The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) has this week launched a new project to investigate how removing impurities from sustainable biomass feedstocks can improve the efficiency and cost effectiveness of biomass energy.
The £2.2m project will bring together the ETI, biomass feedstocks specialist Forest Fuels, and Uniper Technologies to explore how feedstock improvement processes can remove impurities and contaminated material from feedstocks.
A prototype plant will be built to pre-treat biomass feedstocks at Forest Fuels’ depot near Widmerpool in Nottinghamshire.
The cleaned feedstocks will then be blended and combustion tested at the University of Sheffield’s Pilot scale Advanced Capture Technology Facilities.
The University of Leeds is also a partner on the project and will test the ash produced during combustion testing.
The study is hoping to quantify the level of efficiency gains and financial savings that can come from improving the quality of biomass feedstocks.
Currently many biomass feedstocks such as waste wood, arboricultural and forestry residues, and purpose-grown biomass feedstocks such as Miscanthus, often contain undesirable contaminants, picked up during harvesting, transport or storage, which can reduce the efficiency of the energy conversion process.
The ETI project will use various biomass feedstocks, including waste wood and energy crops.
“A lot of waste wood currently ends up in landfill sites or is used in incinerators,” said Geraint Evans, ETI bioenergy programme manager in a statement. “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 the project was “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,” he said.
Advocates of bioenergy technologies argue they can deliver reliable energy and significant greenhouse gas emissions savings. However, critics argue that unless feedstock supply chains are well managed and closely monitored they can lead to land use impacts that result in increases in greenhouse gas emissions.