UK Power Plant Tests Negative-Emission Carbon Capture

The Co2 captured could end up as drink fizz.

(Courtesy of the Drax Group)

Carbon capture is one of the brightest technologies that could stop global warming in its tracks. Now a UK power company is testing what it calls the world's first trial of a technique to capture biomass emissions.

The innovative bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) pilot is being run by the Drax Group at the company's largest power station in North Yorkshire, England that is fueled by 100 percent biomass (which is essentially organic waste material).

This is not the first negative emissions plant in the UK; that title belongs to a smaller project in Ireland that is run by Climeworks. The world's first negative emissions power plant is in Iceland and is run by Climeworks along with Carbfix and Reykjavik Energy.

The Drax model plant is using innovative technology that was developed by the UK startup C-Capture to capture a ton of Co2 a day during the trial period. C-Capture is a spin-off from the University of Leeds School of Chemistry. 

Drax engineers began commissioning the pilot plant in November 2018 with the first carbon captured using a proprietary solvent developed by C-Capture to isolate the carbon dioxide from the flue gases released when biomass is used to generate electrical power according to a company press release.

The data about Co2 capture from the pilot program will be analyzed to understand the technology's potential and how it can be scaled up to be used effectively. Drax invested £400,000 in the pilot, but if successful, this could be the first in many projects.

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

“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 said. One potential use the captured Co2 is to keep drinks fizzy.

Drax operates six power plants in the UK that were burning coal but have now been converted to burn wood. The company made the changes to comply with the 2008 UK Climate Change Act that committed the country to greatly reduce its emissions by 2050.  

The government's Clean Growth Strategy identified BECCS as one of the greenhouse gas removal technologies that could remove emissions from the atmosphere and help achieve decarbonization. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering estimated that BECCS could enable Drax to capture 50 million tons of carbon dioxide per year by 2050; approximately half the UK's emissions target.

Claire Perry, minister for energy and clean growth, said, "This innovative technology has the potential to make huge strides in our efforts to tackle climate change while kick-starting an entirely new cutting-edge industry in the UK."

The UK is doing well on its way to reaching its 2050 goal with an increase in renewables and carbon capture technology. This new technology could have an even bigger impact in helping countries around the globe achieve the 2017 UN climate goals.  

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