Nexterra launches biomass power program

By Anna Austin
Web exclusive posted Feb. 26, 2009, at 4:22 p.m. CST

Vancouver, British Columbia-based Nexterra Energy Corp. has launched a $30 million program to commercialize a new application of its proprietary biomass gasification technology. The two-year program will test and demonstrate the generation of heat and power for small-scale plants by firing syngas into high efficiency gas engines.

For the past two years, Nexterra has been working with GE Energy to upgrade syngas generated by gasifying wood biomass so that it meets fuel specifications of GE's Jenbacher internal combustion engines.

"Biomass power generation is a multi-billion market opportunity driven by rising power prices and renewable portfolio standards," said Jonathan Rhone, President and chief executive officer of Nexterra Energy. "Our objective is to exploit this opportunity by creating a new standard of small-scale biomass power solution that has widespread application as a distributed generation solution. We believe this approach has significant advantages over large-scale, centralized combustion-based biomass power plants in terms of higher efficiency, lower fuel risk and reduced emissions."

Once fully developed, Nexterra will combine its technology with GE Energy's engines to develop modular biomass combined heat and power plants, which will be fully automated and not require steam generation equipment. According to Nexterra, the scale of the plants will range from 2 to 10 megawatt electric and will yield net efficiencies of up to 60 percent in cogeneration mode and 30 percent in combined cycle mode. The systems will be designed for public institutions such as universities and hospitals; industrial operations such as food or beverage plants and waste management facilities; as well as stand-alone power for independent power producers or electric power utilities.

"We are very encouraged by the results Nexterra has achieved with its syngas conditioning technology and look forward to working with them on the next phase of development," said Prady Iyyanki, chief executive officer of GE Energy's Jenbacher gas engine business. "GE's Jenbacher business has a long history of developing ‘special gas' applications for reciprocating engines, and we believe the combination of biomass gasification and internal combustion engines is a breakthrough for biomass power generation."

The new program will consist of two phases, with a total cost of $30 million. In the first phase, which will occur in 2009, Nexterra's syngas conditioning technology and a GE Jenbacher J208 GS 250 kilowatt engine will be installed and tested at Nexterra's product development center. In phase two, a commercial-scale 2-megawatt plant will be demonstrated at a customer's site. According to Nexterra, discussions are underway with a number of candidate sites to host the demonstration facility.

GE Energy has supported the work through its Jenbacher gas engine division. In addition, Nexterra received a $3 million grant from British Columbia's Bioenergy Network in early February; it has also received financial support from Canada's National Research Council.

To view an illustration of Nexterra's commercial demonstration plant featuring a GE Jenbacher engine, visit