GE Gas Engines Turning Waste Wood into Cleaner Energy for Italy

TORINO, ITALY—November 7, 2011—GE (NYSE: GE) today announced that its advanced gas engine technology is powering the highly efficient Villanova Mondovi pyro-gasification plant in Italy. Located in the small town of Villanova Mondovi, near Torino, the new facility is turning waste wood into energy with low carbon emissions and is helping the country move toward its goal to produce 17 percent of its energy from renewable resources by the year 2020.

GE supplied two J316 Jenbacher gas engines to Pyrox GmbH Germany, the engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the project. Owned and operated by Italian energy company Energia & Calora,the plant was commissioned at the beginning of 2011 and is supplying thermal energy for a district heating network that covers an industrial area along with private and public buildings, including the local school.

The pyro-gasification process for the Villanova Mondovi plant has four phases: the drying of the wood; gasification; gas cooling and depuration; and gas combustion, through GE’s Jenbacher J316 gas engines. These machines are among the industry leaders in the 500 to 1,000 kW range, offering long service intervals, a maintenance-friendly engine design and low fuel consumption to ensure maximum efficiency.

The technology deployed for the Villanova Mondovi plant evolved from a similar gasifier project in Grossenkneten, Germany, co-financed by the region of Lower Saxony, and is producing one of the highest net electrical efficiency ever reached by a syngas cogeneration plant in this output range —between 27 and 29 percent, depending on the quality of the wood and the air used in the process. With an output of 995 kilowatts (kW), just below 1 megawatt, the project qualifies for the government’s incentive tariff, which encourages the development of smaller, geographically distributed power plants.

“The strong teamwork between Pyrox GmbH, its subsidiary Pyrox Italia Srl. and GE has been a key to the remarkable success of this innovative project, which uses advanced technology to reach unprecedented levels of efficiency and output for a plant of this type,” said Andreas Marocco, head of management of Pyrox Italia. “We are very proud that our project supports the country’s efforts to increase its energy output while reducing the environmental impact by taking advantage of abundant fuel sources, such as wood biomass.” 

The National Action Plan of Italy calls for 45 percent of the country’s cleaner energy to be produced from biomass, with 60 percent of that total coming from solid biomass, such as wood. There is a strong trend in that direction; the use of wood biomass for energy production in Italy has increased by 7 percent over the last two years.

“Italy is an attractive market for wood biomass power projects, which have the strong support of the Italian government as the country strives to expand and diversify its alternative energy capacity,” said Francesco Dattilo, General Manager - Gas Engines in Italy. “With its proven high efficiency and low emissions, our advanced gas engine technology is an excellent match for smaller, local projects that take advantage of local fuel resources while reducing the environmental impact of power production.”

GE’s flexible gas-to-power portfolio includes Jenbacher and Waukesha gas engines and is specifically designed for fuel flexibility needed to accommodate the use of alternative fuels such as syngas from pyro-gasification processes by biomass, while offering high levels of electrical efficiency.

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Energia & Calora Torino Biomass Gasification