Smart Papers set to cofire biomass pellets in Ohio

By Lisa Gibson | January 04, 2011

After receiving certification from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, specialty paper maker Smart Papers is clear to begin cofiring biomass with coal at its cogeneration plant in Hamilton, Ohio.

The 37-megawatt coal-fired plant supplies heat and steam to the company’s paper process, with an extra 20 megawatts sold to the grid on a responder basis based on market rates, according to Dan Maheu, Smart Papers president. The facility will begin burning 50 percent biomass in the fourth quarter of this year, using a cellulosic pellet manufactured by Wisconsin-based Greenwood Fuels. The pellets are made from nonrecyclable paper, including material that contains glues and laminates, as well as paper mill sludge. “All of what they use would go to a landfill,” Maheu said. Greenwood Fuels sells the pellets in the Green Bay area, but Smart Papers will be the first company to use them in Ohio.

In addition, the output of the power plant won’t drop with the new feedstock, as the pellets carry a Btu value of 10,000, just slightly below that of the coal used at the plant now: 12,400 Btu. “It’s not the penalty you get with green biomass, where the Btu value is so low,” Maheu said.

In its first year of cofiring, the plant will use about 50,000 tons of pellets. It will not require new boilers, but other modifications will bring the cost to about $4 million or $5 million, Maheu cited.

While no contracts are in place for the excess power from the facility now, Maheu said the company is looking into power purchase agreements for the renewable electricity. Ohio state law requires at least 25 percent of electricity sold to the state by electric distribution utilities and services to be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025. At least half of that must come from renewable sources. 

Smart Papers’ paper-manufacturing facility on the Hamilton site has been in operation since 1893 and carries the distinction of being the location where coated printing papers for magazines were first invented and produced, according to the company.