Ontario Power Generation says it's taking a closer look at whether the Mission Island Generating Station could be converted to burn biomass.


The conversion of Thunder Bay's Mission Island Generating Station from coal power to natural gas was halted late last year as Ontario Power Generation said it couldn't strike a power purchase agreement with the Ontario Power Authority. (Ontario Power Generation)

Last year, the utility suspended work on converting the Thunder Bay plant from coal to natural gas. The province will stop using coal-fired plants next year.

The plant manager for Ontario Power Generation's Northwest Thermal, which runs the plants in Thunder Bay and Atikokan, said they are looking at other options.

"I remain optimistic that [the] Thunder Bay [Generating Station] will be operational beyond 2014," Chris Fralick said.

"I don't know in what form. There's a lot of uncertainty still that needs to be sorted out. There's a lot of discussions that still need to be had.  There's going to be a need for power, and there's going to be a need for the Thunder Bay [Generating Station]."

OPG formally announced it was suspending the coal-to-gas conversion in Thunder Bay in November. At that time, the power workers' union suggested biomass conversion as a possible alternative — something the OPG will consider.

"While the project is paused, we're still working hard to keep things alive and moving," Fralick said.

"We are looking at other options as well, so things are by no means over, so to speak."

OPG is currently converting the Atikokan plant to burn biomass.