Consumer products giant Procter and Gamble has completed a 50 megawatt biomass-fired cogeneration facility at its paper products factory in Albany, Georgia in partnership with retail energy supplier Constellation.
The new biomass cogeneration facility will produce and sell electricity to the local utility, Georgia Power. Steam from the biomass plant will be provided to the P&G Albany facility which uses steam to dry the Charmin and Bounty paper products the plant produces. 100% of the steam required by the P&G facility will come from the new Constellation facility. Steam is a critical component of the paper production process and is traditionally generated from on site boilers that burn natural gas specifically for the paper drying process.
Excess steam generated will be used to power an 8.5-megawatt steam-to-electricity generator at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany. The multiple use cases for this biomass facility highlight how thinking outside the box can result in the best solution for multiple parties. In this case, Constellation is able to dispose of biomass that would otherwise decay, go to landfill or simply be burned, Constellation is able to generate 50 megawatts (MW) of electricity for the local grid, P&G gets to make use of the heat generated for 100% of the steam it needs and the excess steam is sent off to make more electricity for a nearby military base.
Generating steam from a biomass combustion operation utilizes carbon that is already in the Carbon Cycle as compared to natural gas which takes carbon from below the surface and introduces additional carbon into the atmosphere. The new Constellation facility will make use of locally sourced biomass that would otherwise have been left to decay, be burned, or potentially sent to landfill, including discarded tree tops, limbs, branches and scrap wood from local forestry operations, crop residuals, such as pecan shells and peanut hulls, and mill waste, such as sawdust. Much of this biomass would normally decay, resulting in methane emissions but is instead broken down much more rapidly via combustion.
“By powering our Bounty and Charmin plant with renewable energy, consumers can feel good about putting these products in their carts,” said Stefano Zenezini, P&G Vice President Product Supply and Sustainability. “We are using our innovative capabilities and those of our external partners to drive meaningful change that is good for the environment and good for business.”
P&G has committed to obtain 30% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 and the new biomass facility is a large step in that direction, singlehandedly doubling the company’s use of renewable energy. P&G is currently obtaining just under 20% of its energy from renewable sources — a challenging goal considering the energy intensity of manufacturing operations. Utilizing biomass fired cogeneration is one of the best options for delivering the heat needed for paper manufacturing with biogas (aka Renewable Natural Gas) being one of the only other options.
P&G made its first significant step towards its renewables target just under 2 years ago with the announcement that it had contracted the production from an entire wind farm to offset 100% of the electricity used in its laundry detergent business.
Disclosure: I am a former P&G employee and still own company stock.