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Valmet to deliver the world's first steam explosion system for black pellet production in France

Finland-headed energy and forest industry technology major Valmet Oyj has confirmed an agreement with FICAP on the delivery of the world's first continuous steam explosion system, BioTrac, for production of black pellets. The black pellet plant will be part of an existing large industrial area, located in the Region of Champagne-Ardenne in France. The integration of the BioTrac system and plant will be conducted by De Smet Engineers and Contractors (DSEC) of Belgium.

An artist’s rendering of a typical layout of a BioTrac black pellet plant integrated with a Valmet combined heat and power (CHP) plant. The FICAP project order is for the BioTrac system only (illustration courtesy Valmet).

As announced in July, bioenergy project developer Européenne de Biomasse along with its financial partners Meridiam and the Banque des Territoires is investing over EUR 100 million in FICA-HPCI (Filière industrielle Champagne-Ardennes – Haut Pouvoir Calorifique Industriel) – a combined heat, power and black pellet production plant on the Pomacle-Bazancourt industrial estate in Marne, Champagne-Ardenne, France.

FICAP is a renewable company owned by the investment funds Meridiam and Caisse des Depots associated to Europenne de Biomasse who developed the project and the HPCI-Black Pellet technology. Valmet has agreed with FICAP on the delivery of the world’s first continuous steam explosion system, BioTrac, for production of black pellets.

FICAP is our first industrial project, a concrete showcase of our know-how and mastery of biomass industrialization processes and technology, responding to a promising emerging market of the HPCI® Black Pellet. Its success will allow the global roll-out of a new biofuel industrial sector in France, Europe and the rest of the world, said Jean Baptiste Marin, CEO of Européenne de Biomasse.

Black and white pellets

As revealed by in June, the integration of the BioTrac system and the pellet plant will be conducted by Moret Industries subsidiary, De Smet Engineers and Contractors (DSEC) of Belgium. The start-up of the black pellet production plant is planned for 2020 and the value of the order has not been disclosed.

In June 2018, De Smet Engineers & Contractors (DSEC) revealed that it had been awarded the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) contract for Européenne de Biomasse’s “reversible plant for white pellets and “black pellets thanks to the integration of a steam cracking module”. Valmet has confirmed that it has agreed with FICAP on the delivery of the world’s first continuous steam explosion system, BioTrac, for production of black pellets. Mats Arnberg (left) and Mattias Erixon, Valmet and Jérôme Bouttiau and Guy Davister, DSEC (photo courtesy DSEC).

The pellet plant will produce both white and black pellets and has an annual capacity of 120 000 tonnes of pellets. The black pellets produced will be used mainly by district heating network operators and coal-fired power plants as a substitute to fossil fuels.

Valmet has since 2013 focused on the commercialization of the BioTrac process and we are very happy to finally see the first project to be realized. This is the first of its kind of a continuous steam explosion system for this application. We see a great future in this end product and process. We strongly believe this important project will pave the way for many more projects for supply of black pellets not only in France but also in other European countries. We also see a growing demand in markets such as Japan, said Mattias Erixon, Manager Sales, Biomass Conversion at Valmet.

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