A trio of companies have created a biomass fuel that can replace coal.
Biomass Energy Enhancements (BEE) teamed up with Michigan-based engineering consultant Munro & Associates, and UK-based Active Energy Group to create the fuel which, because of its high BTU rating, can be used autonomously in traditional coal-fired plants without forcing the facility to change its structure. Maintaining the infrastructure would be a luxury as the process of overhauling such a facility can become costly.
The move from a plant that strictly operates using coal to a plant that uses a fuel mix of coal and biomass fuel (which the new biomass fuel can be used for) or one that operates solely on biomass fuel, can also lead to reduced emissions.
Munro & Associates said other processes such as thermal drying and simple compaction are inferior to the BEE-developed process because those methods either leave copious amounts of toxic salts in the biomass resulting in pollution and maintenance issues, or leave too much intercellular moisture, which lessens the energy released from the fuels. BEE’s process, according to Munro & Associates, destroys the unwanted fibers and exposes the intra-fiber moisture so it can be extracted. The biomass fuel created by the collaboration is hydrophobic, which prevents the moisture from being drawn back into the fuel.
“Although Munro has worked on several new technologies over the years, rarely does the company make the leap to actually invest in the technologies as well,” said Munro & Associates CEO Sandy Munro of the company’s decision to work with prototype design created by BEE. “This process has the potential to revolutionize the industry and we are very proud to be a part of the Coal Switch Team.”
Together, BEE and Munro improved upon the process so it could become more mobile.
“Our primary goal at BEE was to make the unusable usable,” said company CEO Chas Fritz. “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, over 93 million tons of forestry residues are left to rot each year in the U.S. alone and the global figure is vastly higher. That doesn’t include waste timber from sawmills, construction sites and other industrial uses such as redundant railroad ties. Our unique process converts all of that material into high-energy fuel, benefitting the environment in numerous ways.”
Fritz added that Energy Group brought to the collaboration the resources need to bring the system process to market.