UK biomass CHP plant begins commissioning

By Erin Voegele | February 19, 2018

A biomass combined-heat-and-power (CHP) project in southwest England is beginning the final phase of commissioning and is on track to begin commercial operations in August. Once operational, the plant will generate heat and power for nearby homes and Discovery Park, a center for science and innovation in Kent, England.

On Feb. 15, U.K.-based Kent Renewable Energy Ltd. released an update of commissioning activities at the facility, known as the Kent Renewable Energy CHP plant. The company said steam blowing activities will begin in February and take place over a month, with each blow happening at a specific time for a short test period of 60 to 90 seconds. There are scheduled to be approximately 30 to 40 steam blows during the test period, with three to five happening in a day.

For each steam blow, the boiler is started, building up steam pressure and temperature in the pipe system. Once the right level has been achieved to clear out the pipes, the pressure will be released via a temporary steam blow pipe and there will be a hissing sound and a visible plume of steam produced. The company warned that the test blows will be louder than normal operating noise from the plant when it begins generating heat and power. The final pressure test will take place before the process of filling the boiler with water starts.

“This month’s steam blows are part of the commissioning process, where the power plant will be tested far beyond its normal operating parameters,” said Colin Dobson, general manager at the plant. “This ensures it’s completely safe and reliable before it begins producing clean, green heat and power this summer. The steam blows are carried out to ensure all the debris, dust and any other small contaminants created during the construction of the boiler and all its pipe work have been cleaned out. Last month all the internal tubes were cleaned by flushing them through with warm acid, ready for the steam blowing to start.”

The facility will take in locally sourced wood as fuel. According to Kent Renewable Energy, the facility has created a significant and reliable local market for low grade wood. This market is expected to make woodland management in the region more economic, help local work producers diversify, and help bring more woodland back into active management, while also support supporting the production of higher-quality wood and coppice.

Once the facility opens in August, it will generate more than 27 MW of electricity, enough to supply 50,000 homes while saving more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the green energy generated at the Kent Renewable Energy facility will be supplied directly to the tenants of Discovery Park, who will also benefit from the heat generated by steam from the plant.

The project represents an inward investment of approximately £150 million ($210.03 million). It is expected to support up to 27 new direct jobs, as well as numerous jobs in the supply chain. During construction, up to 400 jobs are expected to be created.