Category: Solid fuels

Biomass fired power capacity EU 2019-2020

Europe enters the winter period with more biomass-fired power capacity. In the Netherlands, coal-fired plants are in the commissioning stages of wood pellet co-firing.

  • Engie’s 731MW Rotterdam plant at 10%, Uniper’s 1.1GW Maasvlakte (MPP3) plant at 15% and RWE’s 777MW Eemshaven A and B units at 15%. All are expected to begin commercial co-firing this year
  • RWE’s 630MW Amer 9 plant continues to ramp up to 80% wood pellet co-firing in 2020, having reached 50% this March
  • In the UK, MGT Power’s Teeside 299MW dedicated biomass combined heat and power plant is also due to come online in 2020


In the while, outside Europe, pellet imports in South Korea rose by just 3% on the year to 1.62mn t in the first half of 2019. Japan took 750,000t of wood pellets in the first six months of 2019 — 57% more on the year. Vietnam overtook Canada as the dominant pellet supplier to Japan in the first half of this year, accounting for a 56% share.

Data from Argus Biomass Infographic 2020 markets highlights – Timeline of market movements across Europe, Asia and North America


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Facts and figures electricity generation 2020: biomass, the all rounder

“Energy production from biomass is a decisive component of the energy transition. Currently, 185 TWh of electricity is produced from biomass in Europe, which means that biomass accounts for 18.4 % of renewable electricity generation. In Europe, Sweden, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom were the countries with the highest electricity production from biomass in 2017.

Biomass is used as a fuel in thermal power plants or is fermented to produce methane in biogas plants. Biomass power plants meet the same requirements for the stability of the electricity grid as fossil-fired power plants. They are suitable for base-load as well as for the supply of balancing and control power. In addition, it is also possible to convert coal-fired power plants to biomass in order to continue using existing sites. Biogas is usually used in gas engines to generate electricity or can be fed into the natural gas grid. This contributes a considerable storage potential.

Biomass power plants and biogas plants can be used both in centralized and distributed systems. Biomass, as an all-round renewable energy source, is therefore an indispensable component of future energy supply systems.”

Text and picture courtesy of by VGB PowerTech e.V., August 2019. Download

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2019 Bioenergy for Power Generation Costs

Reference: IRENA (2019), Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2018, International Renewable Energy Agency, Abu Dhabi.

Bioenergy, where low-cost feedstocks are available as by-products from agricultural or forestry processes, can provide competitive electricity. In 2018, when around 5.7 GW of new bioenergy electricity generation capacity was added worldwide, the global weighted-average LCOE of new bioenergy power plants commissioned was USD 0.062/kWh – 14% lower than in 2017.


Global weighted average total installed costs, capacity factors and LCOE for bioenergy, 2010–2018


Bioenergy electricity generation options span a wide range of feedstocks and technologies.

The global weighted-average total installed costs of bioenergy projects fell to around USD 2100/kW in 2018, down form around USD 2850/kW in 2017.

Outside of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the combustion of sugar cane bagasse, wood waste and other vegetal or agricultural wastes uses proven, low-cost technologies. By country or region, these have weighted-average total installed costs that range between USD 950/kW and USD 1650/kW. The costs for these technologies is typically higher in Europe and North America.


Total installed cost of bioenergy-fired power generation projects by selected feedstocks and country/region, 2000–2018. Differences in total installed costs for bioenergy are more significant between countries than feedstock types. Total installed costs vary significantly within countries or regions depending on the technology employed. Bioenergy projects using bagasse and rice husks as feedstocks tend to have lower installed costs than those using landfill gas, wood waste, other vegetal and agricultural waste and renewable municipal waste.


Economies of scale are evident in China and India, where large numbers of plants have been deployed. Bioenergy electricity generation plants are small compared to fossil fuel plants, though, as the logistical costs of transporting feedstock from far afield often make plants much larger than 50 MW economically unattractive.


Total installed cost of bioenergy-fired power generation projects for different capacity ranges by country/region, 2000–2018. Economies of scale are visible for total installed costs in China, India and the rest of the world, but less evident in Europe and North America.


Total installed cost of bioenergy-fired power generation projects for different capacity ranges by selected feedstock and country/region, 2000–2018. Economies of scale are evident across feedstocks for bioenergy power projects in China and India, but less evident elsewhere, given the smaller data samples available.


Project capacity factors and weighted averages of bioenergy-fired power generation projects by feedstock and country/region, 2000–2018. Country and regional weighted-average capacity factors range from 63% in China to 83% in North America. Capacity factors tend to be higher for larger projects.


Project capacity factors and weighted averages of selected feedstocks for bioenergy fired power generation projects by country and region, 2000–2018. Capacity factors for individual projects typically span the 25 – 90% range, with weighted averages by technology and region ranging from 39% to 93%. Capacity factors for bagasse are lower than for other feedstocks, reflecting the seasonal availability of feedstock supplies.


LCOE by project and weighted averages of bioenergy-fired power generation projects by feedstock and country/region, 2000–2018. China and India have the lowest average LCOEs at around USD 0.06/kWh. LCOEs are higher in Europe and North America, at around USD 0.08/kWh and USD 0.09/kWh, respectively, due to higher shares of plants combusting renewable municipal waste. Ranges are wide across all regions, reflecting the diversity of installed costs, feedstock availability and technologies employed.


