Atikokan Generation Station now operating on biomass

By Erin Voegele | September 10, 2014

On Sept. 10, Ontario Power Generation announced that the Aitkokan Generating Station is now operation on biomass. The facility burned its last coal two years ago on Sept. 11, 2012. Conversion of the station began in mid-2012.

“Close to 100 percent of the electricity OPG produces is from sources that are virtually free of emissions that cause smog or contribute to climate change. Atikokan GS is a unique addition to our clean energy portfolio as it provides dispatchable, renewable energy that can be used when the power system needs it,” said Tom Mitchell, president and CEO of OPG. “The biomass conversion and solutions developed for the Atikokan GS are cutting edge and OPG is at the forefront of this innovative technology. The project is the first of its kind in Ontario and will bring economic benefits to northwestern Ontario for years to come.”

According to information released by OPG, the Atikokan Generating Station is the largest 100 percent biomass-fueled power plant in North America. The conversion project included the construction of two silos, each of which can store up to 5,000 metric tons of wood pellets. Modification were also make to the boiler and a new distributed controls system was required. In addition, new truck receiving and transfer infrastructure was built.

OPG has fuel contract supplies in place with Rentech Inc. and Resolute Forest Products Canada. Each company will supply 45,000 metric tons of wood pellets to the facility annually. According to OPG, transportation contracts are also in place.

Information published by OPG specifies pellets are received by the facility from self-unloading, rear discharge trucks. The new receiving system transports pellets to the storage silos by conveyor belt and bucket elevator. When needed for production, the pellets are delivered to the plant on a first-in, first-out basis. Once delivered to the powerhouse, the pellets are pulverized and fed into the boiler. According to OBG, all 15 of the facility’s burners have been replaced with Doosan Mark IV biomass burners. New ash transport systems have also been installed.

“A new era has dawned in Ontario; one where the air will be cleaner and the multiple costs of coal-fired generation have become a distant memory,” said Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli. “Atikokan’s successful conversion to biomass will put Ontario on the world map as a leader in using this sustainable fuel source for electricity production.”

Efforts are also underway to convert another of OBG’s coal-fired plants to biomass. In April, OPG’s Thunder Bay Generating Station burned its last supply of coal. The facility is expected to be converted to biomass by January.

Earlier this month, the Ontario-based Independent Electricity System Operator released a new 18-month outlook on the reliability of Ontario’s electricity system. That report estimates that the conversion and startup of the Atikokan Generating Station and Thunder Bay Generating Station will add approximately 350 MW of new power supply to the system. Overall, 2,400 MW of new generation capacity is expected to be added to the Ontario grid by February 2016. At the same time, an additional 900 MW in renewable generation is expected to be connected to local distribution systems. A full copy of the IESO report is available on the IESO website.