Drax power station

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Drax Power Station was a 3,906-megawatt (MW) coal and bio-fuel fired power station in North Yorkshire, England -- the United Kingdom's largest coal-fired power plant.[1] It also houses 3 gas-fired turbines generating a total of 75 MW of power between them.[2]

Starting in 2013 and through August 2018, Drax converted four of its six units to 100% biomass.[3][4] The last two coal units are planned to stop burning coal in 2021.[5]

There were plans for 2 x 1,800 MW combined cycle gas units at the power station,[6] but these were cancelled in 2021.[7]

A carbon capture and storage project known as White Rose was proposed at the site, but was cancelled due to lack of funding.[8]


The undated satellite photo below shows the power station near Selby, North Yorkshire.

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Background on coal-fired power station

The Drax power station consisted of six 660 MW generating units, commissioned from 1974 to 1986. In 2012 it had a maximum capacity of 3,945 MW, producing around 24 Terawatt-hours (TWh) annually[9] -- making it the largest coal power station in the UK.[10]

In 2012, Drax employed over 700 people and provided about 7% of Britain's electrical power demand.[11][12]

The six units were served by independent wet limestone-gypsum flue gas desulphurisation (FGD) plant. The station's chimney is the tallest in the UK.[13] The station had a maximum potential consumption of 36,000 metric tons (tonnes) of coal a day, and used between 7,000,000 and 11,000,000 metric tons annually. Coal was partly supplied by nearby Kellingley Colliery, with the bulk coming from Poland. The Drax station generates around 1,500,000 of ash and 22,800,000 of carbon dioxide each year.[14]

The Drax power station has been refinanced multiple times. In 2005, the power station received approximately US$1.55 billion in loans from a consortium of 13 banks.[15] In 2006, the power station received US$188 million in 5-year loans from a consortium of 5 banks.[16] In 2009, the power station received loans of US$392 million to cover outstanding debt from the 2005 refinancing.[17] The plant received two additional refinancing loans, one in 2012 for US$650 million,[18] and another in 2015 for US$601 million.[19]

In February 2020, the company announced that they would close the two coal-fired units by September 2022.[20] However, in July 2022, Drax agreed to continue the plant's operations through at least March 2023. This was due to energy security concerns in light of the war in Ukraine.[21]

Conversion to biomass

In September 2012, Drax Group announced the conversion to full firing with biomass of three of its six units. The first unit was scheduled to be online by June 2013, the second unit in 2014, and the third by 2017.[22] Drax Group's decision was enabled by a new UK government policy, effective in April 2013, to award renewable obligation certificates per megawatt of power generation from coal power plants that are fully converted to burn biomass; Drax CEO Dorothy Thompson stated the company intended to become a predominately biomass-fuelled energy producer.[23]

By July 2013, one firing unit had been converted.[24] The second unit was converted by May 2014.[25] In December 2016, the European Competition Commission approved UK government subsidies for the conversion of the third unit to biomass burning.[26][27] Unit 3 was converted to biomass by end-2016.[3] In August 2018, unit 4 was converted to biomass-burning.[4]

Conversion to gas-fired units

In July 2017, Drax submitted a planning application to convert one and possibly two of its three remaining coal-fired units to gas by 2023-2024, in the hope of winning a 15-year subsidy contract for providing backup power in winter. The announcement came as Drax group posted a pre-tax loss of £83m in the first half of 2017. Britain is aiming to phase out coal-fired power entirely by 2025, which would force the closure of the coal units.[28]

In June 2018 Drax said it planned to convert its remaining two coal units to gas turbine units totaling 3600MW with 200MW battery storage,[29] before Britain's 2025 coal phase-out.[28] Unit X would have a gross electrical output capacity of up to 1,800MW and Unit Y would have a gross electrical output capacity of up to 1,800MW, which would make it the biggest gas power station in Europe. It could account for 75% of the UK’s power sector emissions when fully operational.[30] A new gas pipeline will be built to connect to the existing National Transmission System pipeline approximately 3 km to the east. Operation of the units is planned for 2023.[6]

In February 2020, Drax Group said it will stop burning coal at the Drax plant in March 2021, four years ahead of the government’s ban on coal-fired electricity, which comes into force in 2025.[5]

In May 2020, the High Court of Justice of the United Kingdom ruled legal the UK government’s approval in October 2019 of the new gas-fired power plant. A legal challenge had been brought after UK government ministers overruled climate change objections from planning authorities. The Planning Inspectorate for England and Wales recommended that ministers refuse permission for the 3.6GW gas plant because it “would undermine the government’s commitment, as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008, to cut greenhouse emissions” by having “significant adverse effects”. ClientEarth, the environmental law group which brought the judicial review, said it was considering to appeal the High Court judgment. Reacting to the decision, head of Greenpeace UK John Sauven said: “Building new gas-fired power stations when the UK has a net zero carbon target is hardly showing climate leadership. It also makes little economic sense. The costs are already higher than for renewable options like wind and solar. Investing money to increase pollution may still be legal but it’s no longer defensible.”[30] A final investment decision for the project has not been reached as of May 2020.[31]

In February of 2021 Drax Group announced they had cancelled the gas units proposal.[7]

Nonviolent direct action against Drax

On the morning of June 13, 2008, 40 Camp for Climate Action activists, a small number disguised as railway workers, flagged down and stopped a coal train on its way to Drax Power Station. Protesters climbed onto the train and unloaded almost 20 tons of coal onto the tracks[32] while others chained themselves to the train. A banner was unfurled reading 'Leave it in the Ground!'. Riot police stormed the train and removed the protesters around midnight. 29 were arrested[33].

