Tuesday, March 5, 2024

"Why Britain is burning North American forests to keep the lights on" (EVA)

I suppose it's better than the Germans burning their brown coal but the optics of going paleolithic for your illumination does lead to some schoolboy humor. (see Putin et al)

Additionally, having the largest American supplier of firewood to Britain going bust - a bankruptcy filing is possible at literally any minute - does not add luster to the "We burn wood" marketing tagline.



That's 91 dollars to 52 cents in a bit under two years. Hope springs eternal though, in premarket trade the stock is up 8% (four cents) at 56 cents.

From The Telegraph, March 1:

Drax faces fresh scrutiny amid plans to ramp up the use of wood-fired power stations

Wood, the fuel that British industry thought it had left behind more than a century ago, is staging a comeback.

Powering the resurgence is Drax Group, owner of the controversial Drax power station that recently posted a 10-fold increase in its latest yearly profits.

Its plant in Yorkshire, Britain’s largest and most controversial power station, generated around 6pc of the country’s electricity in 2023 by burning 6.4 million tonnes of wood. In context, it is the equivalent of 27 million trees.

The idea of a Britain powered partially by wood may seem shocking to some, but for Drax it forms the basis of a sustainable and renewable future.

For years Drax has invested in tree-fired electricity that it describes as a key source of green energy and bosses are now planning to go further.

After announcing on Thursday that pre-tax profits hit £796m in 2023, up from £78m the year before, chief executive Will Gardiner said he wants to build more wood-fired power stations, primarily in the US.

Those power stations will be supported by new wood pellet plants, enabling Drax to double production to eight million tonnes by 2030.

It means Drax will be supplying wood-fired power stations around the world, not just in Yorkshire.

For Mr Gardiner, who was appointed Drax chief executive in 2018, the latest surge in profits validates his company’s strategy.

“We remain the single-largest provider of renewable power by output in the UK,” he told investors.

“We have created a business which plays an essential role in supporting energy security, providing dispatchable, renewable power for millions of homes and businesses, particularly during periods of peak demand when there is low wind and solar power.”

Others disagree. Environmentalists argue that cutting down forests to generate electricity destroys the environment rather than protecting it – a view supported by some high-ranking politicians.

Leading Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, father of the House of Commons, yesterday sent a letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak demanding Drax be shut down.

“Burning trees in the UK is not a justifiable way of preventing climate change,” he said. “Drax power station incinerates 27 million trees a year. Our New Forest only has 46 million trees.

“The wood Drax burns is imported, mostly from North America on freighters powered by diesel. And setting light here to trees from North America is costly.”....


As we've noted previously, Drax* is a huge power plant at just under 4 megawatts capacity and has been converted from coal to biomass-and-coal to biomass base load with natural gas peakers. It is not going to be easy to replace that baseload capacity.

If interested see also:

January 18: Meanwhile In Britain: "Fury at plan to extend Drax subsidy to burn trees for electricity" and:

They ignored the first rule of wood pellet trading: Don't buy the whole damn forest!  

2013: Bonfire of the Subsidies: Europe Returns to Early Stone Age Fuel as Putin Mocks

2022: "World’s largest CO2 removal deal ever depends on tech that isn’t ready yet"

2023: Renewable Fuel: "Wood Pellet Giant Enviva Discloses a Financial Crisis"

2024: Who Is Going To Supply Europe's Wood-Burning Power Plants Now, Putin? (EVA)  

June 2022
"Ban on Russian wood pellet exports to Europe to cause difficulties with waste disposal at Russian sawmills"
Ah ha! Maybe these sanctions will be the ones that bring the Russians to their knees.

Thursday, May 30, 2013:
Bonfire of the Subsidies: Europe Returns to Early Stone Age Fuel as Putin Mocks

From Nov. 2012:
Mocking Europe's Energy Policy: "Putin invites Europeans to Siberia for firewood"
From RT:

European countries should pursue a balanced energy policy, otherwise they will have to buy the firewood in Siberia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has joked.

Putin made it clear again that Europe and Russia are dependent on each other. He was speaking with German businessmen in Berlin on Friday. They gathered at a business conference organized by the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

“The German public does not like the nuclear power industry for some reason,” Putin said, adding that he would not comment on it. “But I cannot understand what fuel you will take for heating,” he said anyway.

“You do not want gas, you do not develop the nuclear power industry, so you will heat with firewood?” Putin asked, as reported by Itar-Tass. “Then you will have to go to Siberia to buy the firewood there,” he said, adding that Europeans “do not even have firewood.”
Good yuks from the old propagandists at the former Russia Today.
*Drax is the largest power plant in Britain at just under 4 megawatts capacity and has been converted from coal to biomass-and-coal to biomass base load with natural gas peakers.

Some of our previous looks at wood-fired electricity in Europe:  

Back to the Future: "UK’s Renewable Energy Targets Drive Increases in U.S. Wood Pellet Exports" 

PE-backed Enviva Partners goes public... 

"What's Replacing Coal In Europe? Imported Wood"

If interested see also the Guardian, "Drax to double wood pellet production with biomass firm purchase".  

Chart: 500 Years of Energy Prices
You Aren't Imagining It: People Are Getting Dumber
Wood gas vehicles: firewood in the fuel tank
*Don't get me started on Admiral Sir Reginald Aylmer Ranfurly Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, KCB, DSO, JP, DL and the whole Drax clan, we could be here all night.

Not to mention Moonraker, James Bond and one Hugo Drax:

Nationality American 
Occupation  Criminal mastermind 
Affiliation Independent 
Status Deceased; shot by a poison dart and blasted into space by James Bond