Solvay switches soda ash plant from coal to biomass

Article by Adam Duckett

SOLVAY says its soda ash plant in Rheinberg, Germany will become the first in the world to use 100% renewable power after it switches from burning coal to biomass.

Its first biomass boiler will go into operation this month, and it now says the second remaining boiler will also switch from thermal coal by 2025. Both biomass boilers will use scrap waste wood chips – a mixture of used wood, from industrial residues and demolition – as fuel to produce steam and electricity.

The move is part of Solvay’s wider plans to eliminate the use of coal wherever renewable alternatives exist. Solvay says switching the boilers will reduce CO2 emissions at the Rheinberg soda ash plant by 65% relative to 2018.

Solvay CEO Ilham Kadri said: "This is the first plant to exit coal since we launched our Solvay One Planet roadmap, and the first in our history to switch to biomass.”

The description of biomass as a renewable fuel has proved divisive as the benefits of switching from coal to biomass can be diminished depending on where the biomass is sourced from.

Data from the EU shows that the bloc produced around 348m t of its own woody biomass in 2015, with Germany the second largest producer after Sweden. The EU imported a further 24m t of woody biomass. Of this, 207m t was burned for heat and power.

Article by Adam Duckett

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