Biomass gasification plant under development in central England

By Erin Voegele | December 12, 2013

Site work is set to begin on a 10.3-megawatt biomass gasification plant in Tyseley, England. The Birmingham Bio Power Ltd. plant, under development by Carbonarius, a joint venture of O-Gen UK and UNA Group, is expected to be operational in early 2016.

The U.K. Green Investment Bank and the Foresight Group have announced a £47.8 million ($78.4 million) investment in project. Several North American firms are also actively participating in the plant’s development. The project will be build and operated by MWH, an engineering, construction and management firm based in Broomfield, Colo. In addition, Canada-based Nexterra Systems has signed a contract to supply a biomass gasification system.

 “We are delighted to have secured this exciting opportunity to deliver and run this project – one which really makes a difference in terms of renewable technologies,” said Ian Miller, energy from waste operations director at MWH Treatment. “I am especially pleased that our core engineering and construction expertise in design and build as well as our operational and maintenance capability is being fully utilized, creating real value for all parties involved.”

Nexterra will design and supply the complete biomass gasification-to-steam generation system for the facility, from feedstock handling to emission controls. The package will include four gasifiers, a high-pressure boiler, and a flue gas treatment system.

Once complete, the plant is expected to take in 67,000 metric tons of locally-sourced wood per year supplied under a long-term contract with JM Envirofuels Ltd. The feedstock will be diverted from landfills to fuel the plant.

According to Nexterra, the system it supplies to the plant qualifies as an Advanced Conversion Technology under U.K. legislation, enabling the power generated by the plant to receive the highest band of Renewables Obligation Certificates.

“We are very pleased to be selected by MWH, Carbonarius and the investor consortium for our first project in the UK. We believe that this is an attractive market for our gasification solutions and look forward to establishing our energy-from-renewable-waste systems across the U.K.,” said Mike Scott, Nexterra president and CEO. “Nexterra was first introduced to these UK market opportunities by BAE Systems in 2011 as part of its commitment to Canadian industry, so it is rewarding to have signed this contract today.”

GIB is directly investing £12 million by way of preferred loan stock.  Through its cornerstone investment in the Foresight managed fund, UKWREI, it is indirectly investing a further £6.2 million in equity in the project. Equity co-investment, on the same terms as the UKWREI, is provided by Eternity Capital Management who are investing £6.2 million and Balfour Beatty Investments, whose £12.4 million completes the c. £24.8 million equity investment in the project. GCP Infrastructure Fund (GCP) is providing the final £11 million as preferred loans.

"As the UK works towards its targets to generate more power from green sources, it's important that we bring on new technologies. I'm pleased the Green Investment Bank has been able to support the first gasification plant of its kind in the UK and hope it offers a positive demonstration effect that others will follow," said Shaun Kingsbury, chief executive of GIB. "The project also highlights the wider economic benefits of investing in new green technologies with a hundred new jobs to construct the plant, 19 good quality new jobs in its ongoing operation and a long term contract for a local small business.”