Ohio firm hired for Berlin biomass project

The Berlin biomass fuel project is one step closer to becoming a reality.

New York-based Laidlaw Energy Group Inc. and its affiliate, Laidlaw Berlin LLC, have contracted with Ohio-based power generation giant Babcock & Wilcox to convert the former Fraser Paper mill boiler to a unit that can use biomass fuel to generate energy.

The company estimates the boiler will be generate 60 to 70 megawatts of biomass energy by burning wood chips to drive a steam turbine.

The initial phase of the agreement calls for B&W to review the boiler for its energy-producing capabilities and to define the scope of work required for the project.

This phase is expected to take several months, according to B&W spokesperson Sharyn McCaulley, although an actual start date for the conversion work has yet to be determined.

“We had discussions with several different boiler companies about this engagement, but at the end of the day we felt most comfortable with B&W’s overall capabilities, including their financial resources, prior successful track record with this type of project, and the fact that they are the original manufacturer of this boiler and are highly familiar with it,” said Michael B. Bartoszek, Laidlaw’s president and CEO.

B&W installed the recovery boiler at the Berlin mill in 1993 at a cost of nearly $100 million. Prior to its closure in May 2006, the mill processed approximately 1 million tons of biomass per year.

Laidlaw said the newly reconfigured plant will use over 650,000 tons of biomass per year, creating some 50 jobs at the plant and about 500 supporting jobs in the forest industry.

The facility is currently expected to commence operations in late 2008 or early 2009. — CINDY KIBBE

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