British feedstock-maker Active Energy powers up generation for de-coaling US utility


London-traded provider of green power feedstock Active Energy has begun production of its patented biomass variant from its new US factory, ready for burning in America’s power stations transitioning away from coal.

Chief executive Michael Rowan this morning hailed the firm’s rapid commissioning of its plant in Ashland, Maine, and the facility’s 5 tonnes-per-hour capacity to produce CoalSwitch, Active Energy’s biomass derivative.

CoalSwitch is Active Energy’s patented blend of low-value lumber, agricultural waste and energy grasses.  Its claimed advantages over other biomass varieties include greater water repellence, greater friability and ease of handling, free of binding ties.

After restructuring its finances in February, Active Energy has battled covid-related delays in the US. But it intends its second pellet plant on the US eastern seaboard to be in production at Lumberton, North Carolina by the end of this year, twelve months after construction began.

Maine’s regulators have approved a trial production run at Ashland of 1,000 tonnes of CoalSwitch for test in August.  Given the green light, Active’s joint venture with materials handlers Player Design will then proceed to ramp up output to 35,000 tonnes per year.

Contracts to provide CoalSwitch for combustion in the coal-fired furnaces of US generator PacifiCorp underpin Active’s US ambitions.  Deliveries are due later in June, Active told its investors last month.

Ultimately owned by super-investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway investment fund, PacifiCorp runs coal or geothermal power stations focused on America’s north west.  In 2019, the hitherto secretive generator revealed to regulators its massive de-carbonisation strategy, including early retirement and/or conversion of coal-fired power stations in Wyoming and Utah, and switching instead to low carbon sources for its customers in six states.

Coal-to-biomass conversion is a common step for yesteryear’s carbon behemoths.   Once Europe’s biggest CO2 emitter, Drax in Yorkshire ceased coal-fired generation at commercial scale three months ago.   Simec Atlantis is engaged in a two-stage process of converting Uskmouth plant in south Wales formerly owned by SSE to 220 MW pellet combustion.

Investors liked the announcement.  At yesterday’s close Active Energy’s share price on AIM was up 8%, at 0.75 pence.


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