R&D Biomass Energy
Thermally treated wood in pellet form, or “black pellets”, is a promising type of biomass which can be used for cost effective co-firing in existing coal power stations. The fuel handling properties alone are enough to make black pellets one of the main contributors to increased future volumes of renewable fuels for Vattenfall.Vattenfall’s new strategic direction is to replace more than half of the hard coal used today with biomass by 2020. Therefore, finding answers to the most critical questions that remain about the utilisation of black pellets is a major R&D focus.Small-scale tests indicate that black pellets offer similar properties to hard coal, and using them as a fuel would therefore require a fraction of the investment that wood pellets would necessitate.
First large-scale tests in the world
The summer of 2011, the first large-scale storage and combustion tests ever, are performed in the Reuter West CHP hard-coal-fired plant in Berlin, using several thousand tonnes of black pellets.
Great potential in CO2 reduction
One important way of reducing CO2 emissions is to replace coal with biomass in combined heat and power plants and conventional power plants, since it is the quickest way to achieve a substantial reduction of fossil CO2. Increasing the share of biomass used by Vattenfall is the common goal for the Group’s biomass programmes, which are conducted through close co-operation between Vattenfall R&D and Business Development.
The Group’s R&D programme for biomass is working on improving techniques in existing and new conventional power plants, through development of new technological solutions for using biomass as an energy source and through fuel upgrades.
Some very promising technologies have been discovered. For example, a new turbine concept has been discovered that can result in significantly higher efficiency from biomass, lower generation costs for gas and lower CCS costs, as well as lower costs for the actual turbine.
Vattenfall’s goal is to increase the use of biomass by 4 million tonnes per year by 2015. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil energy sources can be reduced by approximately 7 million tonnes per year when substituting coal for biomass.
Adding large quantities of biomass energy to the fuel mix in hard-coal plants entails a number of challenges. These relate to how to find a large enough supply of fuel in a long-term sustainable way and technical issues regarding fuel preparation, storage, combustion and the handling of by-products.
The R&D part of the Biomass Programme focuses on innovative and large-scale efforts and technical issues regarding new feedstock and future conversion technologies. Vattenfall is developing a long-term technology strategy for the conversion of biomass energy over the whole value chain and is aiming to prioritise visionary solutions for the efficient conversion of biomass.