Coal Needs To Get Cleaner. Can Biomass Help?

While a conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court had blocked implementation of the Clean Power Plan, market forces have still favored green energy and carbon reductions. But does that necessarily spell an end to coal plants? If they are able to meet the more stringent emissions’ tests, some will survive — a development that could also bode […]

While a conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court had blocked implementation of the Clean Power Plan, market forces have still favored green energy and carbon reductions. But does that necessarily spell an end to coal plants?

If they are able to meet the more stringent emissions’ tests, some will survive — a development that could also bode well for the biomass sector, whose product can be co-fired along with coal. Indeed, if just 5 percent of the coal that is burned today were replaced with wheat, grasses or forest residue, it would reduce carbon releases by 16 percent, say experts.

“Even in light of the fact that the Supreme Court has hit the pause button on the Clean Power Plan, we are not seeing any waning of interests in reducing carbon emissions and especially toward using more biomass,” says Nancy Heimann, chief executive of Enginuity Worldwide, a Missouri-based company that transforms grass, wood and agricultural waste into a biomass fuel.

Biomass has long been on the table with respect to co-firing it with coal as a way to possibly reduce pollution. But the cost of doing so has made the return on investment impractical for many utilities, namely because the biomass does not have the same “heat content” as does coal. That means that it takes a lot of energy to operate the systems and to produce a viable fuel to create electricity. Hence, carbon emissions may actually be greater than burning pure coal.

Whereas previous technologies may have just used raw biomass, Heimann told this reporter that her technology uses an “upgraded” version of such feedstock that she labels as “bio-coal.” It is then just dropped into the existing infrastructure to make electricity — cheaper than building a new gas-fired power plant.

From Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kensilverstein/2016/02/14/clean-power-plan-or-not-coal-needs-to-get-cleaner-can-biomass-help/#6eb8b9ea772c

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