Ontario Power fires up former Atikokan coal plant on biomass

Ontario Power Generation said Sept. 10 that its Atikokan Generating Station (GS), formerly fired by coal, is now operating on biomass.

The 211-MW station is the largest power plant in North America fueled by 100% biomass, the provincial utility said. It is located near the Town of Atikokan in northwestern Ontario.

“The conversion of Atikokan will ensure a clean, reliable, sustainable and local supply of electricity for the region,” said Bob Chiarelli, provincial 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.”

“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 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.

The Atikokan conversion project got underway in mid-2012 with ground preparation and the construction of two silos. 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.

OPG has fuel supply contracts in place with two companies in northwestern Ontario –Rentech Inc. and Resolute Forest Products CanadaDue to the similar heat content of lignite coal and wood pellets, the Atikokan boiler design was an ideal candidate for fuel conversion, OPG noted. All 15 burners were replaced with Doosan Mark IV biomass burners.

Atikokan GS and Thunder Bay GS burned their last coal for electricity production in September 2012 and April 8 of this year, 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 as of earlier this year ceased burning coal.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.