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NYPA Tests Feasibility of Using Biofuel at Queens Power Plant for Green Energy 

Michael Saltzman

November 9, 2006


NEW YORK—Do biofuel crops have a role to play for displacing conventional fuels in the production of electricity? That is a question the New York Power Authority (NYPA) is bringing into focus at its Charles Poletti Power Project in Queens, where it undertook two days of testing, October 24-25, blending a biofuel from soybean oil with conventional fuel oil to generate electricity.

“The biofuel testing at our Poletti project in Queens is a pioneering development, with great potential significance for the electric power industry, energy security and the environment,” said Timothy S. Carey, NYPA president and chief executive officer. “To the best of our knowledge, it is the first such application at a large power plant, and the largest use of biofuels on any single occasion in the U.S, further solidifying the Power Authority’s reputation for renewable power use and pursuing the latest clean energy technologies and practices.

“This truly is an important occurrence, in step with energy and environmental policies put forth by Governor Pataki, including a 2005 executive order requiring state agencies and public authorities to increase their purchase and use of biofuels for heating and cooling purposes and fueling their vehicles,” Carey said. “Under the Governor’s leadership, the Empire State is building an infrastructure for these homegrown fuels and job-producing forms of energy. We’re excited about contributing to the momentum.”

Over the two days of testing, the Poletti project used a total of 100,000 gallons of biofuel blended with 900,000 gallons of No. 6 fuel oil, at partial and full generating capacity levels. Varying concentrations were used for the blended fuel, with the biofuel amounts ranging from 5 to 20 percent, to monitor combustion effectiveness and emissions. The data from the tests, which will be fully developed for a study being prepared by the Power Authority and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), showed some efficiency gains from the mixed fuel, compared with combustion of only conventional fuel oil, along with reductions in emissions.

This includes the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) since bioenergy crops re-absorb CO2 emitted when biofuels are burned, creating a cycle that is essentially carbon neutral.

“Biofuels are attractive because they reduce our reliance on imported oil and contribute to improved air quality through a reduction in a variety of pollutants, said Tony Facchiano, program manager of Combustion and Emissions Control for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), an independent, non-profit organization for energy and environmental research. “Improving air quality is a complex issue that requires innovative solutions of the kind that NYPA is exploring.”

“One of the hallmarks of Governor Pataki’s energy policies has been the expansion of the state’s renewable resources for diversified, clean energy and the growth of new industries and jobs,” said Peter R. Smith, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). “The Power Authority’s biofuel tests signal new possibilities for green-power production that could lead to additional revenues for the state’s farmers and the construction of new bio-refineries.”

Representatives of NYSERDA, EPRI and Brookhaven National Laboratory witnessed the Poletti combustion tests, reflecting those organizations’ strong interest in biofuels, which can be derived from various agricultural products.

Poletti operators blended the conventional fuel oil and soybean-derived biofuel at the plant site since the required quantity exceeded the mixed fuel amounts that could be purchased. The Power Authority installed a system of tanks, pipes, pumps, instrumentation and other equipment for delivering the blended fuel, in varying concentrations, to the plant’s 18-story boiler, where temperatures reach more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, to produce steam to generate electricity.

An interdepartmental team of NYPA staff members, consisting of employees in power generation, fuels operations, research and technology development, environmental programs and other groups, spearheaded a two-year program leading to the biofuel tests.

“This really was a collective effort drawing on the expertise of a number of our professionals,” said Paul Tartaglia, NYPA regional manager at Poletti, who was an early proponent of the testing. “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.”

The Power Authority obtained a permit waiver from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to permit the biofuel testing.

The Charles Poletti Power Project ordinarily burns clean natural gas as its primary fuel, with oil as a backup. The 885-megawatt (mw) project operates at the same East River site in Astoria where the Power Authority placed in service a new natural gas-fueled power plant, in December 2005. That facility, among the most efficient and cleanest fossil-fuel plants, uses combined-cycle technology to captures hot gases normally lost in the generation of power to provide additional amounts of electricity and lower emissions.

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   About NYPA:

 ■    NYPA uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity.  ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy-efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation’s largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of the state and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.

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