No 8. February 2013

Trees to Power Coal Fired Power Stations

BioCoal Pty Ltd has received a $25,000 grant from the Victorian Department of Business and Innovation to conduct a feasibility study into its advanced torrefaction process that can turn biomass such as trees into a product that can be used in coal fired power stations.

The product, called biocoal, can be sold to power stations as a clean and renewable replacement for coal.

The company says its process has been described as the most advanced torrefaction technology to date, and estimates it can decrease running costs and increase output by over 500 per cent compared to similar technologies.

Founder, Alex Stefan, said the system uses plantation pulpwood and would be a game changer for the sector as the pulpwood industry has halved in size over the last 10 years due to the decline in paper useage.

The technology is mobile for in-forest processing, which can halve the cost of road transport from forest to consumer. It can use the wood chips produced by the pulpwood industry, and has a continuous process rather than a batch system. Once the wood chips are fed in, it has no moving parts giving very low maintenance costs.

The process is self powered using gas. Gas to liquid technology delivers 20 barrels of diesel per day to power the forest harvesting equipment.

Output is over 100 cubic metres per hour.

BioCoal says its cost of production from standing tree to finished biocoal is under $4 per cubic metre.

BioCoal is a start-up and will also use the grant for early design work and intellectual property as well as a feasibility study. The next step would be a small scale prototype.

Mr Stefan, who has a background in forestry and business consulting and was formerly lecturer in entrepreneurship and innovation at Swinburne University in Melbourne, said the main market is Europe and Asia where there is great interest in bioenergy and biocoal.

A major European company has said that when BioCoal is ready it will contract 50,000 tonnes of product per month.

If the capital were available, BioCoal could be ready to fulfil such an order in 12 months, he said.

Although he would like to sell to coal fired power stations in Victoria, Mr Stefan says there is little interest due to the very low cost of brown coal.





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