Biomass integrated gasification-gas turbine (BIG-GT) technology offers the opportunity for efficient and environmentally sound power generation from biomass fuels. Since biomass is ‘carbon-neutral’ it can be used in power generation equipment without contributing to the ‘greenhouse effect’ if it is grown sustainably.

The Brazilian BIG-GT initiative is one of a number of initiatives world-wide aimed at demonstrating, and thereby establishing, biomass as an energy resource for power production. The goal of the Brazilian BIG-GT project is to confirm the commercial viability of producing electricity from wood through the use of biomass-fuelled integrated gasification combined-cycle (BIG-GT) technology. To fulfil this goal a 32 MWe eucalyptus-fuelled demonstration power plant will be built in Brazil on the basis of a design made by TPS Termiska Processer AB (TPS).

The first two phases of the project, which included experimental and engineering studies and the basic engineering of the plant, were completed in 1997. The next phase of the project, the construction and commissioning of the plant, is the recipient of a U.S. $35 million grant from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in addition to financing from the World Bank (WB).

The plant will be built in Bahia, north-eastern Brazil. The customer of the plant is a consortium, SER - Sistemas de Energia Renovável, comprising of CHESF (Companhia Hidro Elétrica do São Francisco), a federally-owned electricity generation and distribution company, Eletrobras (Centrais Elétricas Brasileiras), a holding company comprising of the main Brazilian companies from the electric generation and distribution sector, and Shell Brasil. Start-up of the plant is scheduled for the year 2000.

The plant will be based on a TPS designed atmospheric-pressure gasification/gas cleaning process. The product gas will be fired in a modified GE LM 2500 gas turbine. The gasification and gas cleaning process is based on the use of a circulating fluidised bed gasifier, secondary stage catalytic tar cracker and conventional cold filter and wet scrubbing technology. The feedstock to the plant will be mainly eucalyptus wood from a dedicated plantation which is harvested on a three-year cycle.

This paper describes the background of the project leading up to the technology selection, the technology that will be employed in the plant and the outline of the economics of this ‘first-of-a-kind’ plant. The progress made in establishing the organisation and the formal framework (e.g. securing the electricity and fuel contracts) are also reported. Future projections of likely technological improvements and cost reductions, and their effect on the overall economics of an ‘Nth’ plant, are presented.

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