Two Massive Biomass Conversions

By Anna Simet | April 25, 2013

The June issue of Biomass Magazine is themed retrofits and conversions, and therefore we’re going to bring to you two of the biggest biomass conversion stories in the world.

Our Executive Editor Tim Portz is ready to hop on a plane to make the long journey to England, where Drax is converting three of six coal-fired units to biomass. The first is scheduled to be online by June, so he’ll be at the cusp of operation commencement. Just to give you an idea of how big this project is, its total estimated cost is £700 million ($1.13 billion), and each unit will consume about 2.3 million metric tons of of biomass yearly, reaching an estimated annual total of 7.5 million metric tons in 2017.

Watch for Portz’s exclusive story, which will accompany another conversion story on Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan Generation Station retrofit. The 211-MW coal-fired generating will run on wood pellets, and I’m in the process of discussing the project with OPG to learn about the company’s motivation behind the conversion, as well as construction, equipment, and feedstock details, and the positive economic impact the project is having on the region.

I know Ontario is planning to phase out coal very soon, so as sort of a side story, I’d like to get a feel of what kind of feedstock competition may come into play for plants planning to use biomass/wood pellets as fuel in the future.

Although space is limited in the magazine, there are a lot of other biomass conversion stories to tell, many of which are inside the U.S. Here, policy is much less clear and much less certain than in the countries the projects discussed above are in. If projects are still moving forward despite that fact, though, maybe some of the Draxes in the U.S. will—one day—be finding themselves following suit.