Drax to double wood pellet production with biomass firm purchase

The owner of the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire is expected to move ahead with a $652m deal to double its production of wood pellets after its shareholders voted 99.9% in favour of buying a Canadian biomass company.

The deal will accelerate Drax Group’s plans to become a leading biomass electricity generator by substituting wood pellets in place of coal at its power plant – despite warnings from scientists, green campaigners and sustainable investors that burning wood pellets could accelerate the climate crisis.

More than 20 environmental organisations, including the sustainable investment group Share Action, wrote an open letter to Drax shareholders in March urging them to vote against the deal. The letter warned that burning more imported wood pellets could accelerate the climate crisis, and increase the company’s contribution to biodiversity loss and the potential for violations of Indigenous people’s land rights.

The groups added their voice to growing concerns over biomass power plants. Drax claims that burning wood pellets is “carbon neutral” because the emissions released by wood pellet combustion in a power plant are offset by the emissions that trees absorb while they grow. The claim is disputed by many environmental scientists and campaigners.

The latest warning to Drax shareholders followed a seperate open letter, signed by more than a dozen green groups including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, which warned government ministers against relying too heavily on plans to capture carbon emissions from biomass plants to create “negative emissions”.

Drax claims that its plans to capture the carbon emissions from burning biomass have been proven at its North Yorkshire site to be “the most cost-effective negative emissions technology available now”.

The green groups refute this claim, and have warned that the “costly” plans would fail to deliver “negative emissions” after accounting for the full carbon footprint of biomass in the power sector. It would also put enormous pressure on forests and pose serious risks to land use, agriculture and biodiversity in the UK and abroad, according to the letter.

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