Biofuelwatch UK issues legal challenge to decision to allow carbon capture installation at Drax power plant

22 Mar 2024

Planning and Environment

Biofuelwatch UK are mounting a legal challenge to the Energy Secretary’s decision to give development consent for the continued burning of biomass at up to two of the four biomass units run by Drax Power Ltd in Selby, on a Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage basis.

This decision will effectively allow the generation of electricity from burning almost entirely imported wood pellets attracting large government subsidies until 2035.

Biofuelwatch UK argues that the decision is unlawful because likely harmful environmental effects were not assessed or taken into account in breach of the 2017 Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessement) Regulations.

In its application for judicial review, Biofuelwatch contends the Energy Secretary’s decision failed to comply with the EIA regulations in three ways:

  • By zero-rating the carbon (CO2) emissions from biomass burning, i.e. treating it as producing no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, despite the obvious and indisputable fact that the combustion of biomass releases huge quantities of GHG emissions
  • By excluding the CO2 emissions from the units to be fitted with the carbon capture technology
  • By treating the works to construct and operate transport and storage facilities for captured carbon as a separate project. Biofuelwatch says the Humber Low Carbon Pipelines Project to transfer the CO2 and store it in rock formations under the North Sea is essential for the Carbon Capture Usage and Storage (CCUS) to operate as a whole and should have been treated as the same project for EIA purposes.

The impact of these errors on the decision was significant; they allowed the Energy Secretary to treat the project as resulting in a net reduction in emissions of 7,975,620 tCO2e per annum.

Estelle Dehon KC and Ben Mitchell of 11KBW represent Biofuelwatch UK in this challenge, instructed by Rowan Smith of Leigh Day.  You can read more in Leigh Day’s press release here and in this ENDS report article.