Under an agreement negotiated with the Dutch government, Electrabel, like other Dutch power generators, has pledged to replace part of the coal used for power production by some form of biomass. In this study, commissioned by Electrabel, the environmental pros and cons of four alternative fuels were examined: wood waste, chip fat, palm oil fatty acids and tall oil pitch. The conclusions are as follows:
Co-firing wood waste in the Gelderland 13 power station is environmentally superior to using it for chipboard production.
Co-firing chip fat is the best option environmentally. In this case it is a substitute for coal, which has greater environmental benefits than replacing oil via other options.
Palm oil fatty acids
If using palm oil fatty acids as a power plant fuel means devoting more land to oil palm plantations, then depending on the exact cropping regime, the kind of forest replaced, and so on, the climate change impact may well be negative, with impact on biodiversity more than likely. In this study the precise impacts under this assumption were not investigated. If guarantees can be given that use of palm oil fatty acids does not mean extending oil palm acreage, co-firing this biofuel in ‘Gelderland 13’ will, on balance, have less environmental impact on all the criteria considered than its alternative use in the fodder industry. On this point we recommend starting talks with NGOs and carrying out further research.
Tall oil pitch
Tall oil, the residue left after ‘tall oil distillation’, is a by-product of the sulphate pulp process for paper and cardboard production. Using tall oil pitch as a power station fuel again scores positively in environ-mental terms. From a societal perspective, though, it is recommended to separate off the 8% sterols contained in this feedstock and use it elsewhere in a health food context.
As a general conclusion, co-firing any of the alternative fuels consid-ered in this study will lead to improved local air quality around the Gelderland 13 power station.