Biomass gasification plant set for Massachusetts

The $25 million pilot plant, expected to be completed in a year, will use wood chips, corn stover and switchgrass to make natural gas.

Update: This article has been update to clarify that the Massachusetts plant will use biomass as well as coal and petroleum coke as feedstocks to make natural gas.

GreatPoint Energy announced plans Thursday to build a plant to produce natural gas from biomass, coal and petroleum coke in its home state of Massachusetts.

The facility, which is expected to be finished in one year, will be located in Brayton Point at the research and development center of energy utility Dominion.

Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick was set to speak at a ceremony to announce the $25 million investment, which is benefiting from a state research grant.

This is a rendering of the planned biomass gasification plant to produce natural gas. GreatPoint Energy

GreatPoint has developed a technique for converting different feedstocks into methane, or natural gas, through a catalyst-based gasification process. It says it can create natural gas that costs less than current market prices.

It has attracted the attention of top-flight venture capitalists and other industrial companies. Last month, it announced an additional $100 million investment led by Dow Chemical, Suncor Energy, AES, and Citi division Sustainable Development Investments.

The plant in Massachusetts will use wood chips, corn stover, and switchgrass as a feedstock to make natural gas as well as coal and petroleum coke.

With its other plant projects, GreatPoint intends to place facilities near coal mines to make natural gas and sequester carbon dioxide generated during the gasification process underground.

The company also intends to build a gasification plant in Alberta, Canada, using petroleum coke, which is a byproduct of oil drilling in the tar sands there.

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