Wood-gas-to-energy: a growth industry for Japan

1 April 2008

Fuelled by gasified wood chips from a nearby forest, Japan's largest wood-gas-to-energy plant, powered by two of GE Energy's Jenbacher engines, has successfully started operation at the Murayama site in Yamagata Prefecture, generating 2 MW of electricity for local power purposes.

Unlike other gasified wood facilities, the plant runs completely on wood gas, without any backup fuel supply such as natural gas. Because the plant is located near a forest area, the Murayama facility has access to a steady source of wood biomass for raw fuel while offering a new use for the forest's trimmed branches, which previously had to be disposed of. In addition, the operator will use trimmed branches from surrounding cherry orchards during the tree-cutting period.

Located about 400 km north of Tokyo on the island of Honshu, the plant is in Japan's largest cherry producing region, and is seen as something of a role model for renewables. By 2010, Japan is seeking to increase renewable energy production to 3% of the country's overall energy supply, with the aim of expanding the use of biomass fuel up to 330 MW by 2010.


"This project represents the first order for large-scale wood gas engines for GE Energy in Asia," said Prady Iyyanki, CEO of GE's Jenbacher gas engine business, noting GE also has supplied its engines for other types of waste gasification projects in Japan.

The Murayama plant features two of GE's most powerful Jenbacher engines in commercial operation: a JMS 616 GS-S.L unit and also a JMS 612 GS-S.L. The engines have an electrical efficiency of up to 36%, which is higher than that of a conventional steam turbine power plant of the same scale.

The plant wood gas fuelled plant was installed by Kanagawa based JFE Environmental Solutions Corporation and it is owned and operated by Yamagata Green Power, an electricity distribution company and subsidiary of renewable energy development firm Japan Biomass Development Co, Ltd.

The Murayama project marks the first Jenbacher engine order by this company.

Another key design feature is the plant's wood gasification system. JFE licensed updraft gasification boiler technology from Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S of Denmark.

Asia's wood gas segment represents a new growth opportunity for GE's Jenbacher gas engine business, which has previously installed similar units in wood gas plants in Europe and North America

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