Planning permission

The project to develop the latest in high efficiency gas turbine technology at Drax Power Station received a Development Consent Order (DCO) or planning permission in October 2019.

It could enable Drax to deliver more reliable and flexible electricity generation at its power station in North Yorkshire – helping the UK to transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Drax must secure a capacity market agreement to underpin the investment needed to develop the first combined cycle generating unit.

If developed, up to 1,800 megawatts (MW) of new capacity would be available from October 2023. This could help to displace less efficient and higher carbon emitting power stations, enabling further decarbonisation of the power system, whilst creating up to 800 jobs during construction.

The project

Drax is proposing to build new combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) generating units in place of two coal-fired units (known as Units 5 and 6) that will be decommissioned at Drax Power Station, near the town of Selby.

The proposed development is a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) under “the construction or extension of a generating station” category in Part 3 Sections 14(1)(a) and 15(2) of the Planning Act 2008 (as amended). As such, Drax was required to seek planning permission through the Planning Inspectorate (PINS).

The proposed project comprises up to four new gas turbines (up to two for Unit X and up to two for Unit Y), each powering a dedicated generator of up to 600 megawatts (MW) in capacity. Each unit would provide steam, via a Heat Recovery Steam Generator, to a steam turbine for that unit which would generate up to 600MW per unit.

After construction and engineering work, Unit X would have a gross electrical output capacity of up to 1,800 megawatts and Unit Y would have a gross electrical output capacity of up to 1,800 megawatts. The project would have a new combined capacity of up to 3,600MW or 3.6 gigawatts (GW).

It is also proposed to construct up to two battery storage facilities, one per generating unit and each up to 100MW.

These figures represent the maximum parameters of the project in terms of electricity generating capacity. A new gas pipeline will be built to connect to the existing National Transmission System pipeline approximately 3 km to the east across largely agricultural land.

The proposal includes associated development:

  • A new gas connection, entering the eastern side of the existing power station
  • An electrical connection into the 400 kilovolt (kV) substation from the new unit(s) would allow for electricity to be distributed into the National Grid.

Drax has consulted on these options with local councils, local communities and other local and national stakeholders.

Why enhance Drax Power Station?

Drax Power Station is a national asset and a significant driver of economic growth in the North of England.

Plans for gas at Drax Power Station were announced in June 2017, are part of an ongoing research and development project and are part of Drax’s strategy and purpose to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future.

The options could create up to 3.6GW of new gas generation capacity and up to 200MW of battery storage. They are subject to a positive investment decision and would need to be underpinned by a 15-year capacity market contract.

The upgrade would enhance Drax Power Station’s flexible and responsive capability, and make Yorkshire home to large scale battery technology. These options would, if developed, increase Drax’s ability to provide the flexible generation and grid support services Great Britain’s electricity system will need as coal and other large power stations are turned off.

The options for replacing coal with new build gas and constructing battery storage complement Drax’s ongoing work to explore options for further generation from sustainable biomass. Four former coal units have already been successfully upgraded, on-time and on-budget, to use biomass in the form of compressed wood pellets. These four units account for 94% of the electricity Drax produces – enough to power Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield and Liverpool and 11% of the UK’s total renewable power.

Consulting our community

We have always supported and worked with our local communities and want to ensure they have a role in shaping our thinking. We have undertaken a comprehensive programme of local consultation and engagement to share our options with the public and listen to their views.

In September 2017, various local stakeholders received a Scoping Report from the Planning Inspectorate with details about the project, including its location, potential size, associated development and the impacts that will need to be carefully considered before a planning application can be submitted. The planning process requires us to consult on the maximum amount of power capacity we could require but this does not mean we will ultimately build that level of capacity.

A series of technical and environmental studies have also been carried out.

We have undertaken a comprehensive two-phase programme of consultation with county, district and parish councils, a range of statutory organisations and the communities in the local area.

Community engagement in autumn 2017

One of the informal consultation drop-in sessions, 8 November 2017, Selby Town Hall

A number of drop-in sessions were held in early November 2017 in Selby, Drax and Goole, where members of the local community had a chance to find out more and speak with members of the Drax project team. Online and postal feedback forms were also made available until 30 November.

Responses received allowed us to be informed about any issues that people living and working within the local area felt that we needed to consider before moving to the next stage of the planning process and the formal round of statutory consultation.

Community engagement in early 2018

The formal round of statutory consultation about the project was held in January and February 2018. We presented more detailed information about the project, including our Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR).This report sets out our preliminary findings regarding environmental effects. The feedback received will be used to inform the Environmental Impact Assessment and project design.

The following public exhibitions were held in the local area

  • Selby Town Hall, Saturday 20th January 2018
  • Drax Sports and Social Club, Tuesday 23rd January 2018
  • Junction, Goole, Wednesday 24th January 2018
  • Selby Town Hall, Thursday 1st February 2018
  • Hemingbrough Methodist Church Hall, Friday 2nd February 2018

We widely publicised the details of the formal consultation in advance, via this website, direct mail, posters in the local area, social media, newspaper advertisements and reports in the local news media. If you were unable to attend the exhibitions, the exhibition materials can be found in Documents.

