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Helen reveals biomass investment plans ahead of Hanasaari plant closure

In Finland, energy utility major Helen Oy has revealed details about the replacement of its coal-fired Hanasaari combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Helsinki due to close by the end of 2024. Heat production will be replaced with heat recycling with heat pumps, energy storage, and a possible new 250 MW biomass-fired heating unit at its Vuosaari gas-fired combined-cycle CHP facility.

Currently consisting of two gas-fired combined-cycle units, Helen’s Vuosaari combined heat and power (CHP) plant (580 MWth, 630 MWe) provide a major part of electricity and district heat in Helsinki. As part of the replacement of the soon to be closed Hanasaari coal-fired CHP, Helen is planning for a 250 MWth biomass-fired unit (shown in white above) at the Vuosaari site along with other investments in heat recovery and storage (image courtesy Helen).

Helen has made preparations to phase out the use of coal and to close the Hanasaari combined heat power (CHP) plant for several years. A completely new heating and cooling plant utilizing heat pump technology has been commissioned under the Esplanade Park in central Helsinki, and the Katri Vala heating and cooling plant located in Sörnäinen is currently being extended.

Furthermore, a cavern heat storage facility, which is unique even on the global scale, is currently being built in Mustikkamaa by repurposing existing disused oil storage caverns. According to Helen, the coal phase-out act approved by Parliament will determine the time schedule and, at the same time, the available solutions.

Helen has the means to replace coal. We continue to invest in large-scale recycling of energy with heat pumps, and we also have projects for the storage of heat. Over a slightly longer time scale, we are investigating several emission-free technologies, such as geothermal heat, utilisation of seawater-source heat, and small modular reactors, said Helen’s President and CEO Pekka Manninen.

New 250 MW biomass heat unit planned at Vuosaari

Helen has investigated the possibilities of building biomass heating plants in different parts of Helsinki. Helen’s Board of Directors made a decision to plan for a biomass-fired heat unit, Vuosaari C, at its Vuosaari gas-fired combined-cycle combined heat and power (CHP) facility.

The objective is to enable an investment decision on the estimated EUR 250 million project to be made in spring 2020. This and the previous investment decisions on heat pumps and energy storage will make it possible to close the Hanasaari power plant the company says.

The bioenergy heating plant designed for Vuosaari represents a medium-sized bioenergy heating plant on the Finnish scale, meeting about a quarter of the coal use of the closing Hanasaari power plant. The envisaged plant would account for about 15% of Helen’s fuel consumption, said Antti Saikkonen, Project Manager at Helen.

The plant would be located next to Helen’s existing gas-fired CHP plant site in Vuosaari. The planning objective of the plant is to have it ready for production use in autumn 2023. The present decisions are estimated to have no impact on the price of district heat.

The planned size of the Vuosaari bioheat plant would be about 250 MW, with woodchips as the main fuel. The plant would account for about 15 percent of Helen’s fuel consumption and would replace about a quarter of the current coal use of the to be closed Hanasaari plant.

Together with the other heat storage, heat recovery and heat recycling projects, Helen’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would fall by 40 percent compared to the 1990 level and the use of coal would be halved.

The Salmisaari site will remain as an energy production area, and the solutions to replace coal are under planning although no investment decisions have yet been made in terms of Salmisaari.

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