Drax Group will explore the feasibility of using molten carbonate fuel cells as a technology for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) having secured £500,000 of funding from the UK Government.

Fuel cell FEED study to assess the feasibility of building a second carbon capture pilot at Drax Power Station will help position the UK as a world leader in the fight against climate change.

The technology used will produce power at the same time as capturing carbon dioxide from Drax’s flue gases.

Neighbouring horticultural site will use the CO2 to improve yields and demonstrate how businesses working together in clusters can deliver climate solutions.

The government funding will be used to explore using FuelCell Energy’s molten carbon fuel cell to generate electricity whilst capturing CO2 from the flue gases produced during the combustion of biomass for renewable power generation at Drax.

Once captured, the CO2 will be transported to a horticultural site which is located next to the power station, to help improve its greenhouse yields.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, said: “We believe fuel cell technology could help us to meet the rise in global demand for electricity, whilst capturing the carbon dioxide produced during its generation.

“Our FEED study will help us to understand the technical and economic feasibility of fuel cells, with a view to scaling the technology up, whilst showing that clusters of businesses working together to deliver climate change solutions, can also deliver benefits for their business.”

Chris Skidmore, Energy & Clean Growth Minister, said: “Cutting edge technology to capture carbon will cut emissions as we work towards a net zero economy while creating new jobs – a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“This innovative project from Drax represents a major milestone in efforts to rollout carbon capture at scale by the 2030s. The technology developed by US-based FuelCell Energy captures the CO2 from an external flue gas stream whilst also generating electricity. This gives the technology a potential advantage over solvent-based systems, which can consume heat and electricity in order to operate.

“Carbon capture using FuelCell Energy’s solution is a potential game-changer for affordability and efficiency of concentrating and capturing carbon dioxide from emitters,” said Tony Leo, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer, FuelCell Energy.

“We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Drax and BEIS for such an innovative and critically important subject as cleaner energy.”

The FEED study will explore the potential for utilising the CO2 from the fuel cell pilot to help improve crop yields. Tomatoes and other salad crops will be grown by APS Group in huge greenhouses owned by P3P Partners which are next to Drax Power Station.

Philip Elborne, Business Development Manager at P3P Partners LLP said: “We are really excited to be working with Drax on their Fuel Cell carbon capture project. We pride ourselves on building and operating high quality, efficient combined heat and power systems and are committed to delivering the most value to our customers. Being able to utilise CO2 captured from this system into our glasshouses will help us to achieve this while supporting the goal to reduce emissions.”

Phil Pearson, Group Development Director at APS Group said: “This exciting partnership with Drax will enable carbon dioxide captured at their power station to be piped to our neighbouring glasshouses to produce high quality salad crops. We have already deployed gas-fired combined heat and power systems on all of our British glasshouse nurseries to produce clean electricity for local communities whilst using the carbon dioxide and heat to grow the crops with negligible waste.”

Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire is the UK’s largest renewable power generator after converting two thirds of the plant to use sustainable biomass instead of coal.

It is now looking at a range of technologies which could enable it to capture the carbon dioxide released from the combustion of biomass to become the world’s first negative emissions power station.

The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering have estimated that bioenergy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) could enable the UK to capture 50 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year by 2050 – approximately half the nation’s emissions target.

The Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study will be completed at Drax later this year.

See animation which shows how the fuel cell technology works