White Rose CCS Project

The White Rose CCS Project is a proposed 426 MW coal-fired power station with carbon capture and storage. In February 2011 a consortium of Alstom UK Ltd, Drax Power Limited and National Grid announced that they were seeking EU NER300 funding for a new oxy-fired CCS demonstration project based at the site of the existing Drax Power Station.

The initial press release stated that National Grid, "together with an experienced offshore partner, will develop a transportation system out to the southern North Sea where the CO2 will be permanently stored."[34]

In late October 2012, the Department of Energy and Climate Change announced that the project had been short-listed as one of four bidders "for the next phase of the UK’s £1bn Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) competition."[35]

In April 2014, the European Commission confirmed that the White Rose CCS project was in line to receive a 300m-euro boost from the EU, expected in June 2014.[22]

In July 2014, the project was awarded "up to €300 million" from the European Union NER300 programme. The media release announcing the decision stated that the new coal fired power station "will burn coal with the potential to co-fire sustainable biomass."[36]

A final investment decision was expected in 2016, with construction soon following, and carbon sequestration between 2019-2020.[37]

In September 2015, UK power generator Drax said it will quit funding the White Rose CCS project when the feasibility study on the project is completed within six to 12 months. The company said that “dramatic” changes to the company’s profitability, partly caused by government cuts in support for renewable energy, forced the company to cut spending. However, the company said the site for the White Rose project, next to Drax’s existing coal-fired plant, would continue to be available for the project.[38]

In November 2015, the UK Government confirmed that the £1 billion capital budget for the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Competition was no longer available. Commenting on the news, CEO of Capture Power Leigh Hackett said: “It is too early to make any definitive decisions about the future of the White Rose CCS Project, however, it is difficult to imagine its continuation in the absence of crucial Government support.”[39] Energy and climate change minister Andrea Leadsom said that £31m of taxpayer’s money had been spent on White Rose. The future of the plant is uncertain, but appears to be shelved unless government funding is restored.[40] Giving evidence to the Energy and Climate Change Committee, Capture Power finance director Richard Simon-Lewis said: "We are now in transition to closure mode."[41]

In April 2016, UK energy secretary Amber Rudd refused development consent for the White Rose carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, as Capture Power had itself conceded during the application process that there are “no contingent funds to cover the absence of these government-sourced funds” and that no alternative sources of funding had been identified.[8]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: Drax Group plc
  • Parent company: Drax Group plc[42]
  • Location: Drax, North Yorkshire County, United Kingdom
  • Coordinates: 53.7372, -0.9990 (exact)
  • Gross generating capacity (operating): 1,402 MW
    • Unit 5: Coal-fired subcritical, 701 MW (start-up in 1985)
    • Unit 6: Coal-fired subcritical, 701 MW (start-up in 1986)
    • Unit 9G: Gas-fired[43] gas turbine[44], 25 MW[43] (Start up 1971)[44]
    • Unit 10G: Gas-fired[45] gas turbine[44], 25 MW[45] (Start up 1971)[44]
    • Unit 12G: Gas-fired[46] gas turbine[44], 25 MW[46] (Start up 1971)[44]
  • Gross generating capacity (cancelled): 3,600 MW
    • Unit 5 Repower: Gas-fired combined cycle, 1,800 MW (start-up in 2023)
    • Unit 6 Repower: Gas-fired combined cycle, 1,800 MW (start-up in 2023)
  • Gross generating capacity (retired): 2,804 MW
    • Unit 1: Coal-fired subcritical, 701 MW (start-up in 1974)
    • Unit 2: Coal-fired subcritical, 701 MW (start-up in 1974)
    • Unit 3: Coal-fired subcritical, 701 MW (start-up in 1976)
    • Unit 4: Coal-fired subcritical, 701 MW (start-up in 1984)

Project Details of proposed CCS power station

  • Sponsor: Capture Power Limited[47]
  • Parent company: Alstom, Drax Power Limited, and National Grid
  • Developer: Alstom (power plant and CO2 processing), BOC (air separation unit)[47]
  • Location: Drax, Selby, North Yorkshire, UK
  • Coordinates: 53.735833,-0.996389 (exact)
  • Status: Cancelled
  • Capacity: 426 MW
  • Type: Oxyfuel, Carbon capture and storage
  • Start date:
  • Coal Type: Hard coal
  • Coal Source:
  • Source of financing: European Union


