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Low value biomass to high-value carbon, IrBEA hosts biochar conference

The Irish BioEnergy Association (IrBEA) and the Western Development Commission (WDC) are the Irish partners in a European project called RE-DIRECT that supports turning waste, low value or residual biomass into high-value carbon products such as biochar and activated carbon. As part of the project, IrBEA hosted a one-day conference and site visit in Claremorris for stakeholders and other interested parties to discuss the potential of regional biochar production based on agricultural biomass.

An RE-DIRECT project biochar and activated carbon conference was held in Claremorris, Ireland on October 25. In attendance were Seán Finan (left) CEO, IrBEA; Tomás O’Siocháin, CEO, WDC; Timothy Hayes, EU Commission in Ireland; Ian Brannigan, WDC Regional Development and  Tim Scholze, Q12, RE-DIRECT Partner (photo courtesy IrBEA).

The plan is to establish regional hubs where biomass from the surrounding areas can be converted into biochar or activated carbon. These charcoal-like materials are very porous with large internal surface areas and a high capacity to absorb contaminants.

This makes them useful for a wide variety of applications ranging from wastewater treatment to soil amendment and remediation, to gas cleaning. The innovative pyrolysis technology can also produce a clean renewable fuel.

According to Tomás O’Siocháin, CEO of the Western Development Commission (WDC), there is a “great opportunity to develop employment and enterprise potential in rural areas from the stages involved in collecting, transporting and processing of these low-value biomass sources and the subsequent sale of value-added carbon products”.

Some of the biomass samples being tested by the various partners include grass and roadside cuttings, invasive species such as rhododendron, Japanese knotweed, gorse, bracken, heathers, rushes, and food production waste.

Conference in Claremorris

As part of the project, IrBEA and the WDC hosted a one day conference on October 25 to introduce biochar and activated carbon to stakeholders and the potential it could hold for the region.

The event included a site visit to Heat Systems in Claremorris (photo courtesy IrBEA).

Attracting around 70 attendees, the event brought international expertise together with regional and national stakeholders and included a site visit to technology developer Heat Systems in Claremorris. Here gasification, pyrolysis, and carbon regeneration machinery were demonstrated.

Heat Systems work with clients to develop full scale plant designs for a variety of industrial sectors who utilise activated carbon in their processes and feedstock

We want to highlight the potential biochar holds for agriculture, how an indigenous source of activated carbon could help improve our water quality as well as how biomass can be utilised for carbon sequestration and energy purposes, said Sean Finan, CEO of the Irish Bioenergy Association (IrBEA).


REgional Development and Integration of unused biomass wastes as REsources for Circular products and economic Transformation (RE-DIRECT) is a holistic approach to promote the efficient use of natural resources and materials by converting residual biomass into carbon products and activated carbon at “smart regional decentralised” units. With EUR 3.2 million in funding from the INTERREG North-West Europe (NWE) Programme, the project started in September 2016.

The 11 project partners from Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, and the UK will implement the approach in five urban, semi-urban and rural NWE regions. RE-DIRECT will make use of a proven technology “Integrated Generation of Solid Fuel and Biogas from Biomass (IFBB)” developed at a pilot site at the Baden-Baden’s Environmental Division in Germany. During the project, a 20 000 tonnes per annum plant will be built in Wales with business plans and raw material testing carried out for other regions.

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