UK to build world's first power plant with negative emissions

Drax’s domes: where biomass is stored (Image: Paul Rogers/The Times)

IT IS the dream scenario for fighting climate change: a power station that delivers negative emissions. And it could be coming to the UK, helped along by the growth of forests in the American South and some handy holes beneath the North Sea.

The giant coal power station at Drax in Yorkshire, with its 12 cooling towers, is one of the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters. It sends some 23 million tonnes of carbon dioxide up its stacks each year, while supplying up to a tenth of the UK’s power.

Its owners are now planning to replace coal with wood pellets and bury the emissions. Combined with growing trees to replace all those burned, the mega-polluter could one day be transformed into the world’s largest industrial absorber of CO2.

“This is a very exciting new technology,” says Jeremy Tomkinson of the National Non-Food Crops Centre, a consultancy that promotes bioenergy. “It means we can actually reduce the volume of CO2 in the atmosphere.”

“This is a very exciting new technology. It means we can reduce the CO2 volume in the atmosphere”

The biomass side of the transformation is already under way. “Since the beginning of July, half of Drax’s electricity has been generated by burning biomass, mostly from pine forests in the American Deep South,” Drax’s vice-president for sustainability, Richard Peberdy, told me during a tour of those forests in Mississippi. The fourth of its six generators converts to biomass next year.

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