Oregon Coal Plant To Try Full Day Of Biomass

Cleaning up forest clutter might be good for more than just curtailing large wildfires in Oregon. It might just be the answer Portland General Electric is looking for to convert the Boardman Coal Plant to 100 percent biomass. Later this year, PGE will use nothing but woody debris to power the station for one full […]

Cleaning up forest clutter might be good for more than just curtailing large wildfires in Oregon. It might just be the answer Portland General Electric is looking for to convert the Boardman Coal Plant to 100 percent biomass.

Later this year, PGE will use nothing but woody debris to power the station for one full day as the utility continues to test alternative fuels at the 550-megawatt facility. A successful test burn was conducted last year at Boardman using a 10-to-1 mix of coal and biomass, which has project leaders feeling optimistic. But this will be the first time the plant is fed exclusively biomass for 24 straight hours, which will go a long way toward determining whether the plan is feasible long-term.

The future remains uncertain at Oregon’s only remaining coal-fired power plant. Rather than install expensive new emission controls, PGE has decided to either convert the station to cleaner burning biomass, or shut it down entirely by 2020.

Wayne Lei, director of research and development for PGE, said biomass is an intriguing though challenging concept for Boardman. First, in order to feed biomass into the plant’s pulverizers, it must undergo a process called torrefaction — similar to making charcoal, or roasting coffee beans. The result is a dry, crispy material that can be ground up and burned as fuel. “It’s about a half-step below making charcoal,” Lei said.

At its peak generating capacity, the Boardman Coal Plant blasts through roughly 300 tons of coal every hour. Since torrefied biomass behaves similarly to coal, that means it will take 8,000 tons to keep the facility humming for a full day. To get that kind of supply, PGE has partnered with a newly incorporated company called Oregon Torrefaction, which will use small-diameter and beetle-killed trees to create the final product. The full day test burn will be conducted later this year.

From the East Oregonian: http://www.eastoregonian.com/eo/local-news/20160831/boardman-coal-plant-to-try-full-day-of-biomass

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