Active Energy Group unveils biomass fuel granule technology

By Active Energy Group plc | May 22, 2014

AEG Pelleting Ltd., a newly incorporated subsidiary of AIM-quoted Active Energy Group Plc, is unveiling a revolutionary biomass fuel granulating solution to an invited audience of international partners, industry specialists and potential project development investors at a demonstration event being held in Belfast  on May 21-22 2014.

Using a newly developed pilot plant built in Belfast, the granulation system has successfully converted industrial/agricultural by-products, including sawdust, into high-value biomass fuel granules suitable for use in micro combined-heat-and-power (CHP) commercial and residential boilers and large-scale power plants.

The granulation process has been developed over the past twelve years by two British inventors, John Gilbert and John Webster, working in association with Queens University Belfast.  The two inventors have recently entered into an exclusive global licensing and partnership agreement with the company the terms of which include the development of the technology from pilot plant stage to full commercialization.

Active Energy Group Plc is one of Europe's fastest-growing suppliers of wood chip for Biomass fuel for power plants, and is exceptionally well-positioned to commercialize the core technology, and roll it out internationally.

The Belfast event, at AEGP's new research and development facility in Carrickfergus and at the Hilton hotel in the city center, will be the first demonstrations of how the potentially game-changing granulating technology is set to address a major global problem, being the disposal in a safe and environmentally-responsible manner of the millions of metric tons of sawdust by-product generated each year by the sawmill and timber processing industries.

The AEGP system transforms that sawdust into valuable biomass for energy (BFE) fuel granules for use in power plants and micro-CHP boilers, a market that AEGPs parent company, Active Energy Group Plc, currently addresses via its extensive European BFE wood chip operations. 

Biomass, which is the main source of renewable energy worldwide (estimates vary from 44 percent to 65 percent) already provides some 10 percent of the world's primary energy supply, and has the potential to satisfy a large proportion of global energy demands.  In Europe, Biomass-generated power provides as much as 20 percent of the national energy consumption in countries such as Finland and Sweden, and is a central plank in the EU strategy to dramatically increase the share of energy produced from renewable resources.

The EU is also actively promoting Biomass as a means of reducing fossil fuel emissions associated with climate change.  The EU 2050 Energy Roadmap is broadly based on the premise that Biomass fuel will be critical to decarbonisation, and states that ‘decarbonisation will require a large quantity of Biomass for heat, electricity and transport.”

As a result, demand for Biomass fuels has grown substantially in recent years, a trend that is expected to continue at an ever-increasing rate.  As evidence of that, more than half of the generating units at the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire - the largest power plant in Western Europe, which currently produces 7-8 percent of the UK's total electricity requirements - are being converted to burn biomass fuel, a move that will require millions of metric tons of feedstock each year.

Although there are substantial supplies of biomass raw material within Europe, European producers are unable to cope with demand, so that much of the fuel for power plants - including that for Drax - is being imported from the Americas, mainly the Southern USA, Canada and Brazil.  However, many European Biomass power plant operators are finding it increasingly difficult and costly to secure reliable long-term supplies of BFE fuel, and some recently completed Biomass power plants are lying dormant.

In the opinion of the directors, the primary cause of the European supply bottleneck is that current fuel pelleting solutions have a number of critical drawbacks: they are expensive and inefficient; they utilize substantial quantities of gas or electricity for heating and drying and require large-scale industrial facilities, often situated in remote locations, and so further energy is expended and emissions produced by delivering raw material feedstock to them.

The AEGP system has the potential to revolutionize the biomass fuel industry by addressing each of the issues above.  AEGP's high-capacity, compact granule manufacturing equipment is expected to cost less than 50 percent of existing pelleting solutions, requires neither gas nor heat for drying and will utilize substantially less power per metric ton produced.  Crucially, the core processing units are mobile and can be installed on-site at raw feedstock facilities.

For every metric ton of raw timber processed at sawmills, it is estimated that approximately 50 percent ends up as sawdust and other by-products that cannot be used for landfill and have very few industrial applications. Although some mill operators succeed in selling this material to Biomass fuel pellet manufacturers - often at very low prices, as the cost of long-distance shipping sawdust residue to remote pelleting plants is prohibitive - most are left with no option but to pay third-party contractors to have it removed.

Commenting on AEGP, Richard Spinks, Active Energy Group CEO, said, "My colleagues and I are delighted to be unveiling the new system here in Belfast, where this ground-breaking granulation technology was created, developed and supported over the past twelve years.  It takes passion, vision and dedication to conceive an idea and then take it through to commercialization.  John Gilbert and John Webster have all those qualities, and we are delighted to be in partnership with them.

Together we are excited by the game-changing potential of AEGP's granulating solution, as it addresses the very obvious need for such a solution and the equally strong need for sustainable high calorific Biomass fuel. We are confident that the pilot plant we are unveiling today will amply demonstrate the potential of a full-scale commercial system to work in an efficient, environmentally responsible and cost-effective manner and can speedily be scaled-up to service the needs of large corporations.

This exhibition brings together all the different parties interested or already currently working with AEGP creating an opportunity for all, to view the technology and hear directly from the AEGP team."