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RWE commissions world's largest pellet plant

RWE Innogy's plant will manufacture 750,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually
RWE Innogy's plant will manufacture 750,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually

In Georgia, US, renewable energy company RWE Innogy has opened its pellet production plant, reported to be one of the world's largest.

The company broke ground on the project in March 2010 and the facility was up and running within 12 months, albeit on trial operation. Costing €120 million, the pellet plant has the ability to process 1.5 million tonnes of pinewood annually into 750,000 tonnes of wood pellets.

The pellets produced here will start being exported to Europe by mid-2011. They will be used in some of RWE's existing coal-fired power plants to generate electricity and heat. By replacing fossil fuels with biomass, RWE will save around 1 million tonnes of CO2 a year.

'The wood pelleting plant built in Georgia is currently the biggest of its kind in the world. We are thus developing our own raw material resources and we become more independent of the world market. With the use of wood pellets in our European power plants, we are raising the shore of biomass in electricity generation significant,' says Leonhard Birnbaum, chief commercial officer of RWE Ag.

RWE is currently planning the conversion of its coal-fired power plant in Tilbury, UK, to a biomass-fired power plant. This project will make Tilbury the biggest biomass-fired power plant in the world, until its scheduled closure by 2015 at the latest, with an expected capacity of around 750MW. The plant would expect to use around 2 million tonnes during the remainder of its life. Around 50% of this could come from Georgia. The conversion is expected to be complete before the end of 2011.

The demand for biomass has been growing at a fast pace in Europe. In order to fulfil the overall European renewable target of 20% of final energy consumption by 2020, biomass plays an important role within the national action plans of the EU member states.

'However, it is already clear today that the feedstock requirements cannot by far be met from the resources available in Europe. In the US, and mainly in the southern states such as Georgia, the situation is quite different. Here, the surplus of sustainable cultivated biomass was around 35% over the last 10 years. Thus, Europe can benefit from these overseas resources to attain its CO2 reduction targets', says Fritz Vahrenholt, RWE Innogy's CEO.

RWE Innogy's plant will manufacture 750,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually