A REMARKABLE CONTRACT BETWEEN MITSUBISHI AND DRAX FOR THE WORLD’S LARGEST CARBON-CAPTURING PROJECT

Power Technology

It is believed that agricultural activities account for 70% of carbon emissions in the form of methane. However, there is insufficient evidence to support this claim. Researchers attempted to determine the contribution of multinational corporations to carbon emissions in order to have a more thorough understanding of these aspects. During the period 2008 to 2016, MNCs were estimated to be responsible for 22% of total CO2 output. Recognizing the environmental risks posed by these emissions, more than 100 MNCs have launched programmes to reduce CO2 levels.

Drax Group, a renewable energy firm based in the United Kingdom, has embarked on a huge decarbonization project that is thought to be the largest of its kind in Europe. Drax is a founding member of the Zero Carbon Humber initiative, which intends to decarbonize the UK’s most carbon-intensive industrial cluster by deploying green technologies including Biomass Energy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), Hydrogen, and industrial CCS.

Recently, the Drax Group has entered into a long-term carbon-capturing contract with the Japanese company Mitsubishi. In 2020 Drax began testing two amine-based solvents developed by the Japanese company and has chosen one of these for what would be the UK’s largest negative emissions project, at its biomass plant in North Yorkshire. The contract has been signed to meet the Paris agreement target of limiting global warming temperature by 1.50.  The partnership between two industries supports thousands of jobs across the UK.

It not only aims at reducing carbon emissions but also to boost the UK economy in the Covid-19 crisis. This is basically a 12 months pilot project to understand the potential of both industries to employ new technology. This pilot will capture 300kgs of carbon per day, for the purpose of confirming its technology’s suitability for use with biomass flue gases at Drax. Under this contract amine-based absorbent, KS21 technology has been used to capture the carbon.

The contract intends to reduce carbon emissions by more than 78% by the year 2035 in the UK.  As a trial, Drax tested two of Mitsubishi’s proprietary solvents used in the project. One is already being used in 13 commercial plants, including Petra Nova in Texas, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture facility. This carbon-capturing solvent is expected to bring economic benefits including reduced running costs.

Drax is tight-lipped about the energy costs of carbon capture and solvent regeneration but the new solvent has been designed for optimal energy use, which at the Drax plant will be nearly half of older technologies. It is less volatile and more stable than its predecessor, which Drax also tested. There it captures 1.4 million tons of CO2 a year. Further, Drax says that with an ‘effective negative emissions policy and investment framework’ from the government the first unit could be in operation by 2027. Two units would capture 50% of emissions from biomass power generation – some 8 million tons a year, by 2030

Drax has already trailed MHI technology under its pilot project in the year 2020. The company has already replaced sustainable biomass with coal. This has led to the more a reduction in emissions by up to 85%.  By installing BECCS technology Drax aims at becoming carbon negative by the year 2030. It is estimated that BECCS technology will be implemented by the year 2027. It has already started the process of deployment of BECCS at its power station in North Yorkshire. 

It is projected that the implementation of BECCS can remove 16 million tons of carbon emissions, which accounts for a third of what is required to reach zero carbon targets by 2050. It would also anchor a zero-carbon industrial cluster in the Humber region, delivering clean growth whilst protecting over 55 thousand jobs. 

The Drax company has recommended UK government achieve net-zero emissions by the year 2050. Further, Committee on Climate Change (CCC) suggested that current technological solutions and framing stronger policies can help in achieving at least 97% of the net-zero economy. The remaining 3% can be achieved through the effective implementation of CCC solutions. 

The creation of this joint venture acts as a model for future interactions with diverse companies while aiming to reduce global carbon emissions. By aiming towards net-zero carbon emissions, the long-term contract has a positive impact on environmental improvement. Furthermore, it has a good impact on society by contributing to long-term growth, which leads to the creation of new jobs and the retention of existing ones. Drax and Mitsubishi also state that they are willing to invest in projects that reduce carbon emissions and promote green economic growth.

Multiple effective solutions are needed to reduce carbon emissions at the global level. Initiatives by well-established companies/MNCs can be one such effective solution in reducing the emissions to a lower level. Through such ventures, socio-economic-ecological sustainability can be achieved for the greater good of mankind. If more companies come forward for such ventures or initiatives then climate change can be catered in an effective way at the global level. 

Soudamini Desai
Soudamini Desai recently completed MSc in economics from symbiosis international deemed university Pune.