Drax’s biomass carbon capture announcement exposes fallacy of BECCS

Clearcutting for pellets by Drax’s supplier: Never climate friendly; Photo: Dogwood Alliance

Drax’s biomass carbon capture announcement exposes fallacy of supposed climate fix, campaigners say

21st May 2018 – The environmental campaign group Biofuelwatch [1] slams Drax Power Station’s announcement of a pilot carbon capture project at one of its biomass units in Yorkshire [2] as a greenwashing exercise and warns that it exposes the dangers of the supposed climate fix, Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS).

BECCS is being proposed as a ‘carbon negative’ technology meant to reduce the amount of COin the atmosphere by burning biomass and capturing and sequestering the carbon released [3]. So far, no BECCS plant has been built anywhere in the world.

Drax power station burns more wood than any other plant in the world, and more coal than any other in the UK. It receives £2 million a day in’renewable energy’subsidies from the UK government. Drax has been shown to burn large quantities of pellets sourced from the clearcutting of carbon-rich coastal wetland forests in the south-eastern US which lie at the heart of a global biodiversity hotspot [4]. According to a study published by the UK Government in 2014, increased logging of such forests for bioenergy results in carbon emissions that are up to three times as high as those from coal over a period of 40 years [5]. Many other scientists and studies also show that the climate impact of cutting down forests for energy is far from benign [6].

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch states: “It is highly ironic that Europe’s first ever BECCS project will involve capturing some of the COfrom a plant that burns vast quantities of wood from clearcut carbon-rich and biodiverse forests. A stable climate needs more, not less, thriving forest ecosystems, which play a vital role in regulating rainfall cycles and sequestering carbon. Drax’s announcement illustrates the fallacy of the idea that BECCS can save us from catastrophic climate change.”

Frances Howe, biomass campaigner from Biofuelwatch, said: “To prevent even more disastrous climate change, biomass and fossil fuel power stations such as Drax need to be shut down. We need to massively reduce our energy use and we need genuinely renewable energy such as wind and solar power, not false techno-fixes which greenwash and extend the lifespan of destructive infrastructure.” 

Drax has partnered with the technology company C-Capture, which has had funding from the UK government and Shell [7]. The project involves a feasibility study, possibly to be followed by a small carbon capture pilot project. There are no plans to capture carbon on a larger scale from Drax power station.


[1] Biofuelwatch undertakes research, education, advocacy and campaigning about the impacts of large-scale bioenergy: biofuelwatch.org.uk

[2] drax.com/press_release/drax-to-pilot-europes-first-carbon-capture-storage-project-beccs/

[3] See a report about BECCS published by Biofuelwatch and Heinrich-Boell Foundation in 2016: biofuelwatch.org.uk/2016/beccs-report-hbf/

[4] For information and links about Drax and its biomass sourcing, seebiofuelwatch.org.uk/axedrax-campaign/and, regarding its biggest external supplier, Enviva,dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/NRDC_2014-2017Booklet_DigitalVersion-resize.pdf,wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324082604578485491298208114and reports.climatecentral.org/pulp-fiction/1/

wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324082604578485491298208114 and 

[5]assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/349024/BEAC_Report_290814.pdf, Executive Summary, Figure 5 

[6] See biofuelwatch.org.uk/biomass-resources/resources-on-biomass/for a list of studies about the climate impacts of wood-based bioenergy.