Aerial view of Oberkirch headquarters. Source: Koehler

The Koehler Group has announced plans to fully convert its power plant at its Oberkirch location in Germany to a combined heat and power plant using biomass as a fuel.

At its Oberkirch location, Koehler operates three paper machines, including the associated auxiliary systems. The paper processing and drying processes require enormous amounts of energy, which is why the company originally built its own power plant in 1943. In 1986 a new power plant was built, which now operates on bituminous coal and refuse-derived fuels such as paper sludge.

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The 60 million euro ($73 million) conversion will ensure the plant operates on CO2-neutral energy produced using wood chips, green waste, and mill residue.

Koehler Group CEO, Kai Furler, said: “By switching from bituminous coal to biomass as the primary fuel for our location here in Oberkirch, we will be cutting more than 150,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions a year.”

Today, the power plant delivers a total of about 100,000 MW/h of electric power and 330,000 metric tons
of steam per year. In addition, the resulting waste heat is used for the open-air public swimming pool in Oberkirch.

Changing the power plant to operate completely on biomass reflects Koehler’s aim of producing more energy from renewable sources than is required for its paper production operations by 2030. Furthermore, the German government’s Fuel Emissions Trading Act makes it more difficult to use fossil fuels, another reason why Koehler will be implementing its plans for the conversion three years earlier than originally planned.

The plant will be commissioned at the end of 2024.