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Drax Group has announced that it has switched on its fourth biomass generating unit at Drax power station. Located in North Yorkshire, north-east England, the 3,906 MW power station was designed to accommodate six 660 MW coal-fired units, which were brought online between 1973 and 1986.
Having upgraded three of its coal units to use biomass between 2013 and 2016, Drax is already the biggest decarbonisation project in Europe. The conversion of a fourth unit means it is on course to be off coal before the UK government’s 2025 deadline.
Work got under way on the conversion as part of a planned maintenance programme in June, with Drax’s team of engineers completing the work required, on schedule, in just over two months. To convert the unit the project team has re-used some redundant infrastructure left from when the company was first co-firing biomass with coal on a large scale, around eight years ago.
The cost of conversion of the fourth generating unit is significantly below the level of previous conversions, at around GBP30 million (US$38.7 million).
Drax has already invested around GBP700 million (~US$900 million) in upgrading the first three units and associated supply chain infrastructure to use sustainable biomass in the form of compressed wood pellets instead of coal.
Drax is working to replace the remaining two coal-fired units of the power station with gas-fired power generating units. The Combined Cycle Gas Turbines it is looking to develop could deliver up to 3.6 GW of capacity, as well as up to 200 MW of battery storage.
Drax’s plans for the gas project have been submitted to the UK's Planning Inspectorate, which accepted the application for examination. The proposals will now be examined by the Planning Inspectorate and then considered by the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy with a decision expected in 2019.