Consultation Report

As part of our Development Consent Order application, a Consultation Report has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. This report outlines how our proposals have been informed by the feedback we have received from the local community and statutory consultees.

Timeline

We need to secure a capacity market agreement to underpin our investment. We expect the capacity market to be reinstated later this year with the auctions taking place in early 2020 – the capacity market is the government mechanism used to ensure we have the power we need at the least cost.

Work could be underway to develop some of this new gas capacity in 2020, if we have secured a capacity market agreement which will underpin our investment.

Construction will take three and a half years – the first new CCGT unit of up to 1,800 MW would then be operational in line with its capacity market agreement starting on 1 October 2023.

2023 - Commercial operation could begin

    Contact us

    Email us

    DraxRepower@drax.com

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    0800 731 8250

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    News

    4 October 2019 - Drax planning application to develop the latest in high efficiency gas turbine technology approved

    4 April 2019 - Public examination of Drax Repower plan closes

    Documents

    4 October 2019 - Development consent order

    January onwards 2019 - Examination stage

    Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

    Our plans

    Q1. Why do we want/need to build a gas-fired power station at Drax?

    A1. Plans for gas at Drax Power Station were announced in June 2017 as an ongoing research and development project and are part of Drax’s strategy and purpose to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future. These options could extend the operational life of Drax Power Station into the 2030s and beyond.

    The options could create up to 3.6GW of new gas generation capacity and, subject to technical and commercial considerations, up to 200MW of battery storage. They were subject to a positive investment decision and would need to be underpinned by a 15-year capacity market contract.

    The upgrade would enhance Drax Power Station’s flexible and responsive capability, and make Yorkshire home to large scale battery technology.

    These options would, if developed, increase Drax’s ability to provide the flexible generation and grid support services Great Britain’s electricity system will need as coal and other large power stations are turned off.

    Q2. Why doesn’t Drax convert Units 5 and 6 to run on biomass?

    A2.  At Drax we’ve converted four of the power station’s six power generation units to biomass, the only flexible, reliable renewable available at scale.

    We believe repurposing existing assets will keep costs down and enable faster development, so the type of capacity needed will be available quickly and cost effectively.

    Looking at coal-to-gas upgrades does not undermine our commitment to biomass generation at the plant and in the UK.

    Q3. Where will Drax source the gas from?

    A3. We will buy our gas from the UK market through the National Balancing Point (NBP) and it will be supplied via the National Grid. We would expect gas to come from the North Sea, a number of different European countries, the Middle East and further afield. And given this diversity of sources, we are confident that we will maintain a secure supply of gas. Part of the reason we’re exploring gas as an option is that it provides an opportunity to use existing infrastructure to keep costs down – that includes access to a relatively close, existing gas pipeline to the south of Drax, from which we will buy gas from the UK market.

    Planning & consultation

    Q1. What was the decision on Drax’s Development Consent Order (DCO) application?

    A1. We submitted an application for a Development Consent Order in May 2018, after consulting with our local authorities, local communities and other stakeholders. The Planning Inspectorate accepted our application for consideration in June 2018. After an examination, in which registered parties took part, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy granted consent for the project.

    Q2. When could the Drax new build CCGT project enter operation?

    A2. We could expect to see the project generating electricity from 2023.

    Q3. How did Drax consult with local people?

    A3. We have undertaken two phases of local consultation.  The objectives of the ‘informal’ first phase (held in November 2017 ) had been to introduce the project and gather people’s initial comments and feedback.

    The second phase, a period of Statutory Consultation, ran from 16 January to 27 February 2018.  Our plans for this were published in a Statement of Community Consultation; a SoCC notice was published in the Yorkshire Post on 2 January 2018. We are also consulting Selby District Council, North Yorkshire County Council, East Riding of Yorkshire Council, local parish councils, landowners and a range of relevant statutory authorities.

    Homes and businesses in the local area (as well as a range of statutory organisations) received a leaflet about the project and the statutory consultation process.

    We have submitted a Consultation Repower that outlines in further detail how our project has been informed by the feedback we have received from the local community and statutory consultees.

    Q4.  Has Drax shared its plans with its employees and their trade unions?

    A4.  Yes, we have explained to our people that we are looking at the feasibility of replacing our coal units, and acknowledge the strategy that we are pursuing to transform Drax’s operations.  We will talk further with our people as the project moves forward.

    Environmental Assessment

    Q1. What steps will Drax take to preserve the local environment?

    A1. Every effort will be made to minimise the project’s impact on the local environment, both during its construction and operation. Its design and the steps to mitigate its impacts is a part of the consultation and planning process.

    Q2. What about the environmental impact of the new generating plant?

