New plant in the UK aims to transform biomass into ‘coal’

Scientists and industry in the United Kingdom are joining forces to build a commercial scale facility capable of transforming biomass into next-generation solid fuels with coal-like properties. This would be the first complex of its type in the country.

HTC or Hydrothermal Carbonisation is the name of the technology being developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham who are working in partnership with the Energy Research Accelerator and CPL Industries.

According to the group of experts, HTC converts high-moisture biomass into solid fuels using moderate temperatures and high pressures. The process effectively mimics the long-term natural process of coal formation, but instead of millennia it only takes a few hours for the mineral-like material to be created.

The intention of the HTC facility is to investigate suitable replacements for fossil fuels in home-heating products, with possible future developments being the replacement of coking coal in industrial applications such as foundries and smelters.

"We will be able to look at how we can convert waste streams into value-added fuel products that have many domestic and industrial applications. Also, by using the biocoal that has been made from biowaste, we are producing a carbon-neutral fuel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said in a university statement Colin Snape, Director of the Centre in Efficient Power from Fossil Energy and Carbon Capture Technologies at the University of Nottingham.

The HTC facility will be operated by solid-fuel manufacturer CPL Industries and will be located at the company's production site in Immingham, North Lincolnshire. Activities at the plant are scheduled to begin in mid-2018.