Biobased fuels and chemicals
Sustainable industrial heat system
Energy & Materials Transition

Arbaheat: sustainable future for coal-fired power stations possible through conversion to biomass

In cooperation with

Arbaflame, Sintef, University of Bergen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

For the hundreds of coal-fired power stations in Europe, the question is currently whether they will have to shut down in the transition to a sustainable energy system or whether a sustainable restart is possible. As a partner within a European consortium, TNO is investigating the possibilities for such a restart. In the modern coal-fired power station of ENGIE on the Maasvlakte, the latest technologies are being tested for this purpose.

The Arbaheat project was launched at the beginning of November, with €19 million in grants from the EU research programme Horizon2020 and investments from the participating companies. Norwegian company Arbaflame supplies technology to replace coal with steam-treated biomass pellets. The ARBAHEAT project aims to integrate this innovative biomass pre-treatment technology in the ENGIE coal-fired power plant and to use the pellets produced in the power plant for the production of electricity and heat. Together with the research institute Sintef and the University of Bergen from Norway and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Free University of Brussels), TNO provides the scientific support. The ultimate goal is to realise efficient and cost-effective concepts for the conversion of the coal-fired power stations.

Employee working on a computer on sustainable coal-fired power

The European research project is of great importance for our country, given the planned closure of the five coal-fired power stations by 2030 and the termination of the subsidy for the co-firing of biomass in coal-fired power stations by 2024. Owners of coal-fired power stations are considering a sustainable future and are therefore investing in this research. The full switchover to 100% biomass and the transition from electricity generation only to combined electricity and heat production are seen as promising options.

TNO has an extensive set of research facilities to provide experimental support for the conversion to biomass and the integrated production of steam-treated biomass pellets. The project involves laboratory testing of the combustion characteristics of the biomass fuels used, thereby accurately simulating the combustion conditions at the ENGIE power station. Furthermore, the properties of the biomass pellets are characterised to predict their behaviour during transport, storage and transhipment, and the combustion process is measured and sampled in the power plant itself. TNO also makes an important contribution to the desk studies into the technical-economic feasibility of concepts being developed for converting coal-fired power stations into biomass-fired co-generation units.

The large-scale co-production of heat offers opportunities to combine with other industrial activities, such as those in the Rotterdam port area. For example, the results of the ARBAHEAT project can contribute to the conversion of the petrochemical industry from fossil to sustainable feedstock and the cost-effective production of heat from biomass can stimulate new industrial activities with a high demand for heat such as biorefinery processes.

European flag

This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 818349

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