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Grimsby Telegraph: Huge biomass transformation taking shape across the £700m supply chain that Immingham sits in the midst of



ENERGY secretary Ed Davey has officially opened the complex systems that will be used to handle the three million tonnes of biomass set to be received by Port of Immingham annually, at the end destination Drax.

While work continues on the £75-million terminal in northern Lincolnshire, with the huge receiving silos now towering over the docks, all attention was on the Selby power plant, where the coal giant is continuing on a rapid transformation to become the UK’s largest single renewable electricity generator.

As previously reported, new systems to receive, store and distribute sustainable biomass and fully support Drax Power Station’s first converted biomass unit, as well as further units as they are converted, have been developed over recent months, snaking round the existing plant that is well into its fourth decade of power provision.

The biomass conversion will eventually see three of the six generating units at the power station converted to burn sustainable pelletised wood in place of coal. The first unit has been running successfully one biomass since the beginning of April, with the second planned for next year and the third in 2016. Each converted unit will provide enough renewable electricity to meet needs of more than one million homes.

Speaking at the launch, Dorothy Thompson CBE, chief executive of Drax, said: “Today marks the transformation not just of our power station, but of our whole business. I am enormously proud of the team at Drax. The facilities being opened are a unique feat of engineering and remarkably they have been delivered at an operational power station which the country depends on to deliver 7 to 8 per cent of the power we need.

“This fundamental change has implications far beyond Drax and even our supply chain. Sustainable biomass has a critical role in the UK’s electricity mix. It is the only renewable which can deliver low carbon electricity on demand, at the scale the grid needs and precisely when it is needed. It is also a low cost renewable which will help to manage the expense of the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.”

Across its full life cycle biomass can deliver carbon savings of around 80 per cent relative to coal, according to the power giant.

As reported, two pellet plants are being commissioned in the US, with port facilities in the Gulf of Mexico which will provide the bulk of the material required in a £700-million investment. Half of that figure is being spent at Drax, with the remainder covering the transatlantic supply chain, with North East Lincolnshire at the centre of it, and an estimated 75 jobs.

Special rail wagons will be loaded up in Immingham, the end destination for the 50,000 tonne vessels that will leave laden from the southern US state, to then be lugged across North Lincolnshire, and a few miles of South and North Yorkshire, to the plant,

Performing the opening, Mr Davey said: “Today is a real landmark for Drax and for Britain’s energy security. Drax’s ambitious plans have made it one of Europe’s biggest renewable generators, helping to increase our green energy supplies.

“In August we announced challenging and tough sustainability criteria for biomass, and we’ll be monitoring the sector against those standards.”

Drax is currently the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK, but conversion of three of its six generating units to biomass will see its emissions reduced by around ten million tonnes at today’s levels.

The transformation was boosted in the Electricity Market Reform package, announced as 2013 came to a close, with a plan to convert the next two generating units found to be the top ranked qualifying projects out of 16 approved by Government.

Ms Thompson said: “We are pleased with the news that the Government has provisionally ranked our two projects highest amongst qualifying projects for early Contracts for Difference. This reflects the deliverability and cost effectiveness of this important renewable technology.

“We will now participate in the next stages of this process, which will conclude with the award of investment contracts in spring 2014.”

Drax will issue its preliminary results for 2013 on Tuesday, February 18.