Alternative Energy

Published on December 28th, 2009 | by Derek Markham

Can Bio Coal Turn Coal Power Plants into Green Energy Producers?

Is it possible to turn coal power plants into renewable energy producers? According to the supporters of bio coal, the answer is yes – coal plants can burn bio coal, created from biomass, without retooling their storage, handling, or burning systems.

Image: psdFossil Coal

Fossil Coal

Bio coal is somewhat similar to charcoal, but created from biomass harvested from plantations, urban areas, or the forest (brush and dead or diseased trees) and treated by torrefaction to provide a much better fuel quality than straight biomass. Torrefaction is a process carried out at atmospheric pressure (and in the absence of oxygen) at temperatures between 200-300°C, with the biomass partially decomposing during the process.

Bio coal has almost twice the energy density of wood sawdust pellets and is equivalent to the energy density of the coal used by coal fired power plants. According to advocates, bio coal meets all renewable fuel and CO2 reduction regulations and is carbon neutral – the original biomass would naturally release its carbon back into the atmosphere as CO2 through decomposition or fire. Bio coal is also said to have a significantly greater energy conversion efficiency than biomass used directly as a fuel source.

Renewable Fuel Technologies, a bio coal energy company, says that because coal power plants are the largest source of CO2 emissions in the US, if coal plants switched to bio coal, they could be green energy producers and comply with recent regulations calling for reduced CO2 emissions from power plants.

Bio coal could also be blended with fossil coal in power plants, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, says Verdant Energy Solutions. This means that power plants don’t have to switch over to 100% bio coal in order to reap some of the benefits of it.

A study earlier this year found that biomass was best used for the generation of electricity, rather than ethanol or other biofuels, as it is 80% more efficient to do so. Any technology that can efficiently turn biomass into bio coal could very well change the face of renewable energy as we know it, especially if it was a mobile processing unit, capable of going to where the feedstock was rather than relying on transportation to a facility for conversion.

Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author

lives in southwestern New Mexico and digs bicycles, simple living, organic gardening, sustainable lifestyle design, slacklining, bouldering, and permaculture. He loves good food, with fresh roasted chiles at the top of his list of favorites. Catch up with Derek on Twitter, RebelMouse, Google+, or at his natural parenting site, Natural Papa!

4 Responses to Can Bio Coal Turn Coal Power Plants into Green Energy Producers?

  1. Karja says:

    This is excellent but I have one note and one question.

    1 – BioCoal and other BioEnergy sources are ONLY Carbon Neutral if it doesn’t lead to the destruction of more forest lands or other habitats in order to grow the feedstock, as we have seen in the past, especially South America and Palm Oil.

    2 – Groovy no matter what but I’m curious if that statistic is partially because BioMass to Coal is able to use all of the BioMass …feedstock whereas BioFuels production is still sugars based? If that is the case, couldn’t we still make BioFuels and use the ‘waste’ cellulose for BioCoal production while we continue to pursue an efficient/affordable Cellulosic BioFuel method?

  2. Glenn says:

    Interesting article. A much better step would be to eliminate burning altogether, thus eliminating CO2, water and other by products of combustion that lead to to climate change.

  3. Chad M. Wall says:

    BioCoal feed stocks come from waste stocks, the material nobody wants or can use. An example of this is the forest stewardship programs, put in place to reduce fire danger. Once this material is cleared to make a healthy, lower risk fire danger, the waste and dead biomass is stranded there, if it can’t be hauled because of the transportation costs.

    As a result, the material is either left to decompose in huge piles (releasing CO2) or gathered because of fire risk, and burned during the winter (again, releasing CO2).

    At Renewable Fuel Technologies, we are working on mobile BioCoal processors that run on the torrgas that is an output from the torrefaction process. The BCP’s can be located remotely in the forests and converted to much lighter, hydrophobic, compact pellets, which can be transported economically.

    Chad M. Wall
    Director of Manufacturing
    Renewable Fuel Technologies

  4. Uri Ben Noon says:

    Dear Sir
    Please let me know the amount of Kcl remain in a ton of BioCoal?
    And what is the moisture contain of Bio Coal?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