Diversifying Fuel Supply: Key Players in Biomass

At the start of 2009, biomass was included in the US’ stimulus plan, marking the start of a promising year for the sector. Since then, new projects have been announced worldwide and the UK’s Drax Power Station is set to start co-firing biomass and coal to become the largest biomass plant in the world. Here are some of the leading players in this fast-growing renewables sector.

Siemens‘Alstom is a world leader in delivering biomass co-firing solutions worldwide to contribute to the fight against climate change, in line with its clean power strategy.’ — Marcel Mueller, vice president, Steam/Retrofit, Thermal Services, Alstom Power

Alstom: Engineering, building and turbine supplies

Alstom has supplied equipment to some of the largest biomass projects in the world, including Drax.

Alstom is a France-based power engineering giant. In May 2009 the company signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract with Drax Energy for £50 million (US$78 million), to build the processing works for the 1.5 million tonne per year biomass co-firing facility to be constructed at Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire, UK (see details over). The processing works will receive, handle, store and process various biomass materials ready for direct injection into the power station’s existing boilers.

And, announced at around the same time, the company also confirmed that it is to supply a 1100 MWe steam turbine generator package for the existing Maasvlakte installation near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. This coal-fired facility will also be suitable for co-firing with biomass and, Alstom says, will also benefit from deep water access for fuel suply. Under the terms of the contract, with E.ON Benelux, the plant is due to be commissioned in 2013.

The company has also previously won the business for a 41 MWe advanced steam turbogenerator for the Dan Cheng Bio Energy Cogeneration Project in Thailand which uses bagass and rice husks.

Alstom designed, installed and commissioned a dedicated co-firing system on the 640 MWe tangential coal fired boiler at Essent Energy’s Amer Power Station in the Netherlands.


‘At Drax, we are only too well aware of the need to tackle climate change and we firmly believe that we are part of the solution. We have a role to play in the transition towards a low carbon economy whilst delivering reliable supplies of electricity.’ — Dorothy Thompson, CEO of Drax

Drax: Co-firing, power distribution and pellet production facilities

The power station’s venture into biomass co-firing will start in 2010.

Drax is a UK-based company, consisting of subsidiaries Drax Power Limited and Drax Power Station. Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire, England, is the second largest coal-fired plant in Europe, and is due to become the biggest biomass co-firing power plant in the world in the middle part of this year.

In October 2009 the FTSE 100 company announced its plans to displace 10% of its coal usage with biomass, as part of a joint venture with Siemens Project Ventures. Drax said it has been developing its capability to use biomass since 2003.

From June 2010 Drax plans to displace 400 MWe with biomass via a £60 million (US$95.4 million) co-firing system which is under development with Alstom and Doosan Babcock. Work started in May 2008. The company built a straw pellitization facility in Goole, UK and also plans to build three 300 MW biomass-fired power plants in the UK. One will be at the Drax Power Station site in North Yorkshire, one at the Port of Immingham in the Humber Estuary and, at the time of going to press, the third planned location had not been disclosed, though the company says it is giving serious consideration to also siting it on the Drax Power Station site, where it already employs 750 people.

Drax aims to source biomass supplies of up to 2 million tonnes a year for co-firing and around 1.3 million tonnes a year for each of the biomass-fired plants, with a significant proportion of supplies coming from within the UK itself.


‘With a strong position already in the UK biomass market, we look forward to further expanding the business across Europe’ — John Rittenhouse, managing director of EDF Trading

EDF: Supplies and project development

Subsidiaries of French national energy champion EDF are involved in supply of biomass as well as plant developments.

Several EDF groups, most notably EDF Energies Nouvelles and EDF Trading are involved in the development of biomass plants and projects around Europe.

In October 2008 EDF Trading moved into the biomass sector with the acquisition of Renewable Fuel Supply Limited (RFSL), which offers biomass procurement, and technical support to coal-fired power generation companies wanting to ‘co-fire’ biomass with coal.

RFSL was the UK’s largest independent supplier of biomass in 2008, and, according to the company, its founders pioneered co-firing of biomass with coal in the UK five years ago. The business also researches new sources of biomass and new uses for these fuels.

