Drax’s new “White Elephant” coal plant – why DECC shouldn’t subsidise CCS
March 5, 2015

Biofuelwatch have produced a briefing on the new “White Rose” coal-fired power station, which is expected to be awarded almost £1 billion by DECC this year. Download the briefing here, and read Biofuelwatch’s summary below.

The White Rose “CCS” project: Why it may never capture carbon and why public subsidies should not be spent on Drax’s new “White Elephant” coal power plant

The White Rose Project by Drax, Alstom and BOC is a new coal power station (possibly to be co-fired with biomass) next to Drax’s existing coal and biomass power station, for which a planning application has already been submitted. The White Rose plant would be capable of capturing carbon but it could technically be run more efficiently and cheaply as a conventional coal power plant without any CCS. National Grid is currently considering whether to invest in infrastructure to transport CO2 from the White Rose site and to pump it underneath the North Sea, but these considerations and any possible planning application associated with them are entirely separate from the planning application for the White Rose plant.

Nonetheless, the project is one of just two ‘preferred bidders’ for a £900 million capital grant from DECC and the developers have already received £50 million from DECC for a feasibility study. DECC also expects the project to attract a Green Investment Bank loan. If the plant was built and run with CCS, it would be eligible for annual subsidies (Contract for Difference) and for a up to €300 million from the European Commission.

However, running it without CCS may prove to be more lucrative. No other country in the world is investing in a scheme like the White Rose project. The technology for capturing carbon this way has already been tested and shown to be too expensive and inefficient to be commercially viable. Only a technological breakthrough could change this situation. Major public funding for a technology which two large energy firms have tested and dismissed as commercially unviable will not make CCS any more commercially viable; it will merely increase the demand for coal and potentially for wood pellets, as well as increasing CO2 emissions from coal mining, from logging and forest degradation (if wood pellets are co-fired) and from the new power plant’s smokestack since, at the very most, only 90% of CO2 can be captured, with no guarantee of any being captured at all.