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Nuon exploring biomass heat plant feasibility in Amsterdam

In the Netherlands, Amsterdam-headed NV Nuon Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sweden-headed energy utility major Vattenfall AB has revealed that it is exploring the feasibility of building a biomass heat plant in Amsterdam. The idea would be to transition base-load heat from fossil gas to biomass such as woodchips and/or pellets instead.

Barges passing IJHaven in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Assuming Nuon goes ahead with plans to build a biomass heat plant in nearby Diemen by 2020, some of them could be carrying woodchips or wood pellets.

By opening up Nuon’s heating network in the Dutch capital to new and sustainable heat sources, Nuon could make an important contribution to Vattenfall’s “fossil-free within one generation” target.

According to Nuon, it is taking the next step towards gas-free district heating and meeting the increasing need for future-proof green heat in Amsterdam by working on new solutions and technologies with the municipality of Amsterdam and other partners. This includes the use of geothermal, electric boilers, green hydrogen and residual heat from data centres.

A 70 – 120 MW biomass heat plant

Nuon says that it also intends to develop a 70 to 120 MW biomass-fired heat only boiler at its existing location in Diemen, which is currently connected to the Amsterdam and Almere district heating grids. With this new heat plant, Nuon aims to produce a significant amount of green heat. The heat produced by the new facility will be used to fulfil base load heat demand.

With this technology, we are able to produce a significant amount of green heat in the short term, with which we can meet the basic load of the heat demand. In time, we expect other green heat sources such as geothermal energy or hydrogen to take over the role of biomass for the base load. If the biomass energy plant will actually be built, then the flexible gas plants in Diemen will deliver considerably less heat and also consume less natural gas. However, the gas-fired power plants continue to play an important role in the electricity market for absorbing variations in wind and solar energy, explained Alexander van Ofwegen, Director of Heat at Nuon.

The use of biomass potentially has great environmental benefits, provided that it is produced sustainably. Environmental movement and energy companies have set conditions that biomass must meet to deliver effective climate gains.

The Dutch government is currently assessing a number of certification systems for biomass. We look forward with interest to the results. Regardless of origin, the sustainability of the biomass must always be guaranteed, said van Ofwegen.

Extensive preliminary stage

Nuon stresses that there are still several steps to take before the biomass energy plant can finally be built. The first phase is the research phase of various environmental studies. This is followed by permitting, subsidy applications and the selection of a contractor. Only after the official investment decision, yet to be taken, can the preparation of the construction start.

The entire preliminary process will last at least until mid-2019. It is expected that the plant will be ready for use in 2020.

According to Nuon’s indicative tender, intended to facilitate it’s call for “market-consultation, supporting early market involvement and dialogues to ensure best possible technical, performance, contract and tendering solutions”, the plant would be in the 70 to 120 MWth range with one or two boilers using fresh woodchips or industrial grade wood pellets.

Delivery by truck and or barge with limited on-site storage, around 96 hours at full load. The final tender and contract strategy will depend on the outcome of the market engagement and is anticipated to be decided in July 2018.

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