Photo credit: Jared Anderson/Breaking Energy

Natural gas is a common power generation fuel, but it’s also used for heating. In Pumerend, a city of 80,000 residents in the Netherlands located about an hour from Amsterdam, a biomass heating facility was recently constructed to replace natural gas-fired heating.


Photo credit: Jared Anderson/Breaking Energy

Breaking Energy toured the plant last spring before it officially went online to get the details. The plant is powered by 4 boilers each with 11-megawatts of capacity. Residents pay for their heat at a price level that is similar to the natural gas “reference price,” Martijn van Lier, District Heating Company Purmerend (SVP) Chief Technology Officer told the journalists assembled for the tour.

The timing of the switch from gas to biomass looks to have worked out well from a price perspective, as the Netherlands has been forced to throttle back output from the massive Groningen field due to regional earthquakes. This supply reduction has increased natural gas prices.

The Dutch National Forest Service supplies the 10-inch woodchips used as feedstock under a 25-year deal. The plant’s state-of-the-art design cuts CO2 emissions by 50,000 tons compared to natural gas.


Photo credit: Jared Anderson/Breaking Energy

Perhaps the most visually impressive aspect of the facility is the woodchip intake chamber where dump trucks deliver the feedstock via 6 loading bays. From there, 3 large cranes scoop up the woodchips and transfer them into a storage area that can supply the plant for a week. Watch these cranes in action here:

The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid for Breaking Energy’s travel and accommodations, but had no editorial input in the formulation of this article.