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Biomass Co-firing with Coal and Natural Gas Open Access


Other title
Renewable energy systems
Natural gas
Biomass co-firing
Power generation
Greenhouse hases (GHG) emissions
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Agbor, Ezinwa U
Supervisor and department
Kumar, Amit (Department of Mechanical Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Lipsett, Michael (Department of Mechanical Engineering)
Li, Yunwei (Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering)
Department of Mechanical Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Master of Science
Degree level
Biomass fuels have long been accepted as useful renewable energy sources, especially in mitigating greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. Fossil fuel-based power plants make up over 30% of the GHG emissions in Alberta, Canada. Displacement of fossil fuel-based power through biomass co-firing has been proposed as a near-term option to reduce these emissions. In this research, co-firing of three biomass feedstocks (i.e., whole forest, agricultural residues and forest residues) at varying proportions with coal as well as with natural gas in existing plants was studied to investigate different co-firing technologies. Whole forest biomass refers to live or dead trees (spruce and mixed hardwood) not considered merchantable for pulp and timber production; agricultural residues are straws obtained as the by-product of threshing crops such as wheat, barley, and flax; and forest residues refer to the limbs and tops of the trees left on the roadside to rot after logging operations by pulp and timber companies. Data-intensive models were developed to carry out detailed techno-economic and environmental assessments to comparatively evaluate sixty co-firing scenarios involving different levels of the biomass feedstock co-fired with coal in existing 500 MW subcritical pulverized coal (PC) plants and with natural gas in existing 500 MW natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plants. Minimum electricity production costs were determined for the co-fired plants for the same three biomass feedstocks and base fuels. Environmental assessments, from the point of harvesting to delivering electricity to the customers, was evaluated and compared to the various co-fired configurations to determine the most economically viable and environmental friendly options of biomass co-firing configuration for western Canada. The results obtained from these analyses shows that the fully paid-off coal-fired power plant co-fired with forest residues is the most attractive option and has levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) ranging from $53.12 to $54.50/MWh; and CO2 abatement costs ranging from $27.41 to $31.15/tCO2. Similarly, the LCOE and CO2 abatement costs for whole forest chips range from $54.68 to $56.41/MWh and $35.60 to $41.78/tCO2 respectively. When straw is co-fired with coal in a fully paid-off plant, the LCOE and CO2 abatement costs range from $54.62 to $57.35/MWh and $35.07 to $38.48/tCO2 respectively. This is of high interest considering the likely increase of the carbon levy to about $30/tCO2 in the Province of Alberta by 2017.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Agbor E, Zhang X, Kumar A. A review of biomass co-firing in North America. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 2014;40:930-43.

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