Please object to Drax’s dangerous carbon capture plans

Click here to learn how you can object

Click here to see the draft response we have put together

The UK’s single largest carbon emitter  and the world’s biggest tree burner, Drax, has applied to the Planning Inspectorate to add unproven carbon capture equipment to two of its wood-burning units at Drax Power Station near Selby in Yorkshire. 

We believe that Drax does not have the technical know-how to successfully capture large amounts of CO2. Instead, we assume that Drax wants to obtain this planning consent in order to attract new subsidies and investments based on the promise of Drax becoming the first company in the world to develop a large-scale Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) scheme. Drax’s current subsidies (amounting to £982.5 million in 2021) are due to expire in 2027. 

In other words, if the planning application is approved it will make it more likely that Drax will continue burning trees from some of the world’s most biodiverse forests for decades to come, making the climate crisis worse and harming wildlife and communities living near the pellet mills that supply Drax in the process. 

Drax’s “negative emissions” claims are based on the false assumption that burning wood is “carbon neutral”  when it will take decades or longer for new trees to grow and absorb the emissions produced by logging, transporting and burning trees today. This is time we do not have if we are to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. 

Drax’s planning application does not include the application for the pipeline needed to transport the CO2, nor the actual injection of the carbon dioxide under the North Sea. However, a consortium of oil companies has applied for CO2 injections under the sea, and National Grid is expected to apply for planning consent for a  huge new CO2 pipeline in the North Sea near Hull, which would be connected not just with Drax but with sites operated by some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel polluters, including Equinor, Ineos and Uniper

Sadly, the Planning Inspector won’t be able to go against government planning and energy policies in his or her report. And the government unfortunately persists in ignoring almost all of the climate impacts of biomass energy. However, we believe that there are nonetheless strong arguments why the application can and should be rejected:

  1. Capturing and compressing CO2 takes a lot of energy – 28% of all the energy produced by each unit, according to Drax but possibly even more – so there’s a high risk of the resultant shortfall in electricity production being met from increased fossil gas being burned elsewhere, leading to yet more CO2 emissions
  2. It will also risk human health as Drax plans to use chemicals called amines to separate or ‘scrub’ the CO2 from the other flue gases. These chemicals release by-products, including nitrosamines and nitramines, which are probable carcinogens that can cause cancer. 
  3. The project will have significant impacts on local communities and wildlife as Drax’s planning documents show that the development will take at least 4 years to build with constant noise and increased traffic. The development will also lead to the degradation and destruction of important habitats near the site where rare and protected species have been found, including water voles, otters, Great Crested Newts and many species of threatened birds. 

If you agree that we should not allow Drax to harm wildlife and human health and risk preventing genuine climate action with the dangerous false solution of unproven BECCS technology, please help us to stop Drax’s proposed BECCS development by sending an objection to the Planning Inspectorate. The deadline for responses is 11.59pm on the 5th September 2022.

For more information about the environmental, biodiversity and health impacts of Drax’s BECCS plans, please see our briefing here. 

How to object to Drax’s planning application for BECCS

You can object to Drax’s planning application by registering as an interested party on the Planning Inspectorate’s website here: https://national-infrastructure-consenting.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/register-have-your-say/EN010120

You will be asked for your name, address, phone number and email address and there is a text box where you can write your submission.

Below is a pre-drafted consultation response which you can copy and paste for your main submission. If possible, it is more effective if you are able to personalise your message.

You will not be obliged to take any more actions if you become an interested party.

If you have any problems submitting your objections or any questions, please email us at biofuelwatch[@]gmail.com. We have also created a walk throgh of the sumbission form below, please have a look at this before your begin:

Please don’t forget to amplify your response by sharing with your friends and family.  

Draft response

Dear Sir / Madam,

I wish to object to Drax’s application to add carbon capture  technology to two of its wood-burning units. 

I am objecting because I believe the proposal is not a sustainable development as defined in the National Planning Policy Framework (https://tinyurl.com/2p9hacyv) , since it is not compatible with increasing productivity, supporting communities’ health, protecting our natural environment or improving biodiversity. 

According to Drax’s planning document, carbon capture will reduce the net efficiency of the biomass boilers to just 28.49% because 28% of the energy generated by each unit will be needed to capture and compress CO2. The real figure could potentially be even higher. By decreasing electricity generation, there is a high chance that this will cause more fossil gas to be burned in other power stations. This is contrary to the Overarching National Policy Statement for Energy’s (https://tinyurl.com/53an2awt) commitment to reduce energy from fossil fuels. 

I am also very concerned about the potential harm to human health from the amine chemicals which Drax is planning to use to separate the CO2 from the other flue gases. These amines can form other compounds when they are emitted, including nitrosamines and nitramines which are possible carcinogens (https://tinyurl.com/5bvhrcps) . Yorkshire and Humberside already have high levels of air pollution (https://tinyurl.com/2cs9hd7e), and there is a lack of research into the impacts of these chemicals on public health.

Moreover, Drax’s Ecology Report (https://tinyurl.com/44v95zz7) for the project states that this development will lead to the degradation and destruction of a number of internationally, nationally and locally important habitats where ecological surveys found rare and protected species, including orchids, water voles, otters, Great Crested Newts and many species of birds. 

The government classes energy from burning trees as ‘low-carbon’ and argues that it can help ‘tackle climate change’. I strongly disagree with this, as do hundreds of scientists (https://tinyurl.com/yckvupex) and environmental NGOs around the world (https://tinyurl.com/yuwcxa4f) who highlight that burning wood is as bad for the climate as fossil fuels and that Drax’s claims that BECCS can achieve “negative emissions” are based on the false assumption that logging, transporting and burning trees in power stations can be “carbon neutral.” (https://tinyurl.com/msw85362)

I urge you to take note of these concerns and refuse permission for Drax’s BECCS application.

Yours sincerely,