Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Nuts and Bolts (Mass and Energy Balance) of torrefaction

Over the past couple of weeks, since my last post, I have had more requests for further information than I can recall receiving in the past 3 years.

As a consequence of those enquiries, I have decided to post a detailed outline of our technology, and it's operating prowess. 

It is fair to say that the single most important factor in torrefaction is not the Heating rate - but rather quite the opposite - it's the cooling rate that really matters. As we operate just at the edge of exothermic runaway, controlling the rate at which the reaction develops is critical.

This was probably the single most important revelation in the entire development process.

Most of the requests wanted to look at the "Nuts and Bolts" of our Torrefaction System. The VAST MAJORITY were interested in the performance characteristics of the system. These being:
  • Mass Balance
  • Energy Balance
  • Financial Sensibilities

From an operational point of view . . here are the numbers for our 2-Tonne per hour reactor.

Mass Input = 2790 kg (bone dry)
Mass Output = 2,000 kg (bone dry)
Mass Loss = 790 kg
Net mass recovery = 71.68%
Net mass loss = 28.32%
Feedstock Conversion Ratio = 1.395:1 (dry basis)
Energy In = 52.26 Gj
Energy Out;
Torrefied Fuel = 43 Gj (82.28%)
Tor-gas = 3.95 Gj (7.56%)
Total = 46.95 Gj
Energy loss = 5.31 Gj = 10.16%
System Efficiency = 89.84% (assuming use of Flue Gas for pre-drying) 

Now, from a financial point of view, achieving this level of performance doesn't mean anything - unless it can be done at a price that is sensible.

Our core system, very nicely achieves the $750,000.00 per tonne hour mark. It operates with a 2-man crew, and is capable of sustained performance - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Densification, whether into pellets or briquettes is proven, without binders or other additives. In the not-too-distant future, I will be posting a video of the entire system, and it's operation from infeed, through reaction, through grinding, and finishing with pelletisation. I receive a barrel of the product this week, and I have to tell you - it is some of the best bio-coal I have ever seen. Ever particle - from the smallest - to the largest, was a consistent colour and texture. There were no pyrolised pieces, and nor "raw" pieces. 

I have to say that it does my heart good to see that we have finally succeeded in creating a system that is stable in operation, and produces the elusive homogeneous product.Now - It's Onward and upward to the next level. 


P.S. In answer to the few anonymous requests I have had to publish photographs of our system - we purposely choose not to. There are a number of reasons for this. If however - anyone wishes to contact me, and has a bona-fide reason to learn the intimate details of our technology; to visit and tour our facilities; or to receive sample production runs - then I am happy to share with them on a one-to-one basis.

Unfortunately - there are FAR too many people out there - just on "fishing" expeditions, and we have little time to suffer fools. It's roughly the same as the number of requests I get for "samples" of our product. I dare say that I could keep the shipping department VERY busy if I responded to every request for samples.

Unfortunately - we need to be somewhat selective about who we send this product to - as there needs to be a sound commercial basis for doing so. When you consider that the cost to date of manufacturing this product - is in the tens of thousands of pounds sterling per tonne - you can appreciate that even a kilo of product is very valuable to us. For our Utility and Industrial Partners - for whom we are making hundreds of tonnes - it is a product that they don't particularly want out in the marketplace. Those that have supported us throughout the process - are recipients of this "black gold". Those that now want to just jump on the bandwagon . . . well, I'm afraid without a quid pro quo, the samples and information simply won't be forthcoming.

The last time I checked - we were working on projects in America, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand, and most recently - Malaysia. Once these are installed, commissioned and operational - there will be many opportunities to tour the facilities.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Teetering on the edge of greatness . . .

It's been a long and winding road.One that seems to have been all uphill . . . .

After 3 years, full of trails and tribulations, successes and disappointments, we are finally ready to take our technology to the market.

The reactor system we have developed with our many partners (and this project has embraced a LOT of people in getting from humble beginnings to where we are today) is FINALLY ready to go. It's working like a dream, and doing exactly hat it's supposed to.

I suppose it was necessary for the Market to catch up with the vision we created those 3 years ago. Torrefied fuel was only a theoretical product, that lived in the confines of a few labs and research facilities. While the promise of it being a panacea to the Utility industry has always remained; translating that into an operating commercial system was a far more significant challenge that ever imagined.

Along the way, there have been several casualties, and many MANY false starts. We are however, at a point now, where it's time to start putting systems together, and producing product at a Commercial Level.

Our Commercial Demonstration Reactor has proven itself to be a very stable and functional Platform. It isn't the most beautiful machine in the world, as it has been cobbled together out of mostly spare parts and bits of kit that were laying around (one of the economic realities of bootstrap development is that you have to forgo the notion of shiny new, custom manufactured equipment, in favour of scrounged parts and pieces) however it does what it is says on the nameplate.