SIIF Ibérica, which makes up 70% of Bioenergía Santamaría (a 100% owned subsidiary of the EDF group), developed a biomass project in 2003 in Andalucia, Spain, involving the use of dried olive pulp as fuel. The facility is located in Lucena, Andalusia. It has an installed capacity of 26 MW and is able to process 180,000 tonnes of olive pulp annually. The plant is based on a 14.3 MWe gas turbine generator package, an olive oil residue incinerator and heat recovery system.

‘The fuel flexibility of Foster Wheeler’s CFB technology provides an excellent solution for biomass power generation because it can accommodate a wide range of fuels.’   — Jaroslaw Mlonka, president and CEO of Foster Wheeler Energia Polska.

Foster Wheeler: Engineering, boiler supplies, plant design Services

This major US engineering company has been providing boiler, design and construction services to biomass plant-owners

Foster Wheeler engineers and constructs equipment for power generation including biomass. The company produces fluidized bed boilers for small-scale biomass combustion, and circulating fluidized bed (CFB) boilers for larger-scale combustion.

In September 2009 the company announced it had signed a contract with ZE PAK S.A. for the design, supply and erection of a 55 MW biomass-fired CFB boiler island for the Konin power station in Poland. Commercial operation of the new steam generator is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012. The steam generator will be designed to burn wood biomass and up to 20% of agricultural biomass.

In May 2008 a contract was awarded to the company’s Finnish subsidiary, Foster Wheeler Energia by NSE Biofuels Ltd for a CFB biomass gasifier to be located in Varkaus, Finland. The plant began operations in early 2009.

This plant also uses Foster Wheeler’s CFB gasification technology to convert biomass into a clean syngas which can be used in a gas to liquids (Fischer-Tropsch) process to produce feedstock for renewable diesel from biomass/wood residue-based gas.

Foster Wheeler also supplied Simmering Power plant in Vienna, Austria, with a boiler island using its CFB technology with intermediate superheating. The plant began operation in October 2006.

Jaroslaw Mlonka, president and CEO of Foster Wheeler Energia Polska.

‘Lantmännen’s climate strategy is of high priority and guides us in our work with energy efficiency, sustainable transportation and product development.’ — Per Strömberg, CEO and group president, Lantmännen (pictured)

Lantmannen Agroenergi: Pellet production, district heating using biofuel

This co-operative is owned by the farmers who produce the biomass which is turned into pellets, logs and briquettes by the company.

Sweden-based Lantmännen Agroenergi is Europe’s largest wood pellet manufacturer. The company is more than 25 years old and is part of the multi-faceted Lantmännen co-operative, which in 2009 was made up of 52,000 farmer/owner members.

Lantmännen Agroenergi’s main market is Europe and the company also offers district heating solutions using biofuel derived from industry by-products, including sawdust, and sold under the brand name Agrol. Customers inlcude commercial and industrial buldings and private home owners.

It has two subsidiaries: Renewable Fuels in the UK and SBE Latvia Ltd, in Latvia. SBE Latvia has one plant in Talsi, Latvia, which mainly produces pellets for export to other parts of Europe. Renewable Fuels supplies heating pellets and logs onto the UK market.

The company has approximately 145 employees and a yearly turnover of around SEK 850 million (US$116 million). Lantmännen Agroenergi currently has eight factories in sites throughout Sweden and the Baltic States, with an overall production capacity of 500,000 tonnes a year.

‘Helius Energy have always stressed that the sources of biomass used in our projects will come from sustainable sources.’ — John Seed, managing director, Helius Energy

Helius Energy: Installation and operation

In 2009 this company announced various alliances and joint ventures in the biomass field

Helius Energy, which was set up in 2007, develops, installs and operates biomass fired renewable electricity generation plants. It is a UK-based company which develops both large (over 60 MW) and small modular (5 MW–8 MW) biomass-powered plants.

In September 2009 the company formed a strategic alliance with Veolia water to use its technology to turn distillery byproducts into biomass fuel. Also last year, the company announced plans for a joint development between Helius Energy and The Combination of Rothes Distillers Limited (CoRD) to install a biomass-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plant on one of the CoRD’s existing sites to the north of Rothes, Scotland.

The £50 million ($81 million) project will use whisky distillery by-products and wood chip from sustainable sources to fuel the plant which is expected to have an electrical output of 7.2 MWy the company claims.

