PGE plans big biomass test at Its 550-MW Boardman coal plant in Oregon

Portland General Electric (PGE) (NYSE:POR) is tentatively planning a large-scale test burn in November that will use woody debris to power its Boardman coal-fired power plant.

The large-scale test of “torrefied” biomass will occur in November, the date is contingent on fuel, a PGE spokesperson confirmed Sept. 2. Torrefaction technically refers to a roasting process in which biomass is heated.

The PGE representative described the event as a “24-hour equivalent” test burn, , so we’ll burn the amount of fuel required to power the plant for 24 hours, but won’t necessarily do it all in one continuous 24 hour period.”

What the utility describes as a successful test burn was held last winter at Boardman using a 10-to-one mix of coal and biomass. The utility’s first test-burn of about 200 tons of a biomass fuel, along with coal, an Oregon Department of Energy official said a few months ago.

A small number of power plants in Canada and Europe are testing the torrefactionprocess, the Oregon DOE siting board was told in June.

The larger-scale test marks the next step in determining whether the plan is doable long-term said the PGE spokesperson, Steve Corson.

PGE is getting the fuel from an entity called the Oregon Torrefaction Project, which apparently has received U.S. Department of Agriculture research money to convert wood waste into a low-carbon biomass product.

PGE has decided to either convert the station to cleaner burning biomass, or shut it down entirely by 2020. The utility has been exploring biomass options for Boardman for several years now.

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.