We feed wood chips, sticks, twigs and sawdust into one end . . . and 20 minutes later, we extract a lovely, chocolate brown, torrefied fuel out of the other end. This is then ground into small particles, and pressed into pellets. VOILĂ€! Complete residue to revenue system.

As a next step - We intend to bid on the PGE tender for a Trial Torrefaction System at their Boardman, Oregon Power Station. The tender requires that the bidder have an operating system that is proven at the Tonne per hour level or better. It also requires proof of densification experience, as well as an inherent understanding of the properties of torrefied fuel, and their physio-chemical characteristics.

Now make no mistake - this tender is not an easy one to pre-qualify for. When I started looking around the planet for other developers that met even the basic qualification criteria, let alone - the advanced knowledge required, I found that they were few and far between. So - I'm comfortable that we have a reasonable expectation of success.

It would appear that the boys in Quitman Mississippi are further advanced than we are in their operations, so that becomes a second proponent. LMK energy, with their Thermya system represent a third, and of course - our friends at Topell would be the fourth. All, in all, the playing field isn't very large. There is however - one ace in the hole. If my friend Joseph J James of Agri-tech Producers decides to take a stab at this tender - then it will make the process very interesting. My guess is that he would be an IDEAL Candidate for this, and one who I'd love to see successful in winning the bid. (Joe? - what do you think?)

This week represents a transitional period for our Company. We have now started looking at developing projects in such divers locations as South Africa; Mozambique and Brazil. Bamboo, as a biomass feedstock, is certainly very attractive to a number of EU Utilities. Even though it's chemical composition is somewhat problematic, it has enough other environmental credentials to offset those shortcomings. My colleague at one of the Utilities we deal with said "it's only really a matter of the commercial consequence" of not meeting the Ideal Specification. There is certainly some comfort in the knowledge that this "not quite torrefied" product has a market too. This has been one of the greatest challenges. We have always worked to a very specific fuel specification, and meeting all of the requirements has been no easy task.

With the opportunity to have a "range" of fuel specifications, it opens up a whole new market.

Looking in my crystal ball . . . here is what I see . . . .

Commercial Demonstration Facilities will be built and operational in at least 4 countries in the next 12 months. These will include North America; Africa; New Zealand and Brazil.

Within 18 months - there will be at least 2, perhaps 3 Fully commercial facilities built - and these will be localised around the US North-East and Canadian West Coast. The facilities will inevitably be located on or alongside existing Ports, and likely occupy sites that were, in a previous life, wood manufacturing and processing facilities existed. Typically - Plant size will be in the order of 120,000 to 240,000 tonnes per year.

In spite of being developed for export purposes initially - the Systems in South America; Africa and Australasia will convert to local sales structures. Once the Systems are established, the Local Utilities and Industrial energy consumers will see the sense to acquiring their fuel, from a renewable source. They won't take the risk of being the Leader - but they will most certainly want to jump on the bandwagon, once it's in motion.

(There's something rather hypocritical about that - however such is the corporate way. I have said all along that NO ONE wants to be first through the gate - but EVERYONE wants to be second. We are seeing that now - from many different fronts. Now that we have a fully functional Commercial System, that meets the Economic requirements, Companies that wouldn't give us the time of day 2 years ago - now want to be our friend.)

It's been an amazing Journey, and one that is now coming to an end. We set out a long time ago, to do the impossible. Having little more than Desire, enthusiasm, belief and a whole lot of drive - we started. We never were more than "2 Guys and a Pick-Up truck". Now . . . we are one of the leading Torrefaction Companies in the world.

The end of one journey usually provides an opportunity to rest. Such is not the case here. While we have closed the book on the development; we now have to open a new book - that takes this to the market.

Funny . . but coming to the end is a bit anti-climactic, as there are greater challenges and opportunities in the next 3 years.

We will of course, bring you along for the Journey, as we chronicle the events; the successes; the set backs, and even the failures. . .

I'm looking forward with wide-eyed anticipation to tomorrow.


Sunday, 22 April 2012

30,000 views and growing

Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever imagine that anyone would read what I had to write.

When I started this blog, it was little more than musings, about an uncertain future, of a previously unknown Industry.

In 2009, when I ventured into this world, I had no idea what lay ahead. It was a bit like walking through the streets of London as a new immigrant, in a thick fog, without a roadmap. The people I met along the way, that I asked for directions from, were sometimes of significant help, and other times only served to make my journey even more difficult - by sending me down passageways to nowhere.

One man early on gave me a lantern. He provided Inspiration, general guidance, and a sound understanding and wisdom. his words were inspiring and encouraging. There was a depth of knowledge and understanding, that I would only understand as the years went on.What I had - was energy, and desire, and a good sound knowledge of the basics. These attributes were nurtured and honed (sometimes at great expense - like Failure).

