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Drax ends nearly 50 years of coal-fired power generation

April 25, 2023  By Drax


Photo: Drax

U.K. utility Drax today announced the official end of coal-fired generation at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire, marking a historic milestone in both the company and the UK’s transformation to a zero-carbon energy future.

Following the discovery of the Selby coalfield, construction of the coal-fired Drax Power Station began nearby in 1967. The power station started generating power out of its first unit in 1974 and in 1975, following the completion of two additional generators, the site officially opened. At the time, this provided enough power for around two million homes and in 1986, power generation capacity was doubled to just under 4GW.

Once the largest coal-fired power station in Western Europe, the plant is now the single largest generator of renewable power in the UK. Over the last decade four of the power station’s six generating units have been converted to use sustainable biomass, providing the UK with clean, green, and secure renewable electricity.

Following the end of the winter contingency agreement, Drax will now embark on a decommissioning process to remove coal-related infrastructure from the site which will start with the flue gas desulphurisation plant that was built in the 1990s to remove 90 per cent of the sulphur from the plant’s air emissions.

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“Ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark moment in our efforts to become a world-leading carbon negative company,” said Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO.

“I’d like to thank the many hundreds of people, including our staff, suppliers, and local communities, for all the hard work it has taken to transform Drax Power Station into the UK’s biggest renewable power source by output.

“By converting the plant to use sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, but we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world.

“We’re now planning to go further by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) to permanently remove millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, and we are engaged in discussions with the UK Government to move this £2bn project forward.

“The global momentum for converting coal-fired power stations to biomass is growing as more countries work to reduce their emissions by moving away from fossil fuels to renewables while maintaining their energy security. In recent months, new projects have been announced in countries from Japan to Hungary. If BECCS were eventually added to each of these sites they would be able to remove carbon from the atmosphere while generating power,” Gardiner said.

The UK government aims to deploy 5Mt of engineered CO2 removals per annum from BECCS and other engineered GGR technologies by 2030, rising to 23Mt in 2035 and up to 81Mt in 2050 to keep the UK on a pathway to meet its legislated climate targets.

Through transforming the plant to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, Drax has reduced its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by approximately 99 per cent since 2012.


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