eRex , a biomass power plant operator in Japan, is in the process of purchasing four coal-fired plants to refit them to burn biomass. It has entered into talks with companies that own coal-fired plants in Japan’s Kanto, Hokuriku, and Shikoku regions. eRex is looking to acquire four coal-fired plants of 150-500 MW each.
eRex will install storage facilities and crushers for biomass fuel and hopes to start operations in 2022. Coal would initially be mixed with biomass, which will account for about 30 per cent of the fuel. The proportion of coal will be steadily reduced until the plants run solely on biomass by around 2025.
The company plans to use a sorghum-derived biofuel which it grows in Vietnam and the Philippines. This can be harvested three times a year and is 20-30 per cent cheaper to harvest than other plants used for biomass power generation.
Japan has about 150 coal-fired thermal plants, but the Japanese government is demanding that they achieve a power generation efficiency of at least 43 per cent. This is likely to push some older plants into retirement. However, decommissioning costs can be prohibitive. eRex is taking advantage of this situation by buying the facilities and converting the plants to operate on biomass.