University of Louisville forms partnership for wood-to-energy project

The University of Louisville Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research has formed a partnership with a South Carolina company to accelerate the commercialisation of a coal-like product made from wood and biomass materials.

Greenville, South Carolina-based Integro Earth Fuels is the developer of NuCoal, a product made from sustainable wood waste that can be burned with or in place of coal by heat and power generators.

The Conn Center, part of the J.B. Speed School of Engineering, will establish R&D and pilot-scale production facilities to study the torrefaction and densification of wood and agricultural biomass sources.

'Conn Center's expertise is crucial in making this technology work at any scale,' says Conn Center director Mahendra Sunkara. 'The use of this product as a substitute for coal can help extend the life of Kentucky's coal-fired power plants while significantly reducing pollutant and carbon emissions.'

The UofL project is being funded, in part, by a $256,890 (€235,000) grant over two years to the Conn Center from the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities through its Consortium for Advanced Wood to Energy Solutions – a joint venture between the endowment and the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service. In addition, the Conn Center is investing about $135,000 toward this effort, which will be led by researchers Jagannadh Satyavolu and Thad Druffel.

Integro also has signed a joint development agreement with UofL to provide funding to the Conn Center for a series of projects. In the first, the company plans to provide the centre with $80,000 worth of equipment to support research and development of the torrefaction process.

'We are looking at markets for NuCoal plants in Kentucky and other parts of the US, Europe and South America,' says Integro founder Walt Dickinson. 'This partnership is critical to making that happen.'

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