The first reality was - that there was no reality. As a nascent Industry - everybody was in the same position. There were no leaders (only those who professed that position). The field was quite small at the time, and has grown substantially since then.  3-years on, the same paradigm still exists.

I suppose that the forays into all of those back alleys and hidden places, revealed far more to be about what "wasn't" - than what "was". To say that I spent hundreds of hours in research would be a gross understatement. It was far more like thousands of hours. Every single bit of information available on the subject, no matter how inconsequential or trivial it first appeared, was subjected to assessment, scrutiny and analysis. After all - there was no definitive - only speculation.

Very quickly - patterns started to appear. (By the way - there is wonderful book, written by a group of California Architects - Christopher Alexander et al - called "A Pattern Language" - whose format is the basis of what's to follow.)


This product is, without doubt, the single most desirable renewable fuel for energy generation that has EVER come along. There is not a single utility that isn't looking for this product as a coal-replacement. There is however, the limiting factor that Utilities will only accept an alternative - if it meets the financial objectives of the pre-existing. This is yet to be proven. Many people have formulated wonderful, if fanciful, financial models that seek to substantiate the increased "value" of bio-coal (through "offset" and "avoid cost" allocations) however - the reality is bio-coal needs to compete with fossil coal, to be a viable alternative.


Whenever there is a perception of opportunity, Companies will appear out of nowhere, professing to have "solved" the challenge of meeting that opportunity. This industry operates far more on rumour, innuendo, speculation and misinformation than any I have come across in my half century plus on this planet. the vast majority is predicated on the perpetuation of myth, that is further mystified through the tactics of publishing "snippets" of information, and withholding anything of substance. I have finally learned the reasons why. There simply is NO Substance behind the claims. It is all an effort to create an "appearance". Companies hide behind a cloak of Secrecy, and wrap up what their doing with NDA's and other protective mechanisms. Now - this is not a bad thing, as intellectual Property needs to be protected, however in most cases, it is a veil, that hides little more than "the man behind the curtain" in the Wizard of OZ. They want to know EVERYTHING about YOU - before they will release even basic information about them. I believe that this is much to their detriment, as it only serves to "turn off" bona fide Clients.


All business is done in the "back room". That is to say, once a potential client identifies a potential supplier, the FIRST thing they do, is to start talking to everyone and anyone they can, to learn about the Supplier. The conversations inevitably start with "Have you heard of . . . ?"; "Do you know about? . . " "What do you think of? . . " etc. Decisions are made, based on information from sources, that are about as valid, as the gossip amongst schoolgirls. I know that our Company - Sea2Sky Energy UK, has been tarred with the brush of our American namesake - Sea2Sky Corporation. While it is true that, in the beginning, we were aligned - the relationship quickly ended, and much to the chagrin of my partners, I decided to keep the name. History has shown that we are still here, and that they have disappeared into oblivion. (Although - they have "reinvented" themselves in the form of ECO-tech Energy Corporation.) It would seem that somehow - I have become a "sounding board" for people to draw information. Perhaps i is my misguided belief that cooperation is a better strategy than competition; or the fact that I am so vocal, that has caused this? I'm not really sure.


Unless there is a quid pro quo, you are highly unlikely to get "the straight goods" from any developer. Business relationships in a new industry, is like the secret of success for a marriage. It's a matter of give, and take. Looking through the archives of my email, I realised that there were over 10,000 messages in the past 3 years. Only a handful of those ultimately provided anything of value, either to our Company, or the industry at large. The vast majority were fishing expeditions. Full of tempting promises, lots of dangled carrots, but always JUST out of reach.Once they have gotten everything they can from you, they move on - never to be seen or heard from again. Value is a funny thing. Most of these people add no value, and are simply looking for someone to provide not only their education - but also to pay the tuition.


Any time, any one makes headway in an Industry, there are always those who sit back and watch, and at just the right moment - jump in to "help". They always have a strategy to make things better, faster, less expensive or more efficient. If you ONLY hire them - then they will solve ALL of your problems (for a small fee, of course!). These people seek to be the Middle Men, Intermediaries, Traders, Brokers, or other "must haves". In reality - they are doing little more than looking for a free ride on your wave. They have grand ideas on how they can Licence, Market, Franchise or otherwise promote all of your years of hard work, IF you'll only sign on with them. They promise a land flowing with milk and honey. Unfortunately - that land hasn't existed for many thousands of years, and nowadays - you need to succeed by the sheer efforts you make.


Ahhh yes . . .the "fund-raiser". Now these folks come in many colours. At the very basic level - they send you an unsolicited email, telling you that they have "reviewed" your technology, and they have a whole LIST of Angel Investors; Venture Capitalists, and High net Worth individuals, just LOOKING for what YOU have to offer. ALL you need to do, is send them a bunch of money - to teach you HOW to "present" to these people, and you're away to the races. I mