Many countries have set obligations to reduce the CO2 emissions from coal fired boilers. Co-firing of biomass in existing coal fired power plants is an attractive solution to reduce CO2 emissions. Co-firing can be done by direct mixing of biomass with coal (direct co-firing) or by converting the biomass into a gas or liquid which is fired in a separate burner (indirect co-firing). Direct co-firing is a rather simple solution, but requires a high quality and expensive biomass fuel (e.g. wood pellets). Indirect co-firing requires an additional installation that converts the solid biomass into a gas or liquid, but has the advantage that it can handle a wide range of cheap biomass fuels (e.g. demolition wood) and most of the biomass ash components are separated from the gas before it enters the boiler. Separation of biomass ash can prevent fouling issues in the boiler.
Indirect co-firing, using biomass gasification technology, is already common practice. In Geertruidenberg (the Netherlands) a 80 MWth Lurgi CFB gasifier produces gas from demolition wood which is co-fired in the Amer PC boiler. In Ruien (Belgium) a 50 MWth Foster Wheeler fluidized bed gasifier is in operation.
The Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) developed a “second generation” allothermal gasifier called the MILENA gasifier. This gasifier has some major advantages over conventional fluidized bed gasifiers. The heating value of the produced gas is approximately 2.5 times higher than of gas produced by conventional bubbling / circulating fluidized bed gasifiers. This results in smaller adaptations to the membrane wall of the boiler for the gas injection, thus lower costs. A major disadvantage of most fluidized bed gasifiers is the incomplete conversion of the fuel. Typical fuel conversions vary between 90 and 95%. The remaining combustible material, also containing most of the biomass ash components, is blown out of the gasifier and removed from the gas stream by a cyclone to prevent ash entering the boiler. The calorific value of this carbon containing ash is lost. In allothermal gasifiers all the carbon containing ashes are combusted in the combustion section of the gasifier and the produced heat is used for the gasification process.
The MILENA gasification technology is demonstrated at lab-scale (25 kWth) and pilot scale (800 kWth). A demonstration plant (11.6 MWth biomass input) will be constructed in Alkmaar (the Netherlands). Demolition wood will be used as fuel.
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