    A2. A Preliminary Environmental Information (PEIR) report has been produced and an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is being undertaken to assess the likely significant environmental effects of the project. The PEIR was a key part of the Statutory Consultation process held in January and February, and is available to view on this website (and can  be viewed at local libraries and council offices).

    The EIA process considers a range of issues including noise, air quality, flood risk, local ecology, visual impact, heritage/archaeology and transport. The EIA forms a central part of the DCO application and must comply with national and local policies and guidelines. A full Environmental Statement accompanied the application for development consent.

    Q3. What about the “cumulative impact” of having gas-fired power generation units at Drax and Eggborough?

    A3. A cumulative impact assessment of both projects and other major operations and development in the area is fully addressed in our application for development consent.

    Q4. What is the footprint of the new generating plant? Will it be noisy? What height will the stacks be?  What about its visual impact?

    A4. The development area for the proposed power plant and electricity substation lies within our existing site. There will be up to eight stacks in the power plant and they are likely to be up to 120m high, subject to further technical and environmental studies that we are carrying out. For comparison, the main stack of the existing coal-fired units is over 200m high.

    Whilst local villages shouldn’t hear the new plant running, the noise produced during operation of the power plant will be strictly limited by the requirements of the Development Consent Order (similar to planning conditions) which will be enforced by the local authority and limits set by the Environment Agency (EA). These limits will comply with latest guidance and standards.

    Noise modelling is being undertaken to ascertain the current background noise levels and the typical noise levels from a gas-fired plant will be modelled on top to determine the likely impacts. No significant effects are anticipated at this stage.

    Emissions to air will be strictly monitored and regulated by the Environment Agency, through an Environmental Permit which is required for the plant’s operation.

    The new generating plant will be predominantly situated within the Drax site and set against other features of the power station (such as the cooling towers, boiler house and biomass domes), thus minimising its visual impact. The visual impact of the project is a part of the PEIR and EIA processes. Photomontages of the project were shown during the statutory consultation period. They can be viewed in the application for development consent.

    Q5. Will there be an increase in road traffic?

    A5. There will be Heavy Goods Vehicle traffic during construction. A construction management plan would in due course be prepared to manage HGV traffic going through local villages, which will minimise congestion, noise and dirt in the local area. Once operational, there will be a negligible increase in traffic movements.

    Q6. Is it going to smell?

    A6. The combustion of natural gas in a power station does not produce any noticeable odour.

    Q7. Will there be any emissions from the power station?  Will the mix of emissions from your biomass units and the gas units be harmful?  

    A7. A plume consisting mainly of water vapour may be visible from the stacks of the generating plant but only under certain atmospheric conditions (cold and dry with high pressure); this is not ‘smoke’. The emissions from the stacks will be strictly limited by the Environment Agency (EA) as part of an operational environmental permit, and will not have any significant effect on people or the environment. The stacks will also emit some carbon dioxide (CO2).

    Our PEIR considers the cumulative impact of the emissions from all our units.

    Q8.  Is there an increasing risk of flooding in the area?  Will we carry out a risk assessment?

    A8.  We believe that the existing flood defences are sufficient but this matter is examined in our EIA work for the DCO application process.

    Gas & Electricity connections

    Q1. Where will the gas pipeline be routed?

    A1. We consulted on two possible routes for the underground gas pipeline (c3 km long to connect into the National Gas Transmission System) and before making a final decision we took into account various factors including the views of the relevant landowners, environmental impacts, engineering considerations and planning constraints.  Whilst we will deploy an underground gas pipeline, there will be a need for “PIG traps” (above ground points of access for maintenance equipment) and other above ground installation (but not regarded as intrusive).

    Where the gas pipeline is routed, the land will be reinstated.

    The route is visible in the Indicative Plant Layout documents within our development consent application.

    Q2. Will there be a need to build or upgrade the existing connection to the national transmission system?

    A2. At this time, we are expecting to use Drax’s existing electricity connections and related grid infrastructure.  We may need to make some minor alterations to these but we do not expect there to be a need to erect additional transmission towers.

    Local economic/community benefit

    Q1. How will the power station benefit the local area?

    A1. The proposed power station can bring a range of benefits to the area during both the construction and operational phases. Construction will provide a large number of job opportunities. The new plant is expected to have an operational life of up to 25 years so extending the life-time of the whole power station. For many years, Drax has made a major contribution to the local economy and is an active supporter of the local community; this major project will further strengthen that commitment. A detailed socio-economic impact study was submitted as part of the DCO application (via the Environmental Statement).

    Q2. How can local businesses get involved in the project?

    A2. Businesses can register details with our Procurement team. In due course, subject to us securing the DCO, we will appoint a major Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to be the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor, who most likely will take the lead on sub-contracting elements of the project.

    Q3. I’m local to the area and looking for work. How can I apply for a job?

    A3. We publish vacancies on the Drax website and via local and national employment agencies.