A close-up image of a shoot with four leaves sprouting from the surrounding soil.

Could Green Coal Be Produced with Heat Power?

Last year an independent committee on climate change in the U.K. advised parliament “not [to] give support to any new large-scale biomass power plants unless they include carbon capture and storage.” Because biomass feedstock is finite, the report argued, it should only be used where it is most advantageous.

Fortunately, it is possible to produce energy and perform carbon capture at the same time. This is the idea behind both biochar and biocoal, charcoal-like substances that capture carbon in solid form. In addition, by-products of this process include refined syngas, e.g. hydrogen, and liquid bio-oil.

When used as a soil amendment, biochar not only helps the soil to store carbon, it also improves fertility and humidity. Biocoal offers a carbon-neutral substitute for coal in power generation or steel manufacturing, among other uses.

Today there are already several modular pyrolysis plants on the market, like this one by BioMax and this one from Biogreen, which could be installed wherever the feedstock is sourced.


The future is modular

These plants could be more efficient and reduce their CO2 emissions by using heat power solutions. The equipment needed to produce both biocoal and bioenergy requires electricity. And even smaller sized plants like the ones above generate heat.

By utilizing otherwise wasted process heat, a modular heat power solution can generate enough electricity to operate a plant. Because heat power units are autonomous, the equipment can be monitored remotely and no supervision is needed on site. This enables owner-operators to place their facilities in remote locations, closer to the feedstock source.

With new carbon capture and heat power technologies like the ones mentioned above, biomass production can become carbon-neutral or even carbon-negative. If we approach biomass with modular solutions, it opens up a range of new possibilities.

If you're in the biomass industry, have you looked into biocoal or heat power? What is your take?