White paper addresses Asian biocoal market

By Erin Voegele | June 20, 2013

International consulting and engineering company Pöyry PLC has published a white paper on biocoal market potential in Asia. The report, titled “Biocaol—Bioenergy Game Changer in Asia?” explores what role biocoal production technologies might have in the Asian bioenergy industry.

The paper explains that biomass can be converted into biocoal through several technologies, including torrefaction and steam explosion techniques. The resulting material can be further densified into pellets or briquettes for more economical transportation.

According to the report, Pöyry has forecasted that the pellet market will reach 60 million tons globally by 2020, and that the share of biocoal in meeting that need will depend on the development and commercialization of processing technology that takes place in the short term. Although utilities have expressed interest to use pelletized biocoal for cofiring, the paper stresses that commercial production is currently limited. The authors of the paper note that wider commercial production could begin in 2018 if financing and off-take opportunities maintain momentum.

While demand for biomass fuel is highest in Europe, the paper states there is significant potential for growth in Asia. Japan and South Korea alone are home to 62,000 MW of coal-fired power generation. A 10 percent cofiring share at these plants would equate to demand for 22 million metric tons of wood pellets.

The white paper compares and contrasts the relative benefits and challenges associated with wood pellet and densified biocoal production in the Asian market. Considering the current status of technology development, the report states that equipment costs and higher energy demand currently make biocoal pellets more expensive to produce than wood pellets. However, Pöyry said lower retrofitting cost for power plants along with lower logistics and handling costs could tip the balance in favor of biocoal pellets.

The paper was released in conjunction with a biomass pellet conference sponsored by the Pellet Association Malaysia. The event is scheduled to take place in South Korea this September.