HM3 gears up for biomass briquette tests

By Anna Simet | August 08, 2012

Oregon-based biomass torrefaction company HM3 Energy Inc. has landed an $86,000 grant from the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center for emissions testing of its torrefied biomass briquetting technology, and the company busy is finishing up preparations to begin manufacturing briquettes on a large scale.

Over the past couple of years, HM3 has been awarded multiple grants through the USDA and other federal programs and contests, such as the Cleantech Open Business Competition, in which the company was a 2011 Northwest region finalist. If all goes well during the next testing phases, the technology may possess great potential in Oregon, which has passed a law requiring all coal-fired power plants to shut down by 2020. That includes the massive, 550 MW Boardman power plant, which is currently investigating its options.

CEO Hiroshi Morihara said the company will begin densifying torrefied biomass with a 50,000 ton-per-year densification machine later this month, at its demonstration-scale facility in Troutdale, Ore. “Our aim is to produce hydrophobic briquettes,” he said. “For the first series of test runs with this machine, our goal is to produce briquettes that can withstand one hour immersion in water.”

When all the adjustments are made to the pre-densification conditioning, HM3 hopes to have briquettes that are able to withstand 24-hour water immersion, like sample briquettes from the company’s pilot plant can. “We don’t use binder,” Morihara added. “My understanding is that nobody has produced truly hydrophobic pellets or briquettes anywhere without adding a binder.”

Preparations for the upcoming test are nearly complete, as the manufacturer of the densifier machine is finishing machine modifications HM3 requested, according to Morihara.

HM3 has also begun engineering a small commercial facility in Prineville, Ore, and if all continues to go well, the company plans to build many more small plants throughout the state.