Articles and Resources


  1. Drax Power Station, Drax website, accessed February 4, 2020.
  2. "Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES): electricity". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2022-04-22.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Biomass Stack Emission Estimates for Drax power plants in the UK 2013-2017," Southern Environmental Law Center, March 1, 2017
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Drax closer to coal-free future with fourth biomass unit conversion," Drax, August 20, 2018
  5. 5.0 5.1 Jillian Ambrose, "Drax power plant to stop burning coal, with loss of 230 jobs," Guardian, Feb. 27, 2020
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Drax Power Station coal-to-gas replacement," Drax, accessed November 2019
  7. 7.0 7.1 Drax scraps plan for Europe's largest gas plant after climate protests, The Guardian, Feb 25, 2021
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Energy secretary refuses planning consent for White Rose CCS scheme," Utilityh Week, 19/04/2016
  9. Drax Group website
  10. Richard Wachman, "Drax scraps plans for UK biomass plants," The Guardian, Feb. 21, 2012.
  11. Drax flue gas stack
  12. Drax Group website
  13. Drax flue gas stack
  14. Drax Group website
  15. Drax Power Plant Refinancing, IJGlobal, Feb. 4, 2020
  16. Drax Power Additional Financing 2006, IJGlobal, May 11, 2017
  17. Drax Power Selby Power Plant Refinancing, IJGlobal, Feb. 28, 2013
  18. Drax Power Station Refinancing III, IJGlobal, July 11, 2013
  19. Drax Coal-Fired Power Plant (3960MW) Refinancing 2015, IJGlobal, Oct. 18, 2016
  20. Drax to stop using coal well ahead of UK’s deadline, Drax, February 27, 2020
  21. Drax agrees to extend life of coal-fired power units over winter, The Guardian, July 6, 2022
  22. 22.0 22.1 Matt McGrath, "EU green light for UK carbon capture and storage project," BBC, Apr 17, 2014.
  23. "Drax biomass support boosts Haven offering for customers". Haven Power. 2 August 2012. Archived from the original on 20 February 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  24. "Drax's biomass-fired unit 'performing beautifully'". Scunthorpe Telegraph. 16 July 2013. Archived from the original on 17 December 2014. Retrieved 11 November 2014. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  25. McKenna, John (13 May 2014). "Fuel shortage forces Drax co-firing". processengineering.theengineer.co.uk. Retrieved 30 April 2015.
  26. Vaughan, Adam (29 December 2016). "European commission approves Drax biomass subsidy". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  27. "EU green light for Drax 3". renews.biz. 18 December 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016.
  28. 28.0 28.1 "Drax looking at 'coal-free future' as it reveals £83m pre-tax loss," Guardian, July 19, 2017
  29. "Drax moves closer to coal-free future with unit four conversion," Drax, June 6, 2018
  30. 30.0 30.1 "UK approval for biggest gas power station in Europe ruled legal," The Guardian, May 22, 2020
  31. "The UK high court confirms approval of Drax's 3.6 GW CCGT project," Enerdata, May 27, 2020
  32. "Coal train ambushed near power station in climate change protest", The Guardian, June 14, 2008.
  33. "Police arrest 29 coal train protesters", Reuters UK, June 14, 2008.
  34. Alstom, "Alstom confirms joint application for CCS project funding", Media Release, February 10, 2011.
  35. Department of Energy and Climate Change, "Short list for UK’s £1bn CCS competition announced", Media Release, October 30, 2012.
  36. "White Rose CCS Project secures award decision on European NER300 funding", Media Release, July 8, 2014.
  37. "White Rose CCS Project," Global CCS Institute, updated 7/5/2015
  38. "Drax pulls out of £1bn carbon capture project," BBC, 25 September 2015
  39. "Government withdraws CCS Commercialisation Programme," White Rose, 25/11/2015
  40. "Spending watchdog to examine scrapping of £1bn carbon capture plant," Guardian, Jan 31, 2016
  41. "CCS SCHEME CLOSURE NEARS," Insider Media, 22 Jan 2016
  42. Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) 549300YPSNTXR4ZHSR98 Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation, accessed January 2020
  43. 43.0 43.1 "Entso-E Transparency Platform, ID 48W000DRAXX-10G9". European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity. October 2021.
  44. 44.0 44.1 44.2 44.3 44.4 44.5 Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (July 29, 2021). "National statistics - Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES): electricity". Gov.uk. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  45. 45.0 45.1 "Entso-E Transparency Platform, ID 48W000DRAXX-10G9". European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity. October 2021.
  46. 46.0 46.1 "Entso-E Transparency Platform, ID 48W000DRAXX-12G3". European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity. October 2021.
  47. 47.0 47.1 "About White Rose," Capture Power, accessed July 2014

Related GEM.wiki articles

External Articles

Wikipedia also has an article on Drax power station. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.