Towards the end of 2015, Sweden-based biomass torrefaction technology developers Bioendev AB commissioned its two tonne per hour industrial demonstration unit (IDU). Having acquired over 12 months of operational experience and secured the associated IPR including a system patent for the entire torrefaction system, the company says it’s now ready to bring its technology to the marketplace.
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It is an interesting statement from a technology developer, emphasising that the company as a whole is ready rather than just its technology.
– We think that our solution has superior process control, high utilization and produces a torrefied product with very high and even quality, said Lars-Åke Svensson during a recent visit to the plant located in Holmsund, outside Umeå.
Svensson is Sales Manager at Bioendev and is by no means the first from a torrefaction company to make such claims. Others too have proprietary know-how and are running demonstration plants producing black pellets.
– Our IPR portfolio includes solutions that address challenges associated with torrefaction process itself. The end result is that our system enables excellent controllability of key process parameters such as residence time, temperature and atmosphere, he said adding that other benefits included a small footprint and low power consumption.
A pre-treatment process
A look into the company history reveals a heavy research background from a key focal point – torrefaction as a pre-treatment process for biomass gasification. Having already tallied 14 patent applications, seven which are active today , it certainly is an IPR portfolio and explains why it is only recently that the company has agreed to showcase its industrial demonstration unit (IDU).
In 2007, Professor Anders Nordin and Msc Engineer Ingemar Lindh both at Umeå University founded the company to commercialise biomass gasification pre-treatment results. Both founders are still with the company, with Nordin on the board of directors and Lindh employed as a very hands-on Chief Technology Officer.
– Generally speaking the challenge with biomass gasification is the biomass with the formation of methane and tars. Correctly implemented, torrefaction seems the most promising pre-treatment process for biomass used in entrained flow gasifiers, remarked Lindh without going into more detail.
Thus ever since the start, the company has remained quietly focused on developing an energy- and cost-efficient technology for torrefaction with high mass yield and product quality. Much of this work has been co-funded through research grants from various agencies including the Swedish Energy Agency.
”We measure the surface temperature of the biomass during the process in the reactor. This means we know what is actually happening with the biomass in the reactor in real time“
DR MARTIN STRANDBERG, Deputy Technology Officer, Bioendev
Major stakeholders in the company and/or the IDU project include local municipality owned energy utility Umeå Energi, material handling equipment manufacturer Bruks and forest industry major SCA.
– The purpose of the IDU is to demonstrate commercial proof-of-concept. It represents the culmination of over a decade of research thus far including pilot plants, said Svensson, adding that a full commercial plant would likely be 4 to 10 times larger.
Undoubtedly it seems that the IDU is doing precisely that, providing proof of concept along with black pellets. The visit, in early January 2017, coincided with the plant being set up to test torrefaction of recycled wood in a new project co-funded by the Swedish Energy Agency.
Bioendev AB (from “Bioenergy Development”) was founded in 2007 as a research spin-off from Umeå University by Anders Nordin and lngemar Lindh. Both remain as shareholders along with the municipality of Umeå as majority owner. The IDU is developed with 24/7 operations in mind overseen by one operator per shift.