European Biomass Power conference Seville, Spain
Spain bio-power conference highlights Australian need to ‘bite the bullet’
Areas where biomass is recovered have up to 70% less risk of fire. Another benefit of dispersed regional bioenergy plants is that it allows turning marginal or non-productive land into energy crop fields. This allows the economic revitalization in rural areas
• More employment
• Spanish expertise
• Economic revitalization
• Export scope
• Enormous growth potential
THIS CONFERENCE about production of electricity from biomass contained much information that is very relevant to Australia. Participants included people from sectors and businesses producing energy plants designed for straw, wood chip, municipal waste, or were providers of specialist equipment including flu gas filtering systems, detectors of hotspots in feedstocks, and transport and storage systems, or were involved in various aspects of biomass supply, delivery and management, or in R&D.
Spain, with its population of about 46.3 million, is a major agricultural and forestry producer. About 47 million ha of its arable land is planted to permanent horticultural crops – mainly citrus, wine grapes and olives, but also almonds, stone fruit and figs. As well there is production of major amounts of straw and stalk from annual crops, and residues from forestry production including eucalypts grown for paper and cellulose, as well as forestry (mainly of pine species) managed for timber production.
One figure for the residues available from this sector plus forestry land is of 15.7 million tonnes/year while another figure for wood removal from agricultural land alone is of 16 million tonnes a year.
Annual crops are grown
across more than 70 million ha, and the amount of agricultural residues baled and removed thus totals well over 70 million tonnes (with much of this presently used for animal feed and bedding). One figure for the amount of biomass available overall for energy production is of more than 88.5 million tonnes/year.
Spain has a target to produce 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020, and by 2014 had reached 16.2%. This 20% figure breaks down as 37% of electricity, 11.3% of transport fuels and 17.3 as heating and cooling, coming from renewable sources. Much of this can obviously come from biomass, and overall the amount of unutilized biomass available, plus up to 15 million tonnes a year of
non-recyclable combustible municipal wastes plus urban putrescible wastes, could be used to produce up to 15% of Spain’s installed 60 GW capacity of on-demand electricity (this includes from hydro and biomass. There is an extra 40 GW of installed capacity of wind and solar power). In addition it would produce more than 18 GW of industrial heat. This scale of development of bioenergy has the potential to permanently employ up to 40,000 people.
There is also scope for development of bioenergy to reduce significant expenditure on imports. About 20% of the total money Spain spends on imports is spent on US$80 billion worth of fossil fuels imported annually. Development of bioenergy could reduce this significantly through use of biomass for domestic
and industry heat, and production of cellulosic ethanol and bio-methane to provide 10% of transport fuel needs.
The production of electricity in Spain in 2013 was over 261 TWh, with about 113 TWh coming from renewable sources (37%). In 2015 renewable sources provided about 37.4% of total electricity demand. This breaks down by percentage to: 19.1 wind, 11.1 hydro, solar PV 3.1, solar thermal power 2.1, renewable thermal (biomass) 2.1. However, the split in Spain between the three forms of energy is almost exactly as 33% each for electricity, heat and transport fuels. In 2014 the figures for sources of the 15.2% of primary energy produced from renewables were: biomass and ‘renewable wastes’ 5.8%, hydro 2.9%, wind 3.8%, solar (electricity and heat including CSP) 2.7%. The proportions of contribution of the renewable sources within the final energy figure will be similar though the percentage contribution will be a higher figure than for primary energy. Predictably, biomass plays the greatest role of the renewables within the heating/cooling sector, supplying over 13% compared with 0.9% from solar energy. Similarly it plays the greatest role in the transport fuel sector, supplying over 1 million tones-oil-equivalent compared with about 120,000 toe from renewable electricity.
On the pre-conference tour about 40 people travelled by bus to visit a biomass-fueled 50 megawatt generator at Huelva that is producing about 350 GWh/ year. The plant, costing 125 million Euro when built in 2012, is owned by ENCE, Spain’s biggest pulp and paper company (producing about 1 million tonnes of pulp annually), and also the biggest producer of electricity from woody biomass, with 220 MW of capacity connected to the
national grid and producing about 1600 TWh/year, with 1360 TWh supplied to the grid in 2015.
