Portland General delays biomass test burn at Boardman into Q1 2017

Portland General Electric (PGE) on Dec. 30 asked the Public Utility Commission of Oregon for authorization to defer for later rate-making treatment certain revenues associated with the scheduled Boardman Power Plant 100% biomass test burn.

PGE requested authorization to defer the 2016 revenues collected for the purchase and consumption of biomass fuel of approximately $2.8 million. These revenues were collected for the specific purpose of completing a 100% biomass test-burn at the coal-fired Boardman plant. While this fuel has been purchased (and torrefied) and the process to reach a 100% test-burn has commenced, technical and weather-related issues necessitate the completion of this burn in the first quarter of 2017.

PGE noted: “We request this deferral to be effective beginning December 30, 2016 and will seek amortization of the deferred revenues as an offset to the burned biomass fuel in a future Commission proceeding, soon after the fuel is burned at Boardman.”

PGE completed a coal/biomass co-fire test burn in 2015 and also recognized the revenues associated with that test in 2015. For 2016, PGE found a supplier of torrefied biomass but determined that the supplier could not meet quality, time, and quantity requirements. PGE worked with several other potential suppliers who provided the biomass directly or installed torrefiers to work with forest wood product and other biomass waste.

PGE expected to have 4,000-5,000 tons of torrefied biomass by the test date, which was scheduled for the first part of December 2016. PGE has purchased the fuel required for the 2016 100% biomass test bum and began building towards a 100% test bum in the first and second weeks of December 2016. However, due to a number of mechanical and safety related issues, PGE was unable to safely complete the full burn and acquire the necessary data. Additionally, for reliability purposes, PGE moved Boardman into “no touch” status, limiting the flexibility of performing the additional modifications required to resume the build towards the 100% biomass test bum.

Boardman is under a mandate to end coal use by the end of 2020. The biomass testing is part of an effort to keep the 580-MW (net) plant open beyond that point.

Portland General conducted a co-firing test burn at Boardman in November 2015, using a 1-10 ratio of torrefied biomass to coal, to confirm the fuel burns well and that it can be delivered to the boiler using the plant’s conveyors, silos, pulverizers and other equipment. The term “torrefied” means that raw wood has been roasted in a process similar to making charcoal. The end product is a dry, brittle material that can be pulverized like 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.