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A one-year old rail link has increased capacity to deliver more sustainable biomass from Drax’s LaSalle BioEnergy pellet plant in Urania to its UK power station, taking thousands of trucks off local roads.
The $15 million rail link and other initiatives have already contributed to a $5 per ton reduction in Drax’s biomass production costs in 2019.
Drax Biomass converts pine timber and sawmill residual fiber into biomass pellets that are used to generate power in the United Kingdom. Hammermills reduce the size of wood chips. (Photo: Ashley Mott/The News-Star)
The five miles of rail track connects Drax’s LaSalle BioEnergy pellet plant to the regional rail network, enabling freight trains to deliver the pellets to the company’s dedicated export facility at the Port of Greater Baton Rouge. The transition reduces emissions and costs while increasing the resilience of the energy company’s supply chain.
From Baton Rouge, pellets are shipped to Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire which supplies around 12% of the UK’s renewable electricity.
The new rail link allows Drax to deliver around 7,000 tonnes of sustainable biomass to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge in each train, compared to 27 tonnes transported by each truck previously.
Matt White (Photo: Courtesy of Drax Biomass)
Drax Biomass Senior Vice President Matt White said, “The new rail spur has been a great success. Since it was commissioned last May it has significantly increased the amount of sustainable biomass we can deliver."
A team of up to 40 contractors worked through two of the wettest Louisiana winters in decades to clear the site, excavating around 180,000 cubic yards of dirt to level off the ground and stabilize it before three sets of rail tracks could be laid. The work also included installing conveyors to get the pellets to the new rail loading point.
“It was a huge amount of work and the wet winters certainly created some challenges. It’s hard to excavate when everything turns into mud. But the team pulled together and worked through the night to get the track laid and completed so the spur could be commissioned in May last year," Rafael Moreno, Drax Biomass associate director of engineering, said.
The rail spur at LaSalle is part of Drax’s wider efforts to cut the costs of its biomass by around a third by 2027.
The rail link and other initiatives, including the co-location of a sawmill at the LaSalle site last year, has already contributed to a 3% reduction in biomass production costs to in 2019 compared with 2018.
Drax acquired the LaSalle BioEnergy plant in Urania in northern Louisiana in 2017. LaSalle BioEnergy is one of three US pellet plants owned by Drax. The three plants produce a total of 1.5 million tonnes of sustainable biomass pellets a year.
This article first appeared on www.thenewsstar.com
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