Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

UK Biomass Plant Starts Groundbreaking Carbon Capture Project

Energy
Biomass storage at Drax power station in North Yorkshire. Chris Allen

For the first time, carbon dioxide is being captured at a biomass power plant in the UK.

Britain's Drax announced that its pilot bioenergy carbon capture and storage project is expected to capture a ton of CO2 a day from its North Yorkshire-based wood-burning plant. The company is also finding ways to store and use the captured carbon.


"This innovative technology has the potential to make huge strides in our efforts to tackle climate change while kick-starting an entirely new cutting-edge industry in the UK," Britain's energy and clean growth minister Claire Perry said in a press release.

If everything goes to plan, Drax hopes that by scaling up the technology—developed by Leeds-based C-Capture—it can enable the creation of negative-emission biomass power plants, meaning the facilities can remove more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it generates.

The BBC explained how such plants can go negative:

When a forest grows, the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it to make their wood.

If you burn that wood, the process doesn't emit any extra CO2 into the atmosphere—because the trees removed it from the air in the first place. It's called carbon neutral.

If you go one step further by capturing the CO2 from wood burning, you're actually reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere overall.

Proponents of carbon capture and storage or CCS, tout it as a way to help stop global temperature rise. Power companies are investing in this technology to trap CO2 on site and prevent the heat-trapping gases from being released into the air. One day, the captured and stored carbon can be repurposed.

For instance, Drax said in its press release that it is in discussions with the British Beer and Pub Association to see if it could use the carbon captured in its pilot to help keep the fizz in the carbonated drinks.

However, critics say the nascent technology is too expensive to implement on a large scale for it to be commercially viable.

"One way to reduce coal's impact is to capture, compress and bury its emissions—but it's much simpler, cheaper and safer to simply leave the coal in the ground," Simon Holmes à Court, a senior adviser to the Energy Transition Hub at Melbourne University, wrote in the Guardian.

Another drawback of "bioenergy carbon capture and storage" projects, like the one at Drax, is the massive quantities of crops being burned for power. Every year, Drax's biomass plant burns about 7 million metric tons of wood chips—mostly from trees grown in the U.S.—to generate 6 percent of the UK's electricity, according to the BBC.

Although trees are technically renewable, growing them requires an abundance of land. Cutting them down also negatively impacts the wildlife that depend on the trees.

"We must be cautious of technologies that aim to remediate the carbon problem while greatly expanding our impact on the land," Harvard University professor David Keith warned to the BBC.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Zak Smith

It is pretty amazing that in this moment when the COVID-19 outbreak has much of the country holed up in their homes binging Netflix, the most watched show in America over the last few weeks has been focused on wildlife trade — which scientists believe is the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Make no mistake: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is about wildlife trade and other aspects of wildlife exploitation, just as surely as the appearance of Ebola, SARS, MERS, avian flu and probably COVID-19 in humans is a result of wildlife exploitation. As a conservationist, this is one of the things I've been thinking about while watching Tiger King. Here are five more:

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Hector Chapa

With the coronavirus pandemic quickly spreading, U.S. health officials have changed their advice on face masks and now recommend people wear cloth masks in public areas where social distancing can be difficult, such as grocery stores.

But can these masks be effective?

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Jörg Carstensen / picture alliance via Getty Images

By Carey Gillam

Bayer AG is reneging on negotiated settlements with several U.S. law firms representing thousands of plaintiffs who claim exposure to Monsanto's Roundup herbicides caused them to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma, sources involved in the litigation said on Friday.

Read More Show Less
Tom Werner / DigitalVision / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

With many schools now closed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak, you may be looking for activities to keep your children active, engaged, and entertained.

Although numerous activities can keep kids busy, cooking is one of the best choices, as it's both fun and educational.

Read More Show Less
In Germany's Hunsrück village of Schorbach, numerous photovoltaic systems are installed on house roofs, on Sept. 19, 2019. Thomas Frey / Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Germany's target for renewable energy sources to deliver 65% of its consumed electricity by 2030 seemed on track Wednesday, with 52% of electricity coming from renewables in 2020's first quarter. Renewable energy advocates, however, warned the trend is imperiled by slowdowns in building new wind and solar plants.

Read More Show Less