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US utility to test new biomass fuel to help tackle carbon emissions

US-based Rocky Mountain Power will test a new biomass fuel that may reduce the amount of coal being burned by power plants, according to a media report in Bloomberg.

The Utah-headquartered utility, which is part of Pacificorp, will use a plant in Utah to test a biomass fuel made by Active Energy Group Plc, Paul Murphy, a spokesman for RMP told Bloomberg. Active Energy’s fuel, called CoalSwitch, is processed from low-grade forestry residue.

Active Energy, which manages woodlands and develops clean-energy products, is seeking to supply its fuel to utilities willing to switch to biomass in order to cut carbon emissions. In November, the London-based company obtained funding for its first industrial-scale plant, according to Bloomberg.  It will be located in Canada and turn waste and wood into CoalSwitch.

Rocky Mountain is preparing an 18-hour test, with a 10% blend of CoalSwitch and 90% coal, to see if it could reduce emissions, Murphy said. The trial is scheduled between the last quarter of 2017 and the first quarter of 2018.

While Rocky Mountain has tested the “grindability” of some CoalSwitch in a laboratory, it has not performed a combustion test, and neither did it find CoalSwitch performed better than coal in the lab, according to Murphy. He disputed a 28 November, 2016, statement from Active saying that said CoalSwitch outperformed the fossil fuel.

“No boiler testing has been performed to support the statement that biomass performs better than coal in every respect,” Murphy said. “It may be an amazing product but we don’t know yet.”