Helius Energy has also secured an 18 acre (7.3ha) site in Avonmouth Dock in the Bristol Channel, for the proposed construction of a 100 MWe biomass power plant. The £200 million ($322 million) power plant was given approval in May 2009 by Bristol Council. The plant will use chippings, off-cuts, peelings and bark for fuel, using similar technology to Helius Energy Alpha Ltd’s Stallingborough project, which Helius Energy sold to RWE in 2008 in a £28 million ($45 million) deal (see below).

‘The local supply of electric power to individual buildings from renewable energy will become increasingly significant.’ — Professor Fritz Vahrenholt, CEO of RWE Innogy

RWE Innogy: Development and construction

This company develops large-scale biomass power plants in Europe.

RWE Innogy is the sister company of energy giant npower. Among its activities, RWE Innogy develops biomass CHP plants and owns the subsidiary Innogy Cogen which develops similar plants in Germany.

RWE entered the UK biofuel market in September 2008, when it purchased 100% of Helius Energy’s Alpha Stallinborough power plant, in North Lincolnshire. The plant is expected to enter operation in 2011 with a capacity of 600 MW. Local utility arm RWE npower will provide operations and maintenance services for the plant on behalf of RWE Innogy.

The company is also constructing biomass plants with capacities of 8 MWe and 30 MWth in Germany’s Siegen-Wittgenstein district.

Its latest power plant the Gutergluck Power Station, was commissioned in 2009 and has a capacity of 6.5 MWe. The biogas product, which will be fed into the local natural gas network upon meeting natural gas specifications, will be marketed by RWE’s sales subsidiary, RWE Energy. A further 10 biomass cogeneration plants are scheduled for construction in Germany by the company by 2020.

RWE aims to produce 600 MWel and 1600 MWth by 2011, and says they currently have a capacity of 113 Mwel of biomass produced energy.

‘The general market outlook for renewable energy production is promising.’ — Lennart Ohlsson, president of Metso Power.

MW Power: Technology development, boiler supply

This joint venture now supplies biomass technology developed by Metso and Wärtsilä of Finland.

MW Power is the result of a joint venture between Wartsila’s Biopower business and Metso’s Heat and Power business. The Finnish venture consists of MW Power (former Noviter), MW Biopower (former Wärtsilä Biopower), MW Power AB (former VEÅ AB), Oü Noviter Eesti and associated companies. It was launched in September 2008 and started operations in January 2009. Metso owns 60% and Wärtsilä 40%, of the joint venture which has 200 employees.

The first technology development released by the joint venture in May 2009 was the Biopower 8, which is a complete modular CHP plant with a 9.6 MW electricity capacity, and 20.6 MW heat capacity. The modularized power plant uses low grade biomass, and is designed to be used to utilize local fuel supplies. The development utilized Metso’s bubbling fluidized bed combustion (BFB combustion) technology.

It was announced in October 2009 that MW Power will supply a biomass boiler CHP plant to Affärsverken i Karlskrona AB in the Swedish municipality of Karlskrona. The start-up of the plant is scheduled for the first quarter of 2012.

In December 2009 the company announced it will supply a biomass power plant for a CHP facility in Ham, Belgium. Its start-up is scheduled for the second quarter of 2011.

‘The development of biomass plants will help to address the challenge of climate change.’  — Wolfgang Bischoff, managing director, Siemens Project Ventures

Siemens: Engineering, project management and boiler supply services

The Germany-based engineering giant supplies boilers to large-scale biomass power plants.

Siemens’ largest investment in biomass was finalised in October 2009 by its subsidiary Siemens Project Ventures. The subsidiary has invested

£2 billion ($3.12 billion) in Drax Power Station. Siemens will own 40% of the biomass plants, and will supply the turbine technology for the plants which are expected to open in 2014. Contracts will be finalised over the next 18 months.

Siemens is consortium leader for another of Britain’s biomass power plants at Lockerbie in Scotland. The Steven’s Croft Wood Burning plant has an electrical capacity of 44 MW and was commissioned in August 2007. Siemens supplied the SST-800 steam turbine and coordinated, engineered and managed the development of the engineering and project management. The order also covered the civil works, erection, and the instrumentation and control equipment.

The company is also involved in biomass research and development following the announcement in October 2008 that Siemens Energy and Automation Inc had entered into a co-operative research and development agreement with the USDA Agricultural Research Service to improve the process of converting lignocellulosic biomass into liquid biofuel intermediates.

Hannah Flynn is production editor at Renewable Energy World magazine.

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