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The University of Southampton
Clean Carbon

Clean Carbon visits Drax Power Station

Published: 22 September 2017
Drax power station

Clean Carbon PhD researcher Caspar Donnison and colleagues Dr Rob Holland and Dr Astley Hastings visited Drax power station in Yorkshire, today. Drax, the largest power station in the UK, has recently converted from burning coal to wood pellets.

The researchers were given a tour of the site, which was supplying around 7% of UK electricity on the morning of the visit. Later, they met the Drax sustainability team to discuss wood fuel sourcing.

Three of the six combustion chambers at Drax now burn wood pellets, using 7 million tonnes of wood fuel in 2016. The pellets arrive by train from several UK port locations, where they are imported from the USA, Canada, and the Baltic states. The conversion at Drax has significantly reduced coal use in the electricity sector and Drax reported an 86% reduction in CO2 from its biomass activities compared to burning coal. Earlier this year no coal was used in electricity generation for an entire day, the first time that this has happened since the 1880s, according to the National Grid

But there has been recent controversy over the sourcing of wood pellets from the USA and this was raised at the meeting with the Drax sustainability team. The team argued that their wood pellets are chiefly sourced from waste and low-value by-products of the forestry industry, as well as through forest management activities such as the removal of trees through ‘thinning’. They also argued that USA forest inventories have continued to grow in recent years, whilst wood pellets imported from the southeast US, which accounts for the majority of Drax wood fuel, only accounted for around 2% of forest harvest removals in that region in 2015.


Researchers from the Clean Carbon USRG with the Drax Team
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