Project Description

Drax Power Limited

Drax Power Station Biomass Co-firing

As part of their long-term business strategy, Drax Power have been developing their capability to co-fire biomass since 2003.

Business challenges

In 2008 Drax Power embarked on a major investment to build a facility to receive, handle, store, and process biomass fuels of various types. Fuel can be received by either road tanker or by rail. It enables biomass to be directly injected into the six coal fired boilers to be co-fired with the pulverised coal to create heat which is transferred into steam and then into electricity by means of the six steam turbine/ generators.

Together with existing co-firing capacity, the biomass co-firing plant provides the capability to generate 12.5% of Drax’s power from the combustion of biomass fuels.

These materials include sustainable forestry residues and residual agricultural products, such as straw, sunflower seed husks, peanut husks and purpose-grown energy crops such as miscanthus.

This biomass co-firing facility is the largest of its type in the world, and is capable of handling around 1.5 million tonnes of biomass per year. This multi-million pound facility is a key element in the reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. This latest investment by Drax Power not only strengthens their environmental leadership position, but further enhances their reputation to stay at the forefront of developments to establish effective alternative fuel technologies for electricity generation in the UK.

The environmental benefits of this scheme impact both the environment and the economy. These include:

  • Providing a cost effective, reliable and flexible renewable technology
  • It displaces coal burning with carbon neutral biomass fuel, thus reducing CO2 emissions
  • It makes an important contribution towards meeting the Government’s target on the use of renewables in electricity generation

How we helped

Capula was selected by Drax Power and the two nominated EPC contractors to provide the process control and the real-time data management systems which enable this new plant to be operated efficiently and safely, whilst providing the fuel accountancy for all materials processed by the plant.

To achieve this, Capula provided an integrated control system which has the ability to control the new plant areas, whilst interfacing and integrating with the existing six generating control systems and materials handling systems installed at Drax Power Station.

The scope of our works includes:

  • PLC control systems
  • SCADA control and supervision
  • New control room environment and operator desks
  • LV motor control centres
  • LV switchgear and power distribution
  • Power transformers
  • Material Tracking database system

Technology integrated by Capula on this project includes:

  • Schneider Electric Quantum PLC systems
  • Schneider Electric Citect SCADA
  • Microsoft SQL Server database
  • ABB Low Voltage MNSiS intelligent motor starter systems
  • ABB LV variable speed drive systems
  • Power Transformers and Power Distribution Switchboards
  • Dual redundant Ethernet communications networks

The PLC and SCADA systems provide comprehensive control of the process, which is automated as far as possible and permits operator interaction in certain areas. A key part of the system is the Fuel Tracking and Accountancy systems.

This part is responsible for tracking and monitoring the handling of the biomass fuel as it passes through the plant. Data from this system is used to allow Drax Power to report to OFGEM on the quantities and types of fuel burnt and is a vital aspect of the plant control system. Plant monitoring is supplemented by means of CCTV systems which are fully integrated into the systems delivered by Capula. The Biomass Plant and equipment was provided and installed by two EPCs (Alstom Power & C Spencer Ltd). Capula received contracts from these two companies as well as working under direct contract with Drax Power for some aspects of the system.

The coordination of this complex contractual arrangement was challenging for all parties and Capula played a key role in the careful coordination of the works to ensure an integrated solution.

Why Capula

Capula is the long term control and operational IT systems partner to Drax Power Limited. With a relationship spanning the last 15 years, Capula has provided electrical, process control and operational IT solutions to Drax Power on almost all plant control systems at Drax. The intimate knowledge gained during this work made Capula the obvious choice to design and commission a fully integrated solution for this major biomass co-firing project.