Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Biomass cogeneration project at pulp mill in Saskatchewan aiming for COD in May 2012

The CEO of SaskPower, the utility purchasing the excess generation and the general manager of P.A. Pulp, the generator, have announced that the two companies intend to have the biomass cogeneration power facility at a pulp mill in Northern Saskatchewan delivering electricity to the grid by late May 2012. Details have not yet been released regarding the generation capacity of the biomass cogeneration plant.

Dale Paterson of P.A. Pulp, said that when negotiating the contract for the recent sale of the pulp mill, part of the agreement was that the mill would provide “green energy” to SaskPower’s grid. “We’re working to generate green energy by (some time in) May,” said Paterson. “We started in September and we‘re about halfway there now. $5 million dollars has been spent on the project (so far) and another $5 million will be spent (in the coming months),” Paterson added. Paterson explained that the pulp mill’s biomass boiler and a turbine will be producing the power generated at the mill. About 21 people who were previously employed by the mill are being hired to provide maintenance on the cogeneration project, Paterson said. The power will be used to operate the mill itself and the excess power will be sold to SaskPower. As well, producing energy is integral to getting the mill ready to produce dissolved pulp in about a year and a half (the third quarter of 2013), as the energy produced on-site will provide much-needed heat for construction crews undertaking the work, explained the mill’s general manager. “We’re very happy to be working cooperatively with SaskPower to have this (project) operational (by May),” Paterson said.

In speaking with Robert Watson, the CEO of SaskPower, Mr. Watson reiterated that the corporation signed an agreement with Paper Excellence (the company that purchased the mill) regarding the co-generation project. “We’ve had meetings with them regarding the timeline and the technical issues involved,” stated Watson. In terms of the technical issues, Watson explained that the distribution of the power must be fine tuned—meaning, the excess energy generated by P.A. Pulp can’t just be pumped onto the grid heedlessly - rather, it needs to be “balanced” or specific areas would be affected and blackouts could occur. “We’re going to accommodate them when they are ready,” said Watson, in reference to the mill’s plan to be producing power by late May. “We have told our employees that we will be accepting power generated at (P.A. Pulp) onto our grid. We need the power, so we are willing to take it (once the mill is able to generate it), said Watson. Watson said that utilizing cogenerated power projects, such as the one with P.A. Pulp, is a cost-effective means of obtaining power. When asked if the Crown corporation had other cooperative projects underway in the province, Watson said there were a few, such as one at Potash Corp’s Cory Potash mine, east of Saskatoon.

It is expected that other mining companies planning to build mines in Saskatchewan such as BHP Billiton, Vale and K & S are also considering onsite cogeneration facilities at their mine sites.

Source: (in part) Prince Albert Herald, January 18, 2012

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