Much of the electricity you use in your house originates from Drax Power Station at Selby. It produces 6% of the country’s electricity. You’ve probably seen the six boilers, each as high as a 15-storey office block, and the main chimney which is taller than the London Eye.
Drax claims to produce renewable energy by burning wood pellets. But a recent Panorama programme found that they were actually destroying ancient forests to produce the pellets.
Panorama reporter Joe Crowley went to British Columbia in Canada, which is home to many ‘primary forests’ which are areas of the most ancient, dense woodland that stores the most carbon.
Drax’s sustainability policy says it should avoid cutting down primary forests, however, the BBC found that Drax had bid for licences to log in areas that contained primary forests.
The BBC headed to areas that meet the UN definition for primary forests and followed logs being transported from the site to Drax pellet mills to make wood pellets. The BBC said in the documentary that Drax had told them the species of trees being used wouldn’t have been wanted by the timber industry so would have been burned anyway.
Trees are replanted to offset the impact of deforestation supposedly, but ecologists said it is unlikely replanted trees could ever store as much carbon as the older trees, even when replanted.
Ecologist Michelle Connolly, who appeared in the Panorama programme, said the deforestation was “devastating” and “deeply upsetting”. She also said that British taxpayers were “funding this destruction”.
Drax Director of Sustainability Alan Knight says its pellets are made from leftover material from local sawmills and logs that are “twisted and bent” or “diseased and rotten” – wood that can’t be used for timber.
The BBC investigated the quality of the logs they found at Drax’s Canadian sites by checking Canadian log databases. There they found that many of the logs were graded as good enough for woodworking.
Drax is the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter and receives billions of renewable subsidies to burn millions of tonnes of trees a year. It is now clear there is nothing renewable about the process, so it shouldn’t be classified as renewable energy and they shouldn’t be eligible for these subsidies. Various groups are campaigning against it, notably Biofuelwatch, Axe Drax and Stop Burning Trees.
Drax is applying for planning permission to add carbon capture infrastructure to two of its wood-burning units.
There is little evidence that Drax has the technical ability to successfully capture large amounts of CO2, suggesting that Drax wants to obtain this planning permission in order to attract new subsidies and investments to replace their current renewable subsidies of £2.68 million per day when they expire in 2027. Ember, an energy think tank using data-driven insights to shift the world to clean energy, estimates that Drax’s Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) will cost £31.7 billion.
If the planning application is approved, Drax will continue burning trees from some of the world’s most biodiverse forests for decades to come, harming the climate and polluting communities in the process.
The project will have serious impacts on wildlife and communities near Drax with increased traffic, constant noise and the degradation and destruction of important habitats of rare and protected species. The chemicals (amines) Drax will use in BECCS can release by-products into the atmosphere such as nitrosamines and nitramines which are probable carcinogens which can cause cancer.
Drax claims it can become “carbon negative” by using Carbon Capture and Storage to absorb more emissions than it produces. However, this is based on the false assumption that burning wood is “carbon neutral”. In reality, it will take decades for new trees to absorb the emissions produced by burning trees.
Drax’s planning application is reliant upon a pipeline to transport and store the carbon dioxide under the North Sea. This pipeline is not included in their current application, yet is reliant upon it. The National Grid is expected to apply for planning consent for a huge new CO2 pipeline in the North Sea near Hull, which would be connected not just with Drax but with sites operated by some of the world’s biggest fossil fuel polluters.
Nearly 300 people objected in the first stage of the planning application process.
Michael Tranter writes in an objection “The lack of knowledge in the documents provided is frightening. They’ve even avoided telling the public in any detail how they intend to put the CO2 under the sea, they’ve created a memorandum of understanding with a sub-limited company to do the transportation of the CO2 to the ocean. This avoids them having to describe in detail how they intend to transport the CO2 in these documents. Surely a large power station producing 9.6 million tons of CO2 should at least say how they intend to store it. They show us in these documents how they will use even more energy to capture the gas and then what? Nothing is said about permanent capture. It’s all pie in the sky thinking.”
Please take action! You can email your MP using the template here.(thanks to Cut Carbon Not Forests)