Friday, September 05, 2008

UK Juices Up On Electricity from Biomass

The UK already has plans for a combination of over 1 GW of biomass electricity, plus additional electricity from biomass co-fired with coal at traditional coal plants. Many of the planned biomass generating plants are located on the coast, allowing for inexpensive marine transport of biomass fuel. Other plants will be inland, and supplied by locally grown biomass crops.
The market for biomass, whether from recycled wood, processing co-products (palm kernel or distillers grains, for example), agricultural wastes (straw, chicken manure and so on) or energy crops is growing rapidly....

Biomass is also being embraced by traditional energy generators. As well as the ability to co-fire biomass in its coal plants, E.on has announced plans for its third dedicated biomass power station in the UK. If approved, the 150MW power station at Bristol's Royal Portbury docks would bring its total planned biomass capacity to 219MW. It already operates the 44MW plant at Stephen's Croft near Lockerbie and has just been awarded Section 36 consent for a 25MW plant in Sheffield.

....Last year ScottishPower announced plans to secure 250,000t of energy crops for use in its Cockenzie and Longannet power stations, a scheme which the generator claims could see up to 35,000ha of land contracted by 2013 to produce short-rotation willow coppice and feed barley for the generator.

Drax, the UK's largest coal-fired power plant, is also investing heavily in biomass. As well as its existing capacity to generate 100MW of power by co-firing biomass through its coal mills, it is also investing in a new facility to allow the generation of an additional 400MW of power from the direct injection of biomass. Drax is also developing a pilot project to produce pellets from locally sourced straw, which could produce about 100,000t of pellets a year.

As part of its biomass procurement plans, Drax is looking for up to 300,000t a year of miscanthus from the surrounding area. Consequently miscanthus specialist Bical needs about 20,000ha of land, although the firm's Mike Carver stresses this will not mean wall-to-wall energy crops. "It's actually a fraction of the land that was previously set-aside," he says.

To secure supplies, Drax and Bical have negotiated a new contract price of £60 per oven dried tonne, with the generator paying for delivery on top of this. Bical's figures suggest that with a 13-year index-linked contract, miscanthus could deliver an average net margin between £284 and £487/ha, compared with £124 to £279/ha for more traditional combinations of winter wheat, oilseed rape and/or beans. _Source_via_Biopact
For purposes of gasification and co-firing, the biomass that grows fastest is best. Over time, the best methods of compacting and densifying biomass will be developed, to economise on transport fees. That suggests a huge economic opportunity for local and regional processing and pre-processing operations, which should be an ongoing opportunity for many decades.

Almost paradoxically, the better and more efficient the local and regional processing/pre-processing operations, the more likely that the actual utilisation of biomass will take place centrally--to take advantage of economies of scale. But there will always be room for small scale local/regional utilisation of compacted biomass due to tradeoffs in transportation and power utility costs.



Blogger John Nicklin said...

If biomass doesn't compete with food, I am all for it. Corn is food, as is wheat and barley, the stalks or stubble is biomass that can be converted into energy.

I also agree, I think, with your preise that localized solutions are preferable to centralized ones. In our case on Vancouver Island, we could definitely use coal bed methane and biomass to meet local needs for electrical generation, but these kinds of projects are dismissed because they don't meet larger demands. If every small center looked after its own needs, with possibly a little surplus, wouldn't that meet our requirements? I may be out ot lunch on this and I defer to yor greater wisdom.

10:42 PM  
Blogger al fin said...

There is always a tension between the policy makers at the provincial or national level, and local interests.

In the case of B.C., the delusion of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming is quite strong in the province, so a local proposal to use fossil fuels for vital local/regional needs is apt to be vetoed by provincial busybodies.

4:12 PM  
Blogger John Nicklin said...

Very sad, but very true. I'm not sure the BC gov't is deluded or just saw an excuse for a tax. On second thought, maybe they are just deluded, not as deluded as the opposition, but pretty close.

9:42 PM  

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