Atikokan Generating Station Operating on Biomass

Plant is the Largest 100 per cent Biomass-Fueled Power Plant in North America

TORONTO, Sept. 10, 2014 /CNW/ - Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Atikokan Generating Station (GS) is now operating on biomass.  Biomass is an emerging fuel source that is recognized as beneficial to climate change mitigation.  The station is the largest power plant in North America fuelled by 100 per cent biomass.

"The conversion of Atikokan will ensure a clean, reliable, sustainable and local supply of electricity for the region," said Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy. "I am very happy to see this facility playing an active role in helping us deliver on the commitments in our Long-Term Energy Plan."

"Ontario is a leader in green energy production and technology and the conversion of the Atikokan Generating Station is a great example of innovative new opportunities available in Northern Ontario," said Bill Mauro, MPP Thunder Bay-Atikokan. "This facility will create and maintain well-paying jobs right here in our community and will contribute to Ontario's clean energy strategy."

"Northwestern Ontario is on the leading edge of some very exciting new mining and forestry developments and I am very pleased that our government is taking action to meet the future energy needs of our region," said Michael Gravelle, MPP, Thunder Bay-Superior North. "This project is not only providing more clean power to Ontarians, it is creating promising new economic opportunities and sustainable jobs for Northwestern Ontario in the green energy and forestry industries."

"Close to 100 per cent of the electricity OPG produces is from sources that are virtually free of emissions that cause smog or contribute to climate change.  Atikokan GS is a unique addition to our clean energy portfolio as it provides dispatchable, renewable energy that can be used when the power system needs it," said OPG's President and CEO, Tom Mitchell.

"The biomass conversion and solutions developed for the Atikokan GS are cutting edge and OPG is at the forefront of this innovative technology. The project is the first of its kind in Ontario and will bring economic benefits to northwestern Ontario for years to come," Mitchell added.

Plant is the Largest 100 per cent Biomass-Fueled Power Plant in North America

The Atikokan Generating Station (GS) conversion project got underway in mid-2012 with ground preparation and the construction of two silos, each 44 metres tall and 21 metres in diameter. Each silo can store up to 5,000 tonnes of wood pellets.  Modifications to the boiler and a new Distributed Controls System were also required.  As well, new truck receiving and transfer infrastructure was built. 

OPG has fuel supply contracts in place with two companies in northwestern Ontario -- Rentech Inc. and Resolute Forest Products Canada. Each will supply 45,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually for a total of 90,000 tonnes.  Having two suppliers enhances reliability of supply.  Both suppliers have employment arrangements with local Aboriginal communities. Transportation contracts are also in place.

Pellets are received from self-unloading, rear discharge trucks that have their own discharging system built into the trailers. A new receiving system transports the pellets to the large storage silos by conveyor belt and a bucket elevator.  When needed for production, the pellets are delivered to the plant on a first-in, first-out basis from the silos via new conveyor belts and a second bucket elevator. Once inside the powerhouse, the pellets are pulverized and fed into the boiler, much the same way as coal was previously.  Due to the similar heat content of lignite coal and wood pellets, the Atikokan boiler design was an ideal candidate for fuel conversion.  All 15 burners were replaced with Doosan Mark IV biomass burners. New ash transport systems have also been installed.

The Pembina Institute conducted a Biomass Sustainability Analysis in 2011 that included climate change implications of electricity generation using biomass fuel.  The report identified that harvesting biomass for electricity production is sustainable. A biomass program using wood pellets at a rate of two million tonnes per year is possible with no systemic decline in forest carbon stocks over time.  This, together with Ontario's sustainable forest management planning process and practices, means OPG's biomass program can satisfy the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) definition of renewable biomass. Fuel at Atikokan GS is required to come from sources that meet the UNFCCC definition of renewable biomass. A wood pellet electricity pathway offers a greenhouse gas benefit of 90 per cent compared to coal.

The Pembina study is supported by 2010 and 2014 University of Toronto (U of T) papers that included researchers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, the U of T, the Pembina Institute and others.

Atikokan GS and Thunder Bay GS burned their last coal for electricity production on Sept. 11, 2012 and April 8, 2014, respectively.  The coal plants at Lambton GS and Nanticoke GS are being placed in a safe shutdown state and will remain in place with the potential to be converted to clean fuel in the future. All OPG thermal plants have now ceased burning coal.

SOURCE: Ontario Power Generation Inc.

For further information:

Ontario Power Generation
Media Relations
416-592-4008 or 1-877-592-4008
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