Biomass Magazine webinar provides real project updates

By Anna Simet | August 15, 2013

During the second installment in Biomass Magazine’s free webinar series, four companies provided progress reports on the construction of their respective biomass power, biogas, and advanced biofuel plants.

Steven Johnson, manager of technical services at Nippon Paper Industry USA’s cogeneration facility, provided an update on the company’s nearly operational stand-alone biomass plant at its paper mill in Port Angeles, Wash., a small community 80 miles west of Seattle. Of the project’s location, Johnson said it’s on a very small piece of land sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the harbor for the city of Port Angeles.

The existing paper mill was built in 1920 and changed ownership many times over the years, Johnson explained, and it produces paper commonly used in telephone books. With the new boiler, the mill utilizes five boilers that run on a combination of fuels, but most of its power comes from biomass. “We’re a very large user of electricity, using about 54 MW on average, peaking at about 70,” Johnson said, adding that the mill requires about 8.25 MMgy of water.

As it stands, the project cost $85 million. It was originally designed at $73 million, Johnson said, but delays and design changes for energy efficiency brought the price up. Additions include replacement of all the current facility’s fuel handling, a new boiler, turbine and generator, new fuel screening and pulverizer, a new truck dump with an enclosed reclaim system and an Atlas storage silo with an enclosed tube conveyor system, which Johnson said was necessary because of the large amount of rain the region gets. “We also spent a great deal of time on a heat recovery system,” he added.

The project was internally funded and has already been pre-certified in California and Washington as a renewable power source, according to Johnson.

On where the project stands in terms of completeness, Johnson said the turbine and generator are 95 percent complete, fueling handling system 100 percent and ready to run, electrical controls at 85 percent, cooling tower and heat recovery at 100 percent. “We already did the boiler hydro [test] in July, and we expect the first fire to be August 24,” he said. “We will try to sync for the first time in early October, with electricity sales in January.”

Since the project was designed to meet proposed Boiler MACT standards, Johnson said when the final rule came out, NPI was in very good shape. “We have all of our permits in hand, the only bummer was that to get them, and going through hearings and appeals took 15 months longer than we had planned, which created some financial challenges,” he said.

Presenter Tom Ludy from GreenWhey Energy discussed the company’s 3.2 MW anaerobic digestion project in Turtle Lake, Wis., which will use wastewater from area dairies as feedstock.

Ludy described the challenges that dairies and cheesemakers face during the production process, which is large quantities of milky wastewater. After several years of developing a solution, GreenWhey Energy’s first digester project was launched, which will draw feedstock from four cheese plants and one soy processor. “There’s a big reason for that,” Ludy explained. “Cheese plant wastewater has a very low pH, and soy water has a very high pH. We mix those together and save ourselves a lot of chemical costs.”

The plant will process 500,000 gallons of water each day to generate power. Ludy described the facility as a “full serve wastewater treatment plant with benefits.”

The plant is currently operation, but methane is being flared for now. “We’re producing around 150,000 cubic feet of gas per day, and we need to get that up to 600,000 to get our first engine fired up,” Ludy said, adding that the biogas clean-up system was supplied by Iowa-based Unison. “Right now, biogas is run through a chiller, pulled up through the top of the digester through a vacuum, then reheated to a temperature that the engines—supplied by Caterpillar Inc.— can burn,” he said.

On the future of biogas in Wisconin, Ludy said there is room for many more projects like Greenwhey’s, and the state could support several cheese waste to energy digesters. “It’s a problem in the state [cheese and dairy waste], and always has been,” he said. “I’ve been involved in the industry for 30 years and we needed to come up with something, and this is the best one we could. It’s the only that gives you viable product coming out the other end, clean water, an organic sludge, and we also create heat to send back to the very plant that gave us the waste.”

Following Ludy, Ron Beemiller of WB Services discussed the company’s advanced biodiesel production facility in Sedgwick, Kan., first comparing and contrasting biodiesel and renewable diesel, highlighting the benefits offered by the latter. He said the company’s process is designed to take crude oil from an ethanol plant and to create a higher-value, “drop in” fuel product, but it’s not exclusively reliant on ethanol plants and could be designed as a stand-alone facility.

The 3 MMgy renewable diesel plant has a footprint of about 100 feet by 150 feet, and is not at all enclosed. It sits adjacent to WB Services’ corporate office, a location which Beemiller says wasn’t the most logistically convenient, but being within close proximity to engineers and R&D staff would likely result in future process improvements and upgrades.

The last presenter was Brent Boyko, station manager at Ontario Power Generation’s Atikokan Generation Station, which in the middle of a coal-to-wood pellet conversion.

Boyko said the 211 MW plant was built in 1984 and originally designed to burn low-sulfur lignite coal. The decision was made to convert after the province passed a law that required all power plants to cease burning coal by 2014.

OPG’s investigation of biomass dates back to the 1970s, Boyko said, and a number of different sources and logistics have been looked at since then. In 2007 and 2008 a number of pellet-fire tests were done at AGS, during which a key turning point in the repowering process occurred. In December 2008, an explosion occurred in the powerhouse, and that prompted a heavy emphasis on safety and ignition prevention from that point forward. “No power was being generated and nobody was injured, but this really put a set back to our conversion program and testing being done at the time,” Boyko said.

After extensive investigation, the source of ignition was not conclusively determined. “But the event molded design criteria,” Boyko said. “We reviewed all potential emission sources in our current design, did a number of benchmarking practices to see what was happening in Europe and intentionally, to really understand what was the leading edge and what we could do to minimize any future sources of ignition. It was pretty obvious our existing coal handling system could not be used, due to our inability to guarantee dust control.”

 The total cost of the AGS biomass conversion is $170 million, and the plant has a 10-year power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority. New components include material handling facilities, furnace modifications, and new control systems. “And a key part is remaining at our 200 MW capacity,” said Boyko.

AGS is expected to be in service by mid-2014.