The Facility

What fuel does a biomass facility use?

A biomass facility uses organic feedstock to produce electricity and heat. A biomass facility could be fuelled by a range of organic feedstock types. The proposed facility will be fuelled by straw residue and waste wood.

  • Straw residue – a by-product of the agricultural industry, available in abundance in Saskatchewan and many are currently under-utilized. A range of cereal straw residues can be utilised (including low grade straw) and we are undertaking tests to understand the level of flax straw we could process. The facility can also process other agricultural waste products such as husk or low-quality crop.
  • Waste wood – waste wood from existing commercial and industrial industries that would otherwise be disposed of.

These materials are available in abundance within Saskatchewan, and many are not currently utilised. Creating a new market for these materials diversifies existing industries within the province. The facilities do not compete with food production or land use and no trees will be cut for the sole purpose of biomass feedstock.

Locations were chosen specifically for feedstock and grid availability. Feedstock composition will vary between projects to suit local availability.

How would this biomass facility work?

  1. Bales of straw are delivered to the facility.
  2. Machines move the straw to the boiler house and deposit it in the boiler.
  3. Waste wood is stored and deposited into the boiler in a similar manner.
  4. Feedstock is combusted to generate steam.
  5. The steam is fed into the turbine to generate electricity, which is distributed to the electricity grid.
  6. As well as producing the energy that creates the steam, gas and ash are produced.

    - The flue gas produced from the combustion is
    ‘cleaned’ to a very high standard before being released into the atmosphere via the flue chimney and is largely comprised of steam and biogenic CO2, given that the fuel is organic matter.

    - The small amount of ash produced can be utilised as agriculture fertiliser or aggregate in construction.
  7. The steam is then cooled in the cooling tower before being reused in the system.

The facility does not emit noxious odours or unsociable noise, and light pollution is kept to a minimum.

Does biomass produce renewable energy?

Yes – the carbon emissions from combustion of the fuel are considered neutral and therefore the direct carbon emissions are very small.

Combustion of biomass releases carbon dioxide (CO2). However, the organic material used as feedstock will have captured almost the same amount of CO2 through photosynthesis while growing as it releases when combusted, making biomass a carbon-neutral energy source. For carbon emission calculation and reporting purposes this is widely known as ‘biogenic carbon’ - meaning the CO2 does not add to the earth’s overall atmospheric carbon level due to the cyclical process of carbon abatement and release. This is different to ‘fossil carbon’ or ‘non-biogenic carbon’ (released when combusting oil, coal and gas) – which increases the earth’s overall atmospheric carbon level by releasing CO2 that would otherwise have been stored geologically long term. Release of fossil carbon is a one-way process.

The vast majority (>99%) of direct emissions generated from a biomass facility are from the on-site processing emissions (drying, lifting, etc). These emissions are small, only 2.82 Kg CO2 / MWh (>98% less than when compared to direct emissions of energy generation using coal (321.7 Kg CO2 / MWh) and natural gas (204.28 Kg CO2 / MWh)).

Indirectly, carbon emissions are incurred through the transport of fuel to site. Again, these are small when compared to alternative sources of baseload power generation, but they are the largest source of emissions associated with the facility. We are committed to reducing direct processing emissions and indirect transport emissions where possible; in the short term through effective procurement strategies and in the long term though renewable technologies such as biofuels and electric vehicles. Even with transport emissions, biomass remains a much more sustainable alternative than coal and gas.

Coupling a biomass facility with carbon capture and storage (CCS) would result in negative carbon emissions as atmospheric carbon from biomass is stored geologically or used in industry. We will design the facility with the ability to retrofit CCS technology once operational.