Drax Power Plant

The Drax biomass conversion project is complex; it’s not simply a matter of swapping one fuel for another. Selecting the right partners for the job was critical


Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire is the UK’s largest coal  to biomass conversion, typically supplying 7% – 8% of the UK’s electricity. In July 2012, Drax confirmed plans to transform itself  into a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator. To learn more about the Shepherd Group solution for Drax click Drax Brochure


A major project to convert three of Drax’s six generating units to burn biomass required investment of around £700m in vast new biomass receipt, storage and handling facilities and in modifications to the three generating units.


Shepherd Group was awarded the contract and its bulk-handling specialists Portasilo took responsibility for designing, building, installing and commissioning the plant’s biomass discharge, handling and dust-management systems.

Portasilo devised a complete end-to-end system, along with all process engineering for the plant. Wood pellets are emptied from purpose-built trains into Portasilo uncoaling hoppers. These are fitted with vibratory dischargers that feed the biomass onto belt conveyors at a carefully controlled rate.

Similarly, fully controllable vibratory dischargers are positioned beneath the great storage domes that dominate the site, allowing precisely controlled and metered volumes of biomass to pass from storage to the sampling house, en-route to the boiler distribution system.

At the boiler distribution plant, Portasilo constructed two 85m-tall storage silos. Each is 13.5m in diameter and together they hold 4,190 tonnes of biomass. The silos are continuously topped up, and each has 16 outlets to feed the individual mills that feed the three boilers. Portasilo constructed all of the steel framework required to house these silos and the associated discharge and conveying systems.

Wood pellet dust is potentially explosive, so all equipment supplied by Portasilo had to comply with ATEX regulations. Silos were fitted with blast panels, while all hoppers and pipework were designed, pressure tested and certified to withstand a 10-bar explosion.

Portasilo was responsible for the entire dust-management and handling system across the site. Dust is collected at various locations and conveyed into a central dust silo, before being transported using pneumatic conveyors to the sampling room, and on to the day-bin silos that feed the boilers.

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