Drax Plc’s carbon capture claims not based on any real-world evidence, company reveals to campaigners

Drax’s carbon capture announcements claims appear motivated by quest for new multi-billion pound subsidies, environmental campaigners warn

For immediate release

London, 14th June 2021 – The environmental campaign group Biofuelwatch is today publishing written statements by Drax [1] which reveal that the company’s claim that they are about to  “deliver the world’s largest carbon capture power project” [2] are based on no real-world evidence at all and that they lack basic information about the capture process they intend to use. 

Biofuelwatch fears that Drax’s announcement and claims are intended to persuade the UK government to extend the generous subsidies the company is receiving for burning millions of tonnes of wood in its power station, with no guarantee that any carbon will actually be captured and stored. 

Drax power station in Yorkshire is the world’s biggest wood-burning power station and reported in 2020 that it released around 13 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere from burning biomass, in addition to 2.67 million tonnes from burning fossil fuels. Drax currently receives £832 million [3] in subsidies for burning biomass every year; however, as these are currently due to run out in 2027, the company is seeking further options to remain profitable.

Last week, Drax announced a new partnership with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Engineering Ltd (MHI) [2], claiming that their first biomass unit with carbon capture and storage (‘BECCS’) could be operational by 2027 and that they could capture and store at least 8m tonnes of CO2 annually from 2030. However, written responses asked during a public consultation on Drax’s BECCS project show that the company lacks basic information about the process [4] and admit: “our BECCS assumptions for energy are not based on trials”.

Biofuelwatch investigations further show that the particular technology provided by MHI to Drax has never been tested at scale anywhere. [5] It has been developed from a different technology used to capture CO2 in a coal power plant in Texas, however, that plant had to be shut down last year because it was uneconomic despite high government subsidies. [8]

Almuth Ernsting, Codirector of Biofuelwatch, says: “Drax power station burns more wood than the UK produces every year, all of it imported, a lot of it from the clearcutting of highly biodiverse forests in North America and the Baltic States. This is harming forests, climate and communities living near wood pellet mills supplying Drax. Drax’s largely unfounded claims about future carbon capture are a cynical distraction from these very real impacts.”

Molly Jones, climate activist and Yorkshire-based member of the Axe Drax group adds: “Drax’s promise of capturing carbon in the future stands to lose us valuable time that could be used to invest in real solutions to the climate crisis such as protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and supporting lower carbon technologies and community energy. With its demands for ever more public money to continue burning trees, Drax is making the climate crisis worse and obstructing progress.”


Almuth Ernsting, biofuelwatch@gmail.com, Tel: +44-131-6232600

Sally Clark, +44-775-1967-222


[1] See biofuelwatch.org.uk/2021/drax-beccs-response/  

[2] drax.com/press_release/drax-and-mitsubishi-heavy-industries-sign-pioneering-deal-to-deliver-the-worlds-largest-carbon-capture-power-project/

[3] See drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Drax_AR2020.pdf and Biofuelwatch’s summary at biofuelwatch.org.uk/axedrax-campaign/

[4] The basic information referred to here relates to the amount of energy required to capture CO2 from the biomass units. This determines how high the cost of capturing carbon would be and how much less electricity Drax’s power station would supply to the grid. A high energy requirement could make the venture uneconomic even with continued public subsidies. 

[5]  papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3366174

[6] ieefa.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Petra-Nova-Mothballing-Post-Mortem_August-2020.pdf