biggest health threat from smoke is from fine particles, also called fine particulate matter or PM2.5. These microscopic particles can get into your eyes and respiratory system, where they may cause burning eyes, runny nose, and illnesses, such as bronchitis.

    Fine particles can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks. Fine particles can also trigger heart attacks, stroke, irregular heart rhythms, and heart failure, especially in people who are already at risk for these conditions.

    Wood smoke can irritate your lungs, cause inflammation, affect your immune system, and make you more prone to lung infections, likely including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that cause COVID-19. According to information provided on CDC’s website, people who currently have or who are recovering from COVID-19 may be at an increased risk of health effects from exposure to wood smoke due to compromised heart and/or lung function related to COVID-19.

    If you are recovering from COVID-19, or are at increased risk for COVID-19, take steps to reduce your exposure to wood smoke. See additional information on wood smoke and COVID-19.

    The particles in wood smoke can reduce visibility (haze). Particles can also create environmental and aesthetic damage in our communities and scenic areas – like national parks.

    -oo0oo-

    I expect that this is common knowledge?

    With the increased use of domestic wood stoves you have no idea when you are to encounter this form of pollution and while national schemes may have ways of ameliorating outfall private users will always find a way to flout rules.

  22. February 26, 2021 9:38 am

    Cui bono?

  23. Robin Guenier permalink
    February 26, 2021 9:38 am

    At its website (https://www.drax.com/sustainability/carbon-emissions/) Drax claims that ‘With four of the six generating units now converted to biomass from coal, emissions from Drax Power Station have fallen from 22.7 million tCO2 in 2012 to below 1 million tCO2 in 2019.‘ That sounds most impressive. But is it? Footnote (4) says this:

    ‘The biogenic CO2 emissions resulting from generation are counted as zero in official reporting to both UK authorities and under the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) as the use of sustainable biomass is considered to be CO2 neutral at the point of combustion. This methodology originates from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.’

    Hmm … that seems to me to be saying that, although emissions aren’t really ‘CO2 neutral at the point of combustion’, they’re nonetheless counted as if they were because of a provision of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Yet that document (https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/conveng.pdf) has just one passing reference to biomass (see Article 4.1.(d)) that says nothing about a methodology.

    • Mack permalink
      February 26, 2021 10:57 am

      The last figure I saw estimated that Drax was burning through something like 7.5 million tons of pellets per year. If that figure was accurate it would probably indicate that somewhere in the region of 15 million tons of green wood were felled prior to pelletization and transportation (in themselves co2 belching processes). At the point of combustion a kilo of dry seasoned wood will produce about 1.9kg of co2. So, based on a quick back of the fag packet calculation, that’s a whopping 14.25 million tons of co2 going up the Yorkshire smoke stacks annually. Just as well co2 is invisible otherwise Drax would have serious trouble trying to hide that particular green elephant in the room.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        February 26, 2021 11:58 am

        Thanks Mack. Two points:

        1. As I note in my first post on this topic, it’s claimed that Drax’s ‘fuels are derived from forest waste wood and residues’. If that’s true, they would not be felling ‘green wood’.

        2. Your back of the fag packet calculation is most interesting. Thanks.

      • Mack permalink
        February 26, 2021 12:58 pm

        Robin, I think their argument would be that they only take the timber, once felled, that is not suitable for the building trade, fencing, palletization, firewood etc etc. From my own dealings with a another biomass plant in the U.K., following a major forestry thinning project, I would estimate that @70% of the mature trees felled (both mixed broadleaves and spruce) ended up logged, transported to the plant, chipped and pelleterised and then sent straight up the chimney, either on site or via distribution elsewhere.

  24. Vernon E permalink
    February 26, 2021 10:25 am

    Whatever the carboniferous fuel if it is combusted with air carbon capture is a fantasy (because of the nittrogen).

  25. William Birch permalink
    February 26, 2021 10:40 am

    Drax have woken up to the fact that, why would you build new gas electricity stations that you can only turn on when the sun does not shine or the wind does not blow? It is economic madness. I foresee a time in the near future when gas power stations get older and new ones have not been built. Then the UK is really in for electricity grid instability when Boris’s ludicrous idea of have wind capacity capable of generating 40% of the UK peak energy demand has become a reality. Texas blackouts here we come !!!

  26. Jack Broughton permalink
    February 26, 2021 11:26 am

    The main issue of the proposed Gas Turbine project by Drax was buying in heavy-duty gas turbines from Germany that are not really designed for rapid start / stop and load following while Rolls Royce starves. Rolls Royce could supply high efficiency simple-cycle gas turbines that were properly matched to the future needs of the UK. I do not normally support subsidised power, but this would meet UK needs and protect a strategically important manufacturer: it could even lead to export business as other windmill obsessed countries will have the same need as we do.

    CCGTs are great if they have more than 4 hours on-line per start, but many are being used as peaking-generators which damages them, is very inefficient and is not what they were designed for.

  27. Dr Ken Pollock permalink
    February 26, 2021 6:57 pm

    The only reason biomass is “green” is because you do not pay tax on the carbon produced, as you do on any other form of fuel that generates CO2. Hence biomass is popular in all sorts of applications and Drax is just at the pinnacle of the fiscal madness…

  28. MikeHig permalink
    February 26, 2021 7:30 pm

    This article reports on Drax’s purchase of a pelletising plant in Louisiana in 2017.:

    http://biomassmagazine.com/articles/14292/drax-to-enter-acquisition-process-for-louisiana-pellets

    The images seem to show truckloads of tree trunks rather than “waste”.

  29. MikeHig permalink
    February 26, 2021 7:33 pm

    This is a better image:

    Sure looks like massive stacks of tree trunks!

  30. Geoff Sherrington permalink
    February 27, 2021 9:20 am

    Among the COP sponsors is Scottishpower who claim “We’re committed to tackling climate change and were the first integrated energy company in the UK to switch to 100% clean energy generation, producing all our electricity from offshore and onshore wind.
    How do they maintain electricity supply on those days when the wind is not blowing? Geoff S

  31. Tim the Coder permalink
    February 27, 2021 9:52 am

    Ah, but whose problem?

    If the UK has insufficient gas power stations, we have blackouts and massive crisis of disaster proportions, yes. But that isn’t Drax’s problem.
    Building more gas, and having Swampy & Co chaining themselves to fences, or sundry domestic terrorists firebombing staff’s homes, well that would be.

    So far better to leave the problem to the Government.,
    Oh, and did anyone see the $900/MWh wholesale prices in Texas?: there’s money to be made in a crisis 🙂
    You can see this gas decision as a way to milk the wood chip generation into profit.

    • MikeHig permalink
      February 27, 2021 2:06 pm

      Several reports have put the spike in Texas power pricing at $9000/ MWh!
      Also it appears that some customers who are on some form of open-ended, market tariffs have received enormous power bills running to thousands of dollars.

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