ETI project to focus on biomass impurities, bioenergy economics

By Energy Technologies Institute | March 31, 2017

The Energy Technologies Institute has launched a new biomass feedstock improvement process project that aims to show how the removal of impurities and contaminated material from sustainable biomass could make bioenergy cheaper and more efficient, consequently delivering better greenhouse gas savings.

The £2.2m ($2.75 million) feedstock improvement project will be led by biomass specialists Forest Fuels Uniper Technologies, University of Sheffield’s PACT Facilities and the University of Leeds will also work on the 18-month project.

A prototype plant that will pretreat different forms of biomass to remove impurities will be built at Widmerpool, Nottinghamshire. The cleaned feedstocks will then be blended and combustion tested at the University of Sheffield’s Pilot scale Advanced Capture Technology Facilities, with expert support provided by the University’s Energy 2050 Institute.  The University of Leeds is also a partner on the project and will test the ash produced during combustion testing.

Biomass fuels, including waste wood, arboricultural and forestry residues, and purpose-grown biomass feedstocks such as miscanthus, often contain undesirable contaminants, picked up for example during harvesting, transport or storage.  The idea behind the project is that this pre-treatment process will reduce such concentrations and therefore deliver downstream operational benefits and value.

The ETI project will use various biomass feedstocks including waste wood, energy crops and other waste arisings to test the process. If successful, this process could lead to lower environmental and operating costs for power producers leading to a lower cost of low carbon energy.

A lot of waste wood currently ends up in landfill sites or is used in incinerators,” said Geraint Evans, program manager. “This project will take waste wood, wash it and blend it to remove impurities to make it as clean as possible in the lowest cost way. By removing such impurities this will lead to improvements in the efficiency of biomass boilers and the feedstocks used within them. We want to show that improving the quality of biomass feedstocks in this way is a viable way of increasing the amount of sustainable sources of bioenergy, obtaining more energy from them and delivering improved greenhouse gas savings. The intention is that once the process has been proven and tested it could then be used on other bioenergy crops and scaled up to treat larger amounts of material creating even greater efficiencies”

Peter Solly, Managing Director of Forest Fuels said, “Building on Forest Fuels’ experience of developing new products and markets in the virgin wood fuel sector, this project is an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of the next generation of bioenergy feedstocks.  Improving the quality of biomass feedstocks is a big opportunity for the future, and Forest Fuels is delighted to be leading this project.”