LCOE and capacity factor by project and weighted averages of selected feedstock for bioenergy-fired power generation projects by country/region, 2000–2018. Bagasse plant LCOEs typically fall between USD 0.03/kWh and USD 0.08/kWh, with capacity factors ranging from 40% to 90%. LCOEs for landfill gas projects have lower LCOEs at higher capacity factors, while some larger projects utilising “other vegetal and agricultural waste” (with higher feedstock costs) tend to have higher LCOEs. Bioenergy projects using rice husks as feedstocks tend to have LCOEs between USD 0.03 and USD 0.07/kWh, for capacity factors between 50% and 90%.


Fixed operations and maintenance (O&M) costs for bioenergy power plants typically range from 2% to 6% of total installed costs per year, while variable O&M costs are typically relatively low, at around USD 0.005/ KWh. Fixed O&M costs include labour, scheduled maintenance, routine component/ equipment replacement (for boilers, gasifiers, feedstock handling equipment, etc.), insurance, etc. The fixed O&M costs of larger plants are lower per kW due to economies of scale, especially for labour. Variable O&M costs are determined by the output of the system and are usually expressed as USD/ kWh. Non-biomass fuel costs, such as ash disposal, unplanned maintenance, equipment replacement and incremental serving costs are the main components of variable O&M costs. Unfortunately, the available data often merges fixed and variable O&M costs into one number, thus rendering impossible a breakdown between fixed and variable O&M costs.


Fixed and variable O&M costs for bioenergy power

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Operational challenges in biomass combustion (EUBIA)


A high combustion quality, in terms of maximal combustion of the burning gases, is very important for a low emission level. It mainly depends on the combustion chamber temperature, the turbulence of the burning gases, residence time and the oxygen excess. These parameters are governed by a series of technical details such as:

  •     combustion technology (e.g. combustion chamber design, process control technology)
  •     settings of the combustion (e.g. primary and secondary air ratio, distribution of the air nozzles)
  •     load condition (full- or part-load)
  •     fuel characteristics (shape, size distribution, moisture content, ash content, ash melting behaviour).

Biomass has a number of characteristics that makes it more difficult to handle and combust than fossil fuels. The low energy density is the main problem in handling and transport of the biomass, while the difficulties in using biomass as fuel relates to its content of inorganic constituents. Some types of biomass used contain significant amounts of chlorine, sulfur and potassium. The salts, KCl and K2SO4, are quite volatile, and the release of these components may lead to heavy deposition on heat transfer surfaces, resulting in reduced heat transfer and enhanced corrosion rates. Severe deposits may interfere with operation and cause unscheduled shutdowns. The release of alkali metals, chlorine and sulfur to the gas-phase may also lead to generation of significant amounts of aerosols (sub-micron particles) along with relatively high emissions of HCl and SO2.

The nature and severity of the operational problems related to biomass depend on the choice of combustion technique. In grate-fired units deposition and corrosion problems are the major concern. In fluidized bed combustion the alkali metals in the biomass may facilitate agglomeration of the bed material, causing serious problems for using this technology for herbaceous based biofuels. Fluidized bed combustors are frequently used for biomass (e.g. wood and waste material), circulating FBC are the preferred choice in larger units. Application of biomass in existing boilers with suspension- firing is considered an attractive alternative to burning biomass in grate-fired boilers. However, also for this technology the considerable chlorine and potassium content in some types of biomass (e.g. straw) may cause problems due to deposit formation, corrosion, and deactivation of catalysts for NO removal (SCR).

Currently wood based biofuels are the only biomasses that can be co-fired with natural gas; the problems of deposition and corrosion prevent the use of herbaceous biomass. However, significant efforts are aimed at co-firing of herbaceous biomass together with coal on existing pulverized coal burners. For some problematic fuels, esp. straw a separate auxiliary boiler may be required. In addition to the concerns about to deposit formation, corrosion, and SCR catalyst deactivation, the addition of biomass in these coal units may impede the utilization of fly ash for cement production. In order to minimize these problems, various fuel pretreatment processes have been considered, including washing the straw with hot water or using a combination of pyrolysis and char treatment.

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Sulfur Recirculation and Improved Material Selection for High Temperature Corrosion Abatement

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund AB in Sweden has installed their Sulfur Recirculation technology in one of the two Waste-to Energy lines at Maabjerg Energy Center (MEC) in Denmarkm in order to combat high temperature corrosion. “Sulfur Recirculation and Improved Material Selection for High Temperature Corrosion Abatement, investigating different aspects of corrosion memory” is a new very interesting report by ENERGIFORSK / KME. Check it out here.


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BIOFACT successfully applied for analysing RDF fuel delivered to two side-by-side boilers

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Woody biomass role in EU 20% target for RE consumption and influences on pellets trade

How are the EU member states contributing to the 20% target for EU’s renewable energy consumption? Which role for woody biomass and how this influences pellets trade?

A recent paper by Proskurina et al. (Biomass & Bioenergy; discusses this interesting topic. Among the conclusions:

  • For countries that already reach their national biomass targets or have a difference less than 15%, woody biomass plays an important role for electricity generation and H&C sector, mostly for Finland and Austria.
    Finland, Romania, Austria and Sweden have a large biomass potential.
  • Countries whose biomass still needs to increase from 15% to 30% have a realistic likelihood of reaching their own local biomass targets. Denmark, Lithuania, Italy, Spain, Slovakia are likely to increase woody biomass use for heat and electricity production.

  • In countries whose required biomass share increase is more than 30%, France and the UK have huge domestic energy consumption, thus, the development of renewables in these countries is crucial. Belgium and the Netherlands have woody biomass demand higher than potential.

Reported trends can be compared with new data from Schipfer et al. (CEBC, 2017, here) presenting their report (here) about the International wood pellet trade for Small-scale heating in the EU. Further details concerning the global wood pellets industry (2017 update) here.

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