Drax goes for 4th unit conversion3 July 2018
Having decided that UK government proposed reforms to the Renewables Obligation subsidy scheme make it economically worthwhile, Drax (originally a 6 x 660 MW coal plant) is pushing ahead with conversion of a fourth unit to biomass burning, but adopting a low cost approach, with re-purposing of existing equipment to deliver biomass to the unit and achieving capital costs much lower than the previous three conversions. The aim is to complete the conversion as part of a major planned outage in the second half of 2018, with return to service in late 2018. Drax says the fourth unit will probably operate at lower availability than the three already converted units, running at periods of high demand.
Rather than converting the remaining two of its six units to biomass, Drax is planning a major coal-to-gas repowering, with construction of 3.6 GW of gas combined cycle, plus a 200 MW battery storage facility, on its Yorkshire site. It is also developing four stand alone open cycle gas turbine peaking plants on sites in eastern England and Wales.
Drax, which has recently signed up to the Powering Past Coal Alliance (a UK–Canadian initiative that seeks to end the use of coal by 2030 in developed countries), believes it could be coal-free somewhat ahead of the UK government’s 2025 target date for eliminating unabated coal from UK power generation. Drax says it has transformed itself to become the “largest decarbonisation project in Europe.”