New technology converts biomass into 'coal'

   
   
 HTC plant artist's impression 445
16 Nov 2017 13:31:23.620

The University of Nottingham is partnering with the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) and CPL Industries to produce a commercial scale facility capable of converting biomass into next-generation solid fuels with coal-like properties.

The new facility is being supported by the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA) - an Innovate UK funded initiative involving the Midlands Innovation consortium of universities, together with the British Geological Survey and industrial partners, who are working together to support research and innovation in energy. 

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Mimicking coal formation
The technology being used to develop the biocoal is known as Hydrothermal Carbonisation (HTC). This 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.

First facility in the UK
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 will be located at CPL’s production site in Immingham, North Lincolnshire, and is scheduled to begin production in mid-2018.

Demonstrating cutting-edge innovation
Gordon Waddington, Chief Executive of the Energy Research Accelerator (ERA), which is funding the development, added: “This facility is a great example of what ERA is aiming to do – demonstrating cutting-edge innovation, with industrial partners who can advise on the commercial application of the products.

"By tapping into the experience of CPL and the expertise of Professor Colin Snape and his team at the University of Nottingham, I am confident that we will be able to demonstrate that producing biocoal using this technique, has significant commercial potential.”

Commercial and environmental benefits
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.”

The 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.

Demonstrator projects
The HTC facility in Immingham is one of a number of demonstrator projects and facilities that the Energy Research Accelerator is investing in across the Midlands, in order to increase innovation in energy generation, storage, distribution and use.

 To find out more about ERA, visit www.era.ac.uk or email enquiries@era.ac.uk

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More information is available from Nick King, Marketing and Communications Manager for ERA, on +44 (0)115 74 86727, or email nicholas.king@nottingham.ac.uk

(Photos courtesy of CPL)

Notes to Editors:

Midlands Innovation 
Midlands Innovation is a world-class research and innovation partnership, combining the collective excellence of eight leading universities in the heart of the UK – Aston, Birmingham, Cranfield, Keele, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick. It unites the power of university research with the unique strengths of Midlands industry to drive cutting-edge research, innovation and skills development.

The Energy Research Accelerator (ERA)
ERA is a key programme within Midlands Innovation – a consortium of research intensive universities (universities of Aston, Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham and Warwick), and the British Geological Survey (BGS), which has the overall aim of harnessing the Midlands’ combined research excellence and industry expertise to play a critical role in tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the UK.

Via Innovate UK, the government has committed an initial capital investment of £60m, and ERA has secured private sector co-investment of £120m. ERA’s initial priorities of Geo-Energy Systems, Integrated Energy Systems and Thermal Energy will help deliver the new technologies and behaviours that will open the avenues for its future development and demonstrate the transformative effect ERA can have across the energy spectrum.

The University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage, consistently ranked among the top one per cent in the world. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our 44,000 students — Nottingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide, was awarded gold in the TEF 2017  and features in the top 20 of all three major UK rankings. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia — part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner — locally and globally.

CPL Industries
CPL is the largest smokeless fuel manufacturer in Europe and a significant distributor of solid fuels in the UK, making over one million deliveries to around 100,000 customer locations a year. CPL’s expanding product range addresses the increasingly important renewable fuels market. Products from CPL already on the market, containing a proportion of biomass material, include Homefire Ecoal 50, containing 50% renewable material, Homefire Olive Briquettes and Super-Charged Heatlogs.

Story credits

For more information about the Hydrothermal Carbonisation (HTC) plant, contact Professor Colin Snape
Nick King  

Nick King - Marketing and Communications Manager, Energy Research Accelerator (ERA)

Email: nicholas.king@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 74 86727 Location: Coates Building, Faculty of Engineering, University Park Nottingham

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