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Drax sets sights on becoming first company in the world to be carbon negative by 2030

Image: Drax.

Will Gardiner, Drax’s CEO. Image: Drax.

Drax has announced its intention to become the first company in the world to be carbon negative by 2030.

The company is planning to remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it produces, generating power using bioenergy alongside carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

It will become carbon negative by shutting its two remaining coal plants by 2025, and ensuring that at least two of its biomass units use BECCS technology. With these running at a 90% availability, Drax says it can capture and store eight million tonnes of CO2 a year.

Will Gardiner, Drax’s CEO, announced the ambition during his speech at COP25 yesterday (9 December). However, he said that if the company is to achieve such a goal, it will depend on an effective negative emissions policy and investment framework for new technologies including BECCS.

“The UK Government is working on a policy and investment framework to encourage negative emissions technologies, which will enable the UK to be home to the world’s first carbon negative company.

“This is not just critical to beating the climate crisis, but also to enabling a just transition, protecting jobs and creating new opportunities for clean growth – delivering for the economy as well as for the environment," Gardiner said.

In order to achieve net zero, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the UK Committee on Climate Change have both said that BECCS will be necessary. Drax is already running a successful pilot project, during which 100% of the carbon created from a biomass generator was captured in a world first, it said.

The company has undergone a major shift in recent years, switching it’s coal-fired power station to use biomass in an effort to become more sustainable. As such, in the first half of 2019, 94% of the power generated by Drax came from the source, helping the company to reduce carbon emissions by 80% compared to the same operations using coal.

“Having pioneered the use of sustainable biomass, Drax now produces 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity. With the right negative emissions policy, we can do much more, removing millions of tonnes of emissions from the atmosphere each year,” added Gardiner.

Gardiner’s speech took place at the Powering Past Coal Alliance event in Madrid that formed part of the COP25 proceedings. Drax is a member of the alliance, which seeks to stop unabated coal use.

In this role, it has helped to petition the UK government for strong carbon pricing and highlighted the benefit of technologies such as BECCS to balance intermittent renewables and aid the energy transition.

The company has also sought to cement its role in the UKs future energy system, by launching an end-to-end EV service.

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