Converting a coal-fired power station to one that burns wood might sound easy enough, until you see first-hand what is involved. It is only when you stand in the middle of the sprawling Drax power station near Selby in North Yorkshire – the biggest in Britain – that you realise the sheer scale of Europe’s largest decarbonisation project. The first thing to hit you is the difference between how the coal and the wood pellets are stored on site, and the incendiary reason why. While the vast store of coal is spread out, open to all weathers, the bone-dry pellets have to be protected from the elements in four huge storage domes 50m (164ft) high – about 30 per cent taller than the Royal Albert Hall. Whereas coal is fed into a power station when wet (it quickly dries out when milled into dust for the furnace), the wood pellets become unusable if damp. So they have to be kept dry inside their storage domes, which themselves have to filled with nitrogen gas to limit the risk of spontaneous combustion. But this is just one of the many differences between the old and the new Drax. Converting a power plant from coal to biomass fuel has never been done on this scale anywhere in the world – and the engineering involved has broken new ground.
Independent 4th Jan 2016 read more »