Portland General Electric testing biomass at Boardman coal plant

Facing a deadline to quit burning coal at the 550-MW Board power plant by 2020, Portland General Electric (NYSE:POR)(PGE) has already starting to experiment with burning special biomass at the facility.

Oregon Department of Energy Compliance Officer Duane Kilsdonk briefed the Oregon DOE’s Energy Facility Siting board about the research and development project on June 17.

The utility’s first test-burn of about 200 tons of a biomass fuel, along with coal, at Boardman occurred in late 2015, and more testing is expected in the future, Kilsdonk said.

“Torrefaction is a process whereby biomass fuel stocks can be charred, driving out moisture and producing a fuel that can be pulverized and burned with minimal modifications to the existing plant,” PGE spokesperson Steven Corson, said in an email to GenerationHub

“We conducted a co-firing test burn in December 2015, burning torrefied biomass along with coal, and are now planning for a 100% torrefied biomass test burn later this year,” Corson said.

During the Energy Facility Siting board meeting, Kilsdonk said the torrefaction process results in a biomass fuel product that’s somewhat akin to a charcoal briquette.

During the meeting, Kilsdonk said he believes that Boardman is the first coal plant in the United States to experiment with this type of biomass process. A small number of plants in Canada and Europe are testing the process, the state official said.

During the meeting, state officials stressed that the Boardman test remains a research and development project and that Portland General Electric would still need to get state approvals before it could actually start fueling Boardman commercially with biomass.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.