Transforming our supply chain and powering the nation

Upgrading Drax to use compressed wood pellets (biomass) in place of coal has transformed our fuel supply chain. Today, Drax is the country’s largest single generator of renewable electricity, turning the world’s oldest renewable energy source into a fuel that is modern and highly efficient.

Almost half of the power station has been upgraded to run on compressed wood pellets, producing enough renewable energy to supply three million homes. We predominately import the biomass from North America, operating along a supply chain that is subject to strict sustainability regulations and independent audits.

Once arriving at Drax in North Yorkshire, the compressed wood pellets are either sent straight to the generators to produce electricity or stored on site in specially designed storage domes. Our four domes can store up to 14 days of supply so in order to keep our three upgraded generators (two 100% biomass, one 85% biomass) running every day, we have to ensure enough fuel is consistently delivered to Drax.

We receive on average 17 trains per day operating over a six-day week – resilience in our supply chain is therefore essential.

We can’t rely on one port because factors outside our control such as bad weather and signalling failures could delay shipments and rail transport, which is why the overall development of our supply chain – which includes sea freight, port and rail – looks to minimise risk wherever possible, ensuring a constant and reliable fuel supply.

Last year we took the decision to introduce a new point of entry at the Port of Liverpool, adding to our existing portfolio of ports on the east coast and bolstering our supply chain further.

This has helped support a £100 million investment at Liverpool, creating a dedicated biomass handling facility on the port estate, a new rail loading facility and storage capacity for up to 100,000 tonnes. Phase one of the new terminal began operation in October 2015 and is due to be completed later this year.

The biomass arrives at one of the four UK ports we use and is then transported to Drax by rail, ensuring there is no impact on the local road network and that the carbon footprint is minimised. Up to 10 trains a day will leave Liverpool for Selby.

Port of Liverpool offers us a unique strategic opportunity as Peel Ports prepares for the launch of its deep-water container terminal Liverpool2. When this becomes fully operational this year it will allow us to handle some of the world’s largest biomass vessels (Panamax) supported by our other ports at Hull, Tyneside and Immingham.

The East-West connectivity that Liverpool adds is crucial for driving growth across the entire North of England. This is a landmark moment for both the Port of Liverpool and Drax as we provide tangible evidence of how businesses across the north can work together to fuel the Northern Powerhouse and bring economic success.

Our current upgrades to sustainable biomass have enabled a carbon saving of over 80% across the entire supply chain compared to coal, making Drax the largest decarbonisation project in Europe. Furthermore, if our third generating unit is fully converted this year to run on 100% biomass, we will be saving some 12 million tonnes of carbon a year.

As we continue to provide the UK with reliable, affordable low carbon energy a robust supply chain is crucial. Thanks to the support of Peel Ports, we have diversified our port strategy and secured the required rail capacity to meet our daily fuel deliveries and transform the way in which we generate power.

Graham Backhouse
Head of Supply Chain and Logistics, Drax Power Ltd. 


Back to News & Media