New York Power Authority experiments with biodiesel

By | January 10, 2007
America's largest state-owned electric utility, The New York Power Authority (NYPA), undertook two days of testing in the fall of 2006, using biodiesel in a stationary application to produce electricity at its Charles Poletti Power Project site in Queens.

"This truly is an important occurrence, in step with energy and environmental policies put forth by Governor [George] Pataki, including a 2005 executive order requiring state agencies and public authorities to increase their [purchasing] and use of biofuels for heating and fueling purposes," said Timothy Carey, NYPA president and CEO, in a company press release.

Varying biodiesel blends were used during the testing, ranging from B5 to B20 mixed with No. 6 fuel oil. The NYPA says it used 1 million gallons of fuel for this test, including 100,000 gallons of biodiesel. Data gathered from the tests indicated that efficiency gains, along with a reduction in emissions, resulted from using the blended fuel, compared with the combustion of conventional oil.

A diverse group of NYPA staff from the departments of power generation, fuels operations, research and technology development, and environmental programs directed the two-year study. "This really was a collective effort drawing on the expertise of a number of our professionals," said Paul Tartaglia, NYPA regional manager at the Poletti Project, who was involved with plans for the experiment from its initial stages. "It all began a couple of years ago when a few of us took two five-gallon buckets over to the Poletti chemistry lab to mix small amounts of blended fuel, so we've come a long way."

Operators blended the conventional fuel oil with the biodiesel at the plant site since the quantity needed for the test exceeded the amount of blended fuel that could be purchased. The NYPA installed a system of tanks, pipes, pumps and other equipment to deliver the blended fuel to the plant's 18-story boiler-where temperatures reach more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit-to produce steam for electricity generation.

The Charles Poletti Power Project usually burns natural gas as its primary fuel, and uses heating oil as a backup. The 885-megawatt project operates at a site in Astoria, N.Y., on the East River. The NYPA said this facility is "among the most efficient and cleanest fossil-fuel plants [and] uses combined-cycle technology to capture hot gases normally lost in the generation of power to provide additional amounts of electricity and lower emissions."

Similarly, the McMinnville Electric System in McMinnville, Tenn., has used biodiesel to generate electricity for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). In cooperation with Caterpillar, the original equipment manufacturer, McMinnville Electric was running biodiesel in a two-megawatt generator to provide power to the TVA grid.
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