Biomass Power Plant Conversion Almost Complete

Biomass Power Plant Conversion Almost Complete

The Canadian energy utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is first out in testing theory with reality as they have almost undergone the complete conversion from coal to torrefied or steam treated biomass. The theory also entails that a conversion should lead to only minor modifications on the existing plant infrastructure.

First and largest commercial plant to use the new fuel

The OPG is near the completion of going from pulverised coal to using “advanced wood pellets” fuel instead, more specifically the steam treated kind. When TBGS is up and running, it will be the world’s first and largest commercial plant to use such a fuel as “advanced wood pellets” produced with torrefaction. The goal of the operation is to use the existing fuel handling and powerhouse equipment as required to produce dispatchable energy with the same capabilities as TGBS on coal but with the benefit of reduced emissions, according to Faron Rollins who is Project Director for OPG’s Northwest Operations.

Arbaflame delivers the goods

Perhaps modification would be a better word than conversion when talking about this project since no major changes were needed when going from one fuel to another. When it came to the actual fuel supply of the new fuel OPG submitted tender requests in 2014 for indicative prices for the supply of “advanced wood pellets” fuel. This tender was subsequently awarded Norwegian pellets producer Arbaflame A/S. The fuel supply contract is for up to 7 500 tonnes and Arbaflame is delivering its products in a steady stream. Rollins indicates that more business will be done and says that; “As you know the test burn we carried out in September 2013 provided the proof of concept that showed we could manage the dust with some minor modifications to our fuel handling system.

torrefied pellets

Benefits outweighs adjustments

Steve Carlsson is Supervising Project Engineer with OPG and says that minor adjustments had to be done with the transportation when they changed from coal to Abraflame’s pellets, but the advantages outweigh the rest. “The 8 mm advanced pellets are already conveniently sized, dry and, as far as testing over the last three years has shown, remain hydrophobic and do not freeze into aggregates.” OPG has also developed a method to use moisture to act both as a dust suppressant as well as a spark retardant in the hoppers.

Norwegian pellets on both sides of the ocean

Deliveries from Norway of fuel are underway, and the conversion from coal to pellets has shown to be both easier and more cost effective than going with natural gas which was the first plan. With the Thunder Bay Project paving the way Norwegian advanced wood pellets may become a staple product on both sides of the Atlantic.