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TEPCO begins biomass co-firing at Hitachinaka power plant

Japanese power utility major Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., (TEPCO) has revealed that its subsidiary TEPCO Fuel & Power has begun co-firing coal with "woody biomass fuel" at its Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station in a bid to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and fossil fuel consumption.

Consisting of two pulverised coal (PC) units of 1 GW each, TEPCO’s Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station is one of the most modern coal-fired power plants in Japan with a thermal efficiency of over 45 percent. Unit 1 was commissioned in 2003 and unit 2 a decade later in 2013. Despite a construction stop of over two months in 2011 on account of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, unit 2 was completed according to schedule (photo courtesy Mitsubishi Heavy Industries).

According to TEPCO’s first quarter results for the fiscal year 2017 presented July 28, the 2 GW pulverised coal (PC) Hitachinaka Thermal Power Station “began to generate power through combustion of mixed fuel using woody biomass fuel” on June 22.

Though no further details about the type of biomass or co-firing ratios were revealed in the statement, imported industrial wood pellets would seem the most likely given that the plant is of pulverised coal type.

Of TEPCO’s 66.8 GW installed capacity in FY2015, 3.2 GW or 5 percent was coal in two generating stations; units 5 and 6, each 600 MW, at the 4.4 GW Hirono plant in Fukushima Prefecture and units 1 and 2, each 1 GW, at the 2GW Hitachinaka plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

According to TEPCO’s FY2016 annual report, TEPCO’s coal consumption, which includes unspecified figures for biomass, was 8.14 million tonnes. Data from coal fuel procurement geographies from the same report suggest that a maximum total, i.e. no coal from the specified geography, of 93 000 tonnes of pellets were imported from the US and Canada in FY2014, 191 000 tonnes from the US only in FY2015 and 136 000 tonnes from the US only in FY2016.

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