Biomass gasification project to break ground

By Anna Simet | October 21, 2016

North Fork Community Power, a 2-MW biomass gasification plant in North Fork, California, is set to break ground next month.

The Yosemite Sequoia RC&D Council and Phoenix Energy will host a groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 3, confirmed developer Phoenix Energy CEO Greg Stangl. The plant is the result of a public/private partnership between Phoenix Energy and the North Fork Community Development Council, and is being financed largely with state grants, including a $4.9 million through the California Energy Commission EPIC grant program to help cover equipment and interconnection costs, as well as $900,000 in New Markets Tax Credit financing.

Located at the site of a former sawmill, the plant will be built in phases, Stangl said, 1 MW during each phase, the first to be completed and operating around June. The site was a brownfield and required remediation by the U.S. EPA, so asset reutilization wasn’t an option, albeit some concrete dip tanks that Stangl said Phoenix plans to use for water treatment. “Hopefully we can put in a biological treatment process—using plants, water and biochar as a filter media, and allow the water to sit there for some time,” he said. “It’s a polishing step, and will get the water into a position where it is reusable outside the plant. Gasification is water accretive—we create it every hour we operate, and In California, the last thin you want to do is have water that you need to throw away. And, since these projects are out in the middle of nowhere, there is no sewer or utilities; it provides a very cost-effective way of getting a tertiary treatment.”

The plant will use fuel from the North Fork Biomass Facility, which will take in forest biomass resulting from forest management operations and hazardous fuels treatment activities in the greater North Fork area.

The facility will utilize a GE-supplied biomass gasification system—the gasifier, gas conditioning system and engine—which GE and Phoenix Energy have collaborated on for design and implementation, and plan to replicate at future projects in the state.

Electricity generated from the plant will be sold to PG&E.

“We’re taking this one places,” Stangl said of the project.