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New biomass fuel could replace coal in power plants

New biomass-based fuel can be used in coal-fired power plants without furnace upgrades
New biomass-based fuel can be used in coal-fired power plants without furnace upgrades

Biomass Energy Enhancement (BEE), a Utah, US-based biomass technology provider, has developed a new biomass fuel manufacturing process that could replace coal in power plants without the need for equipment upgrades.

The new process, developed over the past seven years, enables biomass fuel to be utilised in traditional coal-fired power plants as a direct replacement for coal without requiring plant operators to invest in expensive furnace, handling, and storage modifications.

The environmentally-friendly process effectively cleanses the raw biomass material by removing salts, minerals, and other contaminants that harm the atmosphere and damage power plant furnaces.

The biomass is then converted into a high-energy feedstock, without the low and medium volatiles resident in some other biomass fuels. 

The technology is able to process any plant- or wood-based raw biomass material, as well as previously unusable or economically unviable waste timber, contaminated or redundant industrial residues, and even chemically-treated wood.

Chas Fritz, CEO of BEE and CEO of AEG CoalSwitch, a new joint venture company setup together with Active Energy Group (AEG), says over 93 million tonnes of forestry residues go to waste each year in the US alone.

‘The global figure is vastly higher. And that doesn't include waste timber from sawmills, construction sites and other industrial uses such as redundant railroad ties. Our primary goal at BEE was to make the unusable usable,’ Fritz says.

The finished fuel, which can be delivered in a range of different compacted formats (pellets, granules, briquettes, or bales), contains similar thermal and friability characteristics to coal, making it compatible with existing coal-fired power stations.

Moreover, it can be handled and processed using the same equipment currently used to handle and prepare coal.

BBE recently partnered with AEG, a UK-based company that now owns the commercialisation rights to the new fuel.

Richard Spinks, CEO of AEG, says the new fuel could help plants such as the Eggborough coal plant in the UK, which announced in the beginning of September that it would be ceasing energy production in March 2016 due to lack of government support to convert to burning biomass.

New biomass-based fuel can be used in coal-fired power plants without furnace upgrades