UK’s Drax kickstarts new coal-to-gas conversion plans

UK power generator Drax has started formal planning of a mega project to convert two coal-fired units to natural gas, as well as build battery storage at its Drax Power Station in northern England, Kallanish Energy reports.

The company said Wednesday it gave notice to the Planning Inspectorate of its intention to consult on long-term options, which could create up to 3,600 megawatts (MW) of new gas generation capacity. Plans would also add 200 MW of battery storage to the company’s portfolio.

The upgrade would enhance Drax Power Station’s responsive capability, and make Yorkshire the home of large-scale battery technology. The projects are subject to a 15-year capacity market contract, and a positive final investment decision. Public consultation will begin in coming weeks.

“We are at the start of the planning process but, if developed, these options for gas and battery storage show how Drax could upgrade our existing infrastructure to provide capacity, stability and essential grid services, as we do with biomass,” said Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO.

“This would continue to keep costs low for consumers and help to deliver on the government’s commitment to remove coal from the UK grid,” he added.

The company is currently converting its fourth unit to biomass. Three units have already been upgraded, on-time and on-budget, Drax said. Since the UK’s announcement to phase out coal power generation, the firm converted from burning coal to becoming a predominantly biomass-fueled electricity generation.

The Drax power plant in North Yorkshire supplies 7% of the country’s electricity needs. It’s the biggest single-site renewable generator in the UK and the largest decarbonization project in Europe.