New biochar district heating project built in Switzerland

PYREG, an engineer and builder of carbonisation technology for active CO2 removal, has built the first climate-neutral district heating project in Switzerland with Basel-based energy service provider, IWB.

The newly developed PX 1500 from PYREG, a modularly configurable carbonisation system, carbonises unused biomass such as green waste into high-quality biochar. This process takes place on IWB’s premises, producing ecological heat in the process.

An annual heating output of around 1.5 GWh is fed directly into the district’s heating network, supplying the energy needs of about 170 households in Basel.

Carbonisation, also known as pyrolysis, permanently and safely binds CO2. Without the PX 1500, the CO2 still bound in green waste would be released into the atmosphere through conventional incineration or simple rotting.

IWB utilises only regional, untreated biomass for carbonisation, such as wood and green waste from a maximum radius of 40 kilometres around Basel. In the process, wood and green cuttings are decomposed into biochar at 500-700oC under the exclusion of oxygen.

Because of the high quality of the raw materials used, and the controlled manufacturing process, the final biochar product qualifies for the internationally accepted EBC-AgroBio certificate. This means the biochar complies with requirements for EU-wide use as a soil conditioner, even in organic farming. IWB sells the biochar, around 550 tons per year, to agricultural enterprises and private customers.

“With this, our first biochar plant, IWB emphasises its leading role as a service provider for renewable energy,” said Dr Arthur Janssen, head of strategy and innovation at IWB.

“Decarbonising the heat supply is one of our most important tasks, and not just in Basel. We carry this mission throughout Switzerland. The plant is a showcase project in terms of decarbonisation and energy efficiency. Also, our customers gain from the ecological benefits of the biochar.”

PYREG’s founder and chief technical officer, Helmut Gerber, commented: “Using PYREG’s world-class technology, IWB is a pioneer in climate protection and living proof of the enormous climate protection value that lies in CO2-negative district heating.

“We are convinced that flagship projects like this one in Switzerland will follow worldwide. They are important as we have no more time to lose on the way to achieving the Paris climate protection goals.”

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