While policies favouring development of renewable electricity, including payment of high feedin tariffs, meant heavy investment in wind turbines and solar technologies, biomass to electricity and heat has also seen significant investment and development of Spanish industrial expertise. Spanish companies that are leaders across the renewable energy sector include Abengoa (CSP and WTE), Acciona (wind and straw) and Gamesa (wind). However it was power generation and industrial heat production from biomass that saw continuing investment after the Spanish government withdrew from obligations to pay the high feed-in tariffs when the GFC hit. The major Spanish renewable energy companies are now established internationally with activity in Australia, USA, South America and elsewhere in Europe.
Greater use of residues encouraged
While the other three biomass-fueled plants owned by ENCE are using residues from the pulp and paper production and the heat is consumed in ENCE’s plants, the one we visited was designed for using biomass from energy crops, and Spanish renewable energy policy in 2015 encouraged greater use of residues from agricultural and horticultural crops. About 17% of the biomass now used is residues from the horticultural industry of the region – including stumps and trunks of orange trees and olive trees, and the balance of 83% is forestry residues from pine and eucalypt production, with 30% of the total being crushed eucalyptus stumps. Overall the biomass supply to this plant is about 50% as stumps, forestry wastes 20%, agricultural residues (including some cotton waste) 5%, and energy crops 25%.
Production of 50 MW-e using biomass as a feedstock means about 400,000 tonnes a year (1500 t/day at average 28% MC) has to be sourced and delivered on a justin-time basis, crushed or chipped to specifications, and held in the 20,000 m3 holding storage for the last short period before entering the furnace. The plant, along with another older biomassfueled 40 MW-e plant on the same site, has created about 950 permanent jobs for the area, including biomass supply, plant management and maintenance. One environmental benefit claimed by ENCE is that ‘areas where biomass is recovered have up to 70% less risk of fire’. Another benefit of dispersed regional bioenergy plants is that ‘it allows turning marginal or non-productive land into energy crop fields. This allows the economic revitalization in rural areas’.
97% operational capacity with biomass feed
The steam for the single 50 MW turbine is produced in two boilers. ENCE says that the energy efficiency of this plant is over 92% (conversion of fuel energy content to utilizable heat). The biomass feedstock is delivered into the furnaces through a number of points. The furnaces also have a number of points where injectors can deliver a backup supply of either fuel oil or natural gas. These can be instantly used if the woody biomass supply is interrupted somehow due
to system break-down, or at start up after a maintenance period. In 2015 this plant operated at capacity 97% of the time using the biomass feed.
The plant consists of two bubbling fluidized bed furnaces with integrated boilers made by Andritz. These produce 180 t/hr of steam at 500 C and 100 bar. The steam feeds a Siemens SST 600 condensing turbine and generator. Flue gases pass through an electrostatic precipitator to minimize dust, and a non-selective catalytic reactor to reduce nitrogen oxides. Cooling of the steam cycle is done using a 5-cell water cooling system with induced airflow with a capacity of 12,000 m3/ hr. Biomass chipping and crushing is done using systems supplied by the Finnish company BWH Technology.
As well as being the Spanish leader in generating power and industrial heat from biomass, ENCE is involved in several significant areas of research. It is a partner in the 9.3 million Euro EU-wide CASCATBEL program (17 partners from 10 countries) focused on commercial production of biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass using three tailored catalytic reactions. The processes involved are pyrolysis, deoxygenation and hydrogenation. This program began in November 2013 (www. cascatbel.eu). ENCE is also playing a leading role in another 2.5 million Euro project that commenced in September 2015 on the potential for production of higher value industrial chemicals from lignin (black liquor) produced in the Kraft pulping process.
Directly relevant to Australia
The two-day conference included many presentations directly relevant to Australia. The topic of straw-toenergy was covered by the Denmark-based company Burmeister & Wain Energy (BWE), which has been a leading player in the supply of furnaces for strawfired plants in Denmark, the UK and Spain. BWE supplied the boiler island to Denmark’s biomass-fueled Averdoere 2 combined heat and power plant which, after bring commissioned in 2002, held the record for having the highest efficiency of any conventional furnace power plant world-wide fueled by any fuel, with electrical production efficiency of about 48% in condensing mode. Another speaker was from Doosan Babcock, the company retrofitting the coal-fired furnaces at the UK’s DRAX plant, which is now the largest user of pellets for electricity production in Europe. Doosan (previously Babcock Wilcox) had supplied the furnace islands for the Hazelwood plant in Victoria and the speaker suggested that retrofitting these for use of biomass was feasible. Other speakers were from companies from specialty areas including the Italian flu gas treatment company REDECAM Group. This was the company responsible for installation of the flu gas treatment at the Vantaa WTE plant which has resulted in that plant having emissions comparable to those from a natural gas-fired plant.
Another group of speakers were involved with supply of biomass of all types into Europe. These forms of biomass included palm kernel shell, chipped over-mature rubber trees, crushed olive pit and olive pomace. The issues of shipping low energy density, less conventional biomass, that may only have occasional demand as a small component of biomass feed into an industrialscale plant, depending on delivered cost, applies to the Australia biomass producers who face this critical issue of shipping economics, with one solution being achieving greater energy density. Other speakers were people who were procurers of biomass for larger and smaller plants in Europe. Speakers included leading people from the R&D sector, and from the market intelligence and consulting area.
Biomass-to-energy ramps up
Overall the development of biomass-to-energy in Europe is developing strongly across many countries and at all scales. The drivers for this include the ready availability of biomass, the benefit of producing an on-demand or baseload form of renewable energy, the ability to switch biomass use between production of heat, biofuels and electricity, the ability to densify and transport biomass, and the significant creation of permanent jobs particularly in rural and regional areas, where lack of good employment prospects may have been forcing people to move to cities.
As with most conferences, while the presentations provided much good and useful information and contacts, it was the chance contacts over the breaks and discussions on the bus or at dinner that provided some of the best information and insights into how things are done in Europe. One Italian person I met gave information on a 25 MW-e straw-fired power plant in southern Italy at Apolia, another was a Dane looking at growing the tropical woody legume Leucaena in Zambia as a biomass source and animal feed and who was wanting an Australian source of improved seed, another was from the Spanish company Abengoa, who was keen to talk about the scope for export to Australia and north Africa of that company’s concentrating solar power (‘power towers’) and waste to energy technologies. And an Italian man working with Global CCS revealed that this world carbon geosequestration organization was initiated by Australia’s past prime minister John Howard, and that bio-CCS (bioenergy systems with capture of CO2 from the flue gas) is now seen as one real option for reduction of atmospheric CO2 levels. Two men from the Hanes underwear company in the Dominican Republic lamented that the invasive acacia species originally from Australia (A.longifolia or A. mangium) was such a problem that they were utilizing it as a fuel for the steam production for cotton processing in the plant. They wanted suggestions for more efficient harvesting and transport options.
The final words (following), summarizing this conference and the potential for bioenergy development more generally, are taken from ENCE website (www.ence. es/index.php/en/energy. html):- “As a result of continuous efforts in R&D and the experience gained in the effective use of biomass, Ence has managed to develop 100% Spanish technology and created a situation where the group could lead a global project in the field of utilization of biomass for energy production.
Renewable energy from biomass has enormous growth potential in Spain, a country which has the EU’s second largest wooded area. In fact, bioenergy is the only form of renewable energy that has shown sound economic results on account of the benefits generated; due to its capacity to create jobs, develop rural areas, and contribute to improving the environment, both through the capture of CO2, and the care and cleaning of the woodlands which reduces the risk of fires by up to 70%.
In addition, it is the only manageable and most stable renewable energy, not having to depend on variables such as sunlight, wind, or the availability of certain agricultural wastes. Biomass could be part of the progressive substitution of domestic coal, creating employment in the collieries affected due to the proximity of these coalfields to the forested areas that have the potential for biomass production.”
“Biomass plays the greatest role of the renewables within the heating/ cooling sector”