Shell turning closed Japanese refinery into biomass plant

By Anna Simet | August 08, 2013

Showa Shell Sekiyu, a division of Royal Dutch Shell plc, announced that it will build a biomass power plant in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.

The 49 MW facility will be constructed at the site of Keihin refinery complex’s former Ohgimachi plant, which was closed in 2011 due to sluggish demand for oil products in the country and harsh economic conditions.

Showa Shell said the project will have infrastructural advantages, including its coastal location, which is convenient for ships to deliver fuel. The company said using biomass—wood and palm kernel shells— will help ease tight demand for electricity in Japan.

Prior to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Japan had relied on nuclear power to meet about one-fourth of its electricity needs. All nuclear reactors were progressively shut down for safety concerns by May 2012, and since then only two have commenced operations.

Showa Shell’s biomass project will fall under the Japanese government's renewable energy feed-in tariff scheme, which was implemented after Fukushima to help jump-start more renewable energy in the country.

Once operating, the plant should power about 83,000 homes, according to Showa Shell, as the average monthly electricity consumption of an average Japanese household is about 300 kWh.

A groundbreaking date has been set for May 2014, with completion slated for December 2015.