May 20, 2018 / 11:05 PM / in 3 months

Britain's Drax launches bioenergy carbon capture project

LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) - British power company Drax will start work this month on a pilot bioenergy carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at its plant in Yorkshire, northern England, it said on Monday.

The project is the first of its kind in Europe, the company said, and will examine the potential of capturing carbon dioxide from bioenergy sources, effectively removing the greenhouse gas from the atmosphere.

Drax, which generates about 6 percent of Britain’s electricity, has converted three of its previously coal-fired units to biomass plants that use wood pellets, often made from compressed sawdust. A fourth conversion will be complete by the end of the year.

Conventional CCS captures carbon dioxide from power plants fired by coal and other fossil fuels and stores it underground, but the technology is still small scale and very costly.

In bioenergy CCS (BECCS), the plants or trees used to produce biomass soak up carbon from the atmosphere as they grow. When the biomass is combusted to produce energy, the carbon is released into the atmosphere but there are no new net carbon emissions.

However, if bioenergy is combined with CCS, the carbon dioxide is not released but is stored underground or deep under the seabed, thereby resulting in negative net emissions.

Drax said it will invest 400,000 pounds ($538,880) in what could be the first of several pilot BECCS projects.

The first phase will start this month and, depending on the outcome of a feasibility study, the second phase could begin before the end of the year.

BECCS is thought by many climate scientists to be a viable tool to help to keep global warming within safe limits.

However, there are also concerns that it could lead to biodiversity losses and drive up food prices in some parts of the world. ($1 = 0.7423 pounds)

Reporting by Nina Chestney Editing by David Goodman

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