An energy company once labelled western Europe’s biggest polluter is planning to become the world’s first carbon-negative business within 10 years. The owner of the Drax power plant, once a coal-fired behemoth, is the first company in the world to set out plans to absorb more carbon emissions from the air than it creates by 2030. The bold ambition will build on its work to transform the Drax plant in North Yorkshire from one of the dirtiest power stations to a renewable energy giant and a pioneer of carbon capture. For decades the UK’s largest single power plant pumped millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by burning coal to make electricity. In recent years Drax has converted its huge coal generation units to run on renewable biomass, or wood pellets. Drax is part of an alliance of companies that hope to make the Humber region – one of the UK’s most polluting industrial zones – carbon neutral by capturing carbon from factories and and low-carbon hydrogen producers. If their plan works, the UK would safeguard thousands of manufacturing jobs and make enough hydrogen to wean the UK off high-carbon gas. But the use of BECCs is not without its critics. The concerns are twofold: many international academics and environmentalists have warned that there remain significant uncertainties over the carbon accounting of BECCs projects. Others have said that unless the sluggish progress of carbon capture can quicken, the full benefits of bioenergy will not be realised.
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