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Ontario's Thunder Bay burns last coal, seeks biomass fuel supply

By Anna Simet | April 15, 2014

Officially earning the province a coal-free status several months prior to its goal of the end of 2014, Ontario Power Generation’s Thunder Bay Generating Station has burned its last supply of coal, the utility and the Ontario government reported.

The 300-MW power plant entered service in 1963 and is the oldest coal-fired station in the province.  A conversion is planned to switch the fuel to advanced biomass, or steam exploded biomass fuel, which OPG believes Thunder Bay will be the first power plant in the world to utilize. An initial proposal to convert the station to natural gas was cancelled.

A successful 100-percent advanced fuel test burn was done at the plant in September.  Plant manager Chris Fralick said Thunder Bay is on schedule to be converted by January of next year. A fuel supplier has not yet been selected, he said. While seeking out potential sources, OPG is currently negotiating a power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority.

Ontario’s Ending Coal for Cleaner Air Act, proposed in late 2013 and currently under legislative review, builds upon the province’s 2007 Cessation of Coal Use Regulation and makes several clarifications. It prohibits the use of coal at the Atikokan, Lambton, Nanticoke and Thunder Bay generating facilities after Dec. 31, and at any future stand-alone electricity generating facility. It also clarifies that ceasing coal-fired electricity generation at other facilities, such as industrial facilities, does not apply if it produces a product other than electricity or steam, and electricity generation is not the primary purpose of the facility.