AEP requests biodiesel quotes for power plants

By Erin Voegele
Posted Aug. 30, 2010

American Electric Power Co. Inc. announced Aug. 26 that it is seeking quotes for the supply of biodiesel to one or more of its coal-fired power plants in Ohio. Quotes must be received by AEP no later than 5:00 p.m. on Sept. 23.

According to AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry, the company is investigating the use of biodiesel-blended fuel oil as a possible compliance strategy to meet Ohio's alternative energy requirements. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio adopted rules to implement its alternative energy portfolio in April 2009, which requires 25 percent of electricity sold within the state to be generated from alternative energy. In addition, at least half that amount must come from renewable energy resources, including wind, biomass, hydro or fuel cell. Electric utilities and service companies are able to use renewable energy credits to satisfy all or part of their renewable energy requirements. According to McHenry, the standard allows renewable energy credits to be generated through the use of biodiesel-blended fuel oil.

The biodiesel-blended fuel oil would replace petroleum fuel oil used for flame start-up and flame stabilization. Pulverized coal plants have large boilers, which McHenry said are essentially large boxes with flame in them that are lined with tubes containing water. The water is flashed to steam, which then fuels the generator. "If a plant shuts down and you need to restart it, you have to start that process flame with fuel oil," McHenry said. "Then you blow in pulverized coal to keep the flame burning. They also sometimes use fuel oil in the process to maintain the flame to ensure that you are getting the most efficient flame, so you are getting the most efficient transfer of water into steam."

AEP is interested in using three different blends of biodiesel at is facilities. According to McHenry, B99.9 can be used from April 15 to Oct. 14. A blend of B50 can be used in the facilities from Oct. 15 through Dec. 14, while a B30 blend can be used from Dec. 15 to April 14. AEP is seeking bids for three Ohio-based coal fired power plants; the Conessville, Ohio-based Conesville plant, the Beverly, Ohio-based Muskingum River plant, and the Lockbourne, Ohio-based Picway plant. For the Conesville plant, McHenry said AEP is looking to potential replace 1.4 million gallons of fuel oil. Approximately 1 million gallons could be replaced at the Muskingum plant, with an additional 50,000 gallons being replaced at the Picway plant.

"Those plants will do test burns in each of the units just to ensure that the product we are going to get will work," McHenry said. "They've actually done test burns at our Picway plant up to B99.9, and it's worked fine there. They will do a test burn at each plant just to make sure there is not something specific about the boiler that might be sensitive to certain concentrations [of biodiesel], but they are pretty confident that they will be able to successfully replace at least a certain portion of the fuel oil we use with biodiesel." McHenry also notes that, as a regulated utility, AEP has to look at economic factors and the cost of different alternatives for compliance with Ohio's portfolio standard. "That's one of the criteria, what is it going to cost us to switch, and how does that compare to doing other things that would generate renewable energy credits for compliance."

In its announcement to solicit quotes for the supply of biodiesel-blended fuel oil, AEP specified it is looking for quotes for truck delivery of biodiesel blended red-dyed No. 2 fuel oil. More information on the quote requirements can be found at AEP's Web site.
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