Edward Davey MP opens new Drax biomass facilities

Drax, the UK’s largest power station, is set to become the UK’s largest single renewable electricity generator through the operation of new biomass facilities constructed by Shepherd Group.

Shepherd Group, working in partnership with Drax, is helping the company deliver a UK first on its journey to becoming a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary, the Rt Hon Edward Davey MP, joined representatives from Drax and Shepherd Group to open new systems to receive, store and distribute sustainable biomass which fully support Drax Power Station’s first converted biomass unit, as well as further units as they are converted.

The biomass conversion will ultimately see three of the six generating units at the Yorkshire power station converted to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal. The first unit has been running successfully on sustainable 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 the equivalent needs of over 1 million homes.

Mark Perkins, Chief Executive of Shepherd Group Built Environment, commented: “This marks a key milestone both for Shepherd and for our client Drax in an extremely complex project.

“It shows what can be achieved by British industry not only in terms of Drax's visionary strategy, but in the ability of UK expertise in the Built Environment sector to turn that vision into a world class point of reference for exemplar and ground breaking design and engineering.

“This is the sort of project that in the long term really makes a difference to the lives of people in the UK and indirectly, in years to come, many further afield also."

Phil Greer, Managing Director at Shepherd Construction, said that it was a ‘pleasure’ to mark the opening of the new biomass power plant at Drax and to support its move to become a lower carbon generator.

Mr Greer added: “This represents a significant achievement for my team after almost three years’ work, constructing extensive storage and handling facilities, as well as the enabling infrastructure works to transport high volumes of biomass material across the site.

"To deliver such an ambitious project has required a truly global approach, working closely with our supply chain to offer innovative, bespoke solutions to meet Drax’s specific needs and expectations.

"We've harnessed expertise from across the Shepherd Group to meet this complex technical challenge, with three operating companies - Shepherd Construction, SES and Portasilo - working closely together to deliver this UK first for Drax."

As a low cost, low carbon and reliable form of renewable power, sustainable biomass is an essential part of the energy mix which can be counted on to be available when it is needed.

Mr Davey said: "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 Power Station is currently the largest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK, but conversion of three of its six generating units to sustainable biomass will see its emissions reduced by around 10 million tonnes on today’s levels. This will help to tackle climate change and will form a crucial part of the UK’s power mix.

Jason Shipstone, Engineering Manager at Drax, added: “The Drax biomass conversion project is complex – it’s not simply a matter of swapping one fuel for another. Selecting the right partners for the job was critical and we are working well with Shepherd Group.

“Together we are overcoming the engineering and construction challenges that are part and parcel of a project of this size.”