Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The Giant is Awakening

It was inevitable that it would happen.

The second largest Country in the World, with vast forest resources, would ultimately recognise the benefits of a Technology like Torrefaction.

Of course - I am referring to Canada.

It would appear, that there is significant momentum in both Political, Financial and Industrial circles as stakeholders start facing the realities of CO2 Reductions and Environmental Responsibility.

Of course - this is starting somewhat of a "gold rush" as the dash to biomass heats up. No longer are Torrefaction developers listed among the "also-ran's", they are now among the front runners in Renewable Energy Development.

All one needs to do is look at the likes of Ontario Power Gen; Portland General Electric; WPAC; CANMET; NRCan, and a host of others, to see that this once "curious" technology (Bio-Coal) is now the sweetheart of the industry.

This, of course, is very good news for those of us tinkering away in our Labs and workshops.

What amazes me most, is the complete lack of understanding about Torrefaction technology and Torrefied Biomass supply chains. Take, for example, the major Steel Companies; Cement Companies, Glass Companies, etc. These industries consume enormous amounts of energy, (After all - to make these products - you need to melt ROCKS) and are significant contributors of CO2 and other GHG's.

For the most part, we have focussed solely on Utilities and Power Stations. Somehow - it seems as though we have been walking around with blinders on. There are so many other high-energy use industries that can benefit from Bio-Coal, that it seems naive to ignore them.

Many millions of dollars are now being pumped into the commercialization of this technology. In BC, the WPAC has received funding to study the benefits of torrefaction. http://www.pellet.org/linked/melin%20torrefaction.pdf

In Quebec - Energex are moving towards a commercial reactor technology, with the Manager driving around the country with a 40 pound bag of "the future of Biomass Fuel" in his pick-up truck. http://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/content/view/2024/69/

The CCPC is looking at ways to develop torrefaction for co-combustion http://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/content/view/1904/133/

In Nova Scotia, the Government has provided $1.7 million for a torrefaction study under the Atlantic Innovation Fund http://www.capebretonpost.com/Business/2011-04-03/article-2397115/BioEnergy-and-CBU-get-funding-for-green-energy-technology-/1

All in all, it would appear that Canada is becoming a hotbed of Torrefaction.

The future is exciting, and holds great promise for this technology.

On the European side of the Atlantic, Topell are just about ready to fire up their Commercial Plant.

4Energy Invest seems to have worked out the bugs in their system, although they having some financial problems and are looking for money now http://www.e-energymarket.com/news/single-news/article/4energy-invest-must-reschedule-the-debts-or-start-looking-for-fresh-equity.html

Stramproy-Green are still walking towards commercialization, however they too have a few kinks to work out still (It appears that their Cool-Coal didn't quite have the "right stuff", and Essent burned one truckload - and no more) http://www.e-energymarket.com/news/single-news/article/biocoal-factory-of-stramproy-not-producing-rwe-not-worried.html But RWE are NOT worried - as they have also locked up the supply from Topell. (Good plan - I would say)

A couple of new players have entered the market:

TORRPROC - http://torrproc.com/ and

One Company is headed up by a malpractice Lawyer and Real Estate Developer; the other, has dubious credentials.

However - they may very well be credible and viable organisations. Each offers "Turn-Key" torrefaction facilities available to purchase TODAY. I wonder if the major Utilities are aware of these Companies? It would seem to me, that they would be beating a path to their door, and lining up to get a hold of the technology.

As for us - we plod along slowly but surely. Our current activity includes the construction of a 1-tonne per hour demonstration reactor that is headed for Canada (Ontario) for field trials and testing; Which will then be sent on to Oregon for further testing; and a 5-tonne per hour Commercial plant for a large production run here in the UK.

We have received our first order for 6,000 tonnes of this "black gold" (Although - it's actually brown) and it is the next step in our development path.

On a final note - I was speaking to a colleague of mine after a recent conference on Torrefaction.

He exclaimed that "you know . . . torrefaction developers are all liars when it comes to where they are in the development process."

I agreed but explained that "we never listen to each other - so it really doesn't matter".

Onward and upward . . . . .