By: Rubina Obaid
Biocoal is produced through dry biomass by administering a process known as pyrolysis or torrefaction. It can be used and burnt just like natural coal for the production of energy. Researchers explored that biocoal can also be obtained through numerous other sources such as rice husk, sawdust, wheat straw, soybean straw, maize cobs, and other organic wastes as well.
Fossil fuel and coal-fired power plants are considered as major contributors for throwing carbon in the atmosphere and causing unprecedented hazardous environmental impacts globally. Thus, countries are seeking sustainable energy alternatives to substantially mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Following the efforts in the field of renewable energy, biocoal made its place to efficiently replace fossil-based fuels. A high-quality carbon-neutral fuel, also known as syn coal which is created through the process of torrefaction of biomass. Biocoal features similar characteristics as conventional fossil-based fuel while making it a viable option for industries to minimize carbon footprints.
Biocoal is produced through dry biomass by administering a process known as pyrolysis or torrefaction. The process is conducted at a high temperature that is between 500 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit with a specific retention time to produce biocoal. Results revealed that bio-coal could be used and burnt just like natural coal for the production of energy. Researchers explored that biocoal can also be obtained through numerous other sources such as rice husk, sawdust, wheat straw, soybean straw, maize cobs, and other organic wastes as well.
HTC biocoal will not only help in achieving a carbon-neutral environment but also mitigate methane emission from landfills, as 95% of the organic waste will be utilized for producing biomass and bio-coal. In order to produce bio-coal, biowaste is kept into a device known as a reactor which processes the material in high temperature ranging 180 to 250 degrees centigrade under the pressure of the order of 2 megapascals (MPa) or 20 atmospheres. Thus, the water in the process gets superheated, rather than getting converted to steam and the reactor converts the organic material into hard bio-coal. Liquids that are collected throughout the process are used as bio-fertilizers and gases are also obtained as a by-product which is then used to power the system.
Biocoal is a clean source of energy as it does not contain sulfur, nitrogen oxide, or mercury and also contains minimum ash content, unlike natural coal. Therefore, the overall greenhouse gas emission gets reduced and yields a clean and sustainable energy source. It is also a viable option to implement as it gets easily integrated into the existing system which uses conventional coal or fossil fuels. Biocoal can also be blended to co-fire with natural coal and offers high energy value. Moreover, it is convenient to store, carry and transport biocoal. Further researches are being conducted to opt for various other low-cost alternatives of biomass to obtain biocoal such as human feces. This would bring an exponential benefit to the energy sector and a great potential for generating income especially for the developing countries where they lack proper sanitary systems. Ingelia a technology-based company situated in Spain, develops sustainable projects through local resources and implementing innovative processes. The company has developed three biocoal plants in Spain, UK, and Belgium with a total capacity of 8000 tonnes of biocoal every year, and a few still awaiting regulatory approval. Ingelia has also contributed to several research projects for the HTC process to aim the technology for the industries that rely on coal to help them in moving towards renewable energy sources.