Torrefaction Continues at SERC

Wood chips before and after torrefaction.

Unprocessed wood chips (front) and the same feedstock after torrefaction. Photo credit Kellie Brown, HSU Photographer.

SERC is continuing its work with Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) on torrefaction. Torrefaction is the process of heating biomass to 250 – 300 degrees Celcius in the absence of oxygen.

The resulting product, referred to by RFT as “BioCoal,” has a higher energy density and is easier to pelletize than raw biomass. It is also hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water. These properties make BioCoal easier and less costly to store and transport compared to raw biomass. BioCoal can be used as a feedstock for liquid biofuels or co-fired in a coal power plant, thus replacing fossil fuels with a renewable energy source.

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SERC Hosts Biomass Meeting

Biomass Meeting April 2011

Biomass energy VIPs gather around the torrefier at SERC. Photo credit Kellie Brown, HSU Photographer.

SERC’s recently launched collaboration with biomass energy startup Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) reached an important milestone on April 7, when a group of U.S. Forest Service officials, professional foresters, and biomass specialists from across the country convened at SERC for a Torrefaction Research, Development, and Commercialization Meeting.

The meeting included a demonstration of RFT’s prototype wood torrefier that had been recently moved to SERC. Many of the meeting participants, including RFT’s technical and business leadership team, braved late-season storms and a major landslide to make the trek up from the Bay Area.

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Gasification: Torrefaction of Wood Samples

Wood chips before and after torrefaction.

Unprocessed wood chips (front) and the same feedstock after torrefaction. Photo credit Kellie Brown, HSU Photographer.

Although SERC’s three-year biomass gasification project is winding down, we are continuing to research biomass and its role as a renewable fuel. Our latest endeavour is torrefaction.

Torrefaction is a mild form of pyrolysis in which biomass is heated in an inert environment to a temperature between 200 and 300 °C. During the process, water and volatiles are removed and the hemicelluloses break down, yielding a dry, blackened solid product with a lower moisture content and higher energy content on a mass basis than the initial biomass.

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