- York CEO discusses the company's proposed cogeneration projects using wood residue and steam turbines. 25/03/2008 Camerperson: Danie de Beer & Video editing: Shane Williams (4.72 MB)
Forest products group York is currently investigating the potential for one or more cogeneration projects, using a combination of its waste products and steam to generate power as a solution to the electricity crisis in the medium term, its CEO, Lance Cooper, says. “In the medium term, we are looking at a 9-MW power plant and possibly more than one. We’ll base these at our larger operations. We do have eight sawmilling operations and a plywood plant, and certainly three of our operations are large enough to warrant such a project,” he tells Engineering News. He says that the company is currently refurbishing certain of its dormant steam turbines, and this will take place in the next two to three months.
Cooper comments that “first prize” would be to have the project outsourced to a black economic- empowerment company. The project will consist of a bubbling fluid bed boiler connected to a steam turbine; the outlet from the turbine will be passed through the kilns and the heat will be used to dry timber and generate power. Cooper notes that there is sufficient energy to perform both functions and “substantially more” electricity than the company requires, so York will be able to sell it back to Eskom. The company will explore the possibility of setting up an independent power producer to do so. There are certain stages in the production process that cannot afford to suffer power cuts, such as drying, and to cope with the current electricity constraints and load-shedding, four mills have already been equipped with stand-by plants, and an additional four stand-by plants will be commissioned during this year. The stand-by plants employ a combination of steam turbines and diesel plants, and allow York not only to maintain production during outages, but also to adhere to the 10% power savings imposed on the industry. Cooper notes that the proposed cogeneration project will be cost effective as the feedstock is free, being a waste product, and the steam is already used in the drying process. York also already has mothballed turbines that are currently being recommissioned. Responding to a question about the cost of the proposed cogeneration project, Cooper explains that it is still too early to come up with final numbers for the initiative. However, he suggests that it will be cost effective, explaining that a large portion of power is going to be self-generated, using York’s own wood residue as feedstock, the turbines are already existing assets and will be “relatively cheap” to run after the recommissioning costs are incurred, and, finally, the steam is used in the drying process. At smaller plants, the diesel stand-by route is more viable as the capital cost of installing turbines or steam engines relative to the size of the plant is not economical. The diesel stand-by plants will also not need to be run for long periods, but rather during load-shedding, to keep up the processes that require continuous oper- ation, such as drying, Cooper explains.
York has been importing in small quantities from Australia and South America, and says that the company will be well positioned to supply the imported timber and distribute it across the country owing to its nationwide warehouse network. Cooper clarifies that he still expects import volumes to be very low for the next 12 months as the timber from the fires last year is “still being worked through the system”, and this will mean there is actually more product in the market. But this will change and York is expecting at least 600 000 m3/y to 750 000 m3/y to be imported over the next five years.