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Atikokan Biomass Conversion

Atikokan Biomass Conversion

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Atikokan Generating Station (GS), located in Atikokan, has been converted from coal to use biomass as fuel. The two-year conversion project was completed on time, and on budget in the summer of 2014 and is now the largest capacity 100 per cent biomass fuelled plant in North America. Atikokan GS is a unique addition to our clean energy portfolio as it provides dispatchable, renewable energy that can be used when the power system needs it.

The Atikokan biomass conversion project included plant modifications, and the construction of a fuel storage and handling system to repower the plant from coal to biomass fuel. Biomass will be the only fuel used at Atikokan GS.

Biomass wood pellets are a sustainable fuel recognized as beneficial to climate change mitigation, as identified in the Biomass Sustainability Analysis Report by the Pembina Institute.

Pembina Institute: Biomass Sustainability Analysis

OPG commissioned the Pembina Institute to conduct a sustainability analysis to determine if biomass sourced from Ontario forests meets the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change definition of renewable; to better understand the greenhouse gas reduction benefits of biomass; and to estimate the socio-economic benefits of electricity production from biomass. The analysis uses detailed forest carbon and socio-economic modelling to examine a scenario using two million tonnes of wood pellets per year from Ontario’s Crown forests at four OPG coal plants.

The Pembina Institute has developed an easy-to-read Biomass Sustainability Analysis Summary Report, a 14-page summary of the full Biomass Sustainability Analysis.

OPG chose wood-pellet biomass as fuel because the energy content is very similar to the lignite coal that Atikokan GS was designed to burn, so much of the existing equipment could be adapted for biomass. OPG wood-pellet suppliers were selected through a competitive process requiring the wood-fibre to be sourced from sustainably managed forests.

Electricity produced at Atikokan GS using biomass will provide back-up for OPG’s hydroelectric generation, and for intermittent renewable power such as solar and wind as needed. In addition to stimulating Ontario’s forestry sector, Atikokan GS will help ensure electricity supply for future industrial and employment growth in northwestern Ontario.

Annual fuel consumption and electricity production will depend on the power purchase agreement from the Ontario Power Authority and on electricity demand. Once operating on biomass fuel, Atikokan GS will retain the ability to produce approximately 200 MW at full capacity. OPG supports research into the sustainability and climate change benefits of biomass for electricity production in Ontario.

The project complies with all provincial standards and regulations.