• ERA funds new technology to convert biomass into ‘coal’

    Date posted:

    • Post Author

      Philip Sharman

      IFRF Director

The University of Nottingham in the UK is working with CPL Industries to produce a commercial-scale facility capable of converting biomass into next-generation solid fuels with coal-like properties (i.e. ‘biocoal’).

The new facility is being supported by the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) – an initiative funded by Innovate UK (the UK’s de facto innovation agency) – which works with universities and industry to support research and innovation in energy.

The technology being used to develop the biocoal is known as hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) and converts high-moisture biomass into solid fuels using moderate temperatures and high pressures.  The HTC process effectively mimics the long-term natural process of coal formation, with the process taking a matter of hours rather than millennia!

Once completed, the HTC facility will be operated by CPL Industries, a manufacturer and distributor of solid fuels which already has products on the market containing biomass materials.  CPL is working with Professor Colin Snape at the University of Nottingham, who is Director of the Centre in Efficient Power from Fossil Energy and Carbon Capture Technologies.

Speaking about the HTC facility, Professor Snape said: “Developing this new HTC facility is very exciting as this is the first such plant in the UK.  We will be able to look at how we can convert waste streams into value-added fuel products that have many domestic and industrial applications.  Also, by using the biocoal that has been made from biowaste, we are producing a carbon-neutral fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The installation is located at CPL’s production site in Immingham, North Lincolnshire, and is based on technology developed by CPL’s Spanish partner Ingelia.  It is scheduled to begin production in mid-2018.

Speaking about the new facility Jason Sutton, Director of CPL, said: “The technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of high-moisture organic waste streams, producing value-added products that displace fossil fuels and promoting the circular economy.  CPL and the rest of the project partners stand ready to engage with local authorities and waste managers to source suitable waste material, conduct trials and develop the wider commercial and environmental benefits.

CPL’s intention for the HTC facility is to investigate suitable replacements for fossil fuels in its home heating products, with possible future developments being the replacement of coking coals in industrial applications such as foundries and smelters.

The HTC facility in Immingham is one of a number of demonstrator projects and facilities that ERA is investing in to increase innovation in energy generation, storage, distribution and use.

To find out more about this and other initiatives by the University of Nottingham please visit their website.