BECCS - the carbon removal chimera
Once Western Europe’s largest coal-fired power station, the Drax power station in North Yorkshire, England officially called time on coal this week.
Over the past decade the power station has converted all four of its coal units to burn biomass instead, and now imports wood pellets sourced from forests in Canada. Under UK rules, at least 70% of a power generator’s woody biomass consignment must be classified as ‘sustainable’. However, claims that the wood pellets have been sourced in a sustainable manner have been disputed. Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator, has commissioned a probe into Drax’s compliance with the sustainability rules.
Advocates of burning biomass say that because carbon emitted is offset by the trees as they grow then it can be classified as carbon neutral. Drax had hoped to take this one step further and capture the carbon emitted from the biomass combustion, a process supporters claim would have resulted in net carbon removal from the atmosphere.
The process is known as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). BECCS involves power generation using biomass as a fuel, with carbon capture technology used to capture and permanently store the carbon dioxide.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Carbon Risk to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.