Drax mulls coal to gas instead of biomass conversion

Posted: June 17, 2017 by oldbrew in Energy
Tags: ,

Biomass on the move [image credit: Drax]

Are we nearing the end of the road for further large-scale wood pellet burning at UK power stations? Cheaper gas from either US or UK fracking must now be influencing business plans.

PEI reports the UK’s biggest power producer Drax is considering the conversion of its remaining coal-fired power units to gas, instead of biomass power, as originally planned.

Management believe a gas-fired power conversion would allow the company to qualify for 15-year contracts in the country’s capacity market auctions. As the government has already changed its stance on renewable energy subsidies which had made biomass conversion attractive, this would be a logical step for Drax.

The company has already converted half of its Yorkshire coal plant to burn wood pellets, but plans to switch the remaining units to biomass have since halted due to the government decision.

“One option is to repurpose the coal units to run on gas,” said Andy Koss, chief executive of Drax’s generation business, during a presentation to analysts, while Chief Executive Dorothy Thompson said the type of gas plant conversion being considered would mean the units would qualify to compete for contracts in the annual capacity auction.

Continued here.

  1. Joe Public says:

    Shipping firewood from the US & Canada; importing gas from Russia, Qatar, Algeria, Peru; if only there was a source of easily accessible energy in Yorkshire.

  2. A C Osborn says:

    Joe, yes it is a shame, that they can’t find anything else that will burn isn’t it.

    The subsidies dry up and so do the conversions or new builds.

  3. It is possible to convert the boilers from coal to natural gas. Natural gas flames are very much less luminous than coal flames ( emissivity around 0.4 for poor gas flames and around 1 for coal), so it is necessary to fit more and better economisers to lower exhaust temperatures. To improve gas flames one needs high pressure at the burners (around 4 atms) and a hollow flame so soot is formed at the centre of the flame. It would be wise to inject some coal into the flame. Finally, it is ecessary to note the difference between net and gross energy. On a gross energy basis a natural gas fired boiler is less efficient than a coal fired one.
    Open cycle turbines are responsive to short term variations ( 5 minutes) but are inefficient (less than a coal fired boiler and steam turbine). It would be better to drop wind generation and have more coal fired generation which can be ramped by 10% within 15inutes and 30% within 30 minutes.

  4. oldbrew says:

    Drax is expected to use 7.5 million tonnes of biomass (wood pellets) in 2017, most of it coming in via ship and rail from North America.

    This is equivalent to two-thirds of Europe’s entire energy biomass consumption in 2010, and requires 1,200,000 ha (4,600 sq mi; 12,000 km²) of forest to supply on a continuous basis.


    It’s the second biggest power station in Europe. 35 trainloads of biomass and coal arrive per day, 6 days a week.

  5. Keitho says:

    I understand our friends the Japanese have developed a very efficient and clean technology to gasify coal and use the gas in fuel cells to make industrial amounts of electricity.

    Apparently “coal’s back baby”.

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    pilot plant only and, I think, not yet in operation. High temperature conversion to carbon monoxide then fed into a CCGT.

  7. AlecM says:

    Less government bullshit means the supply of biomass is falling. Gotta go to gas and fraccing.

  8. Keitho says:

    Thanks Graeme #3, I shall continue to keep an eye out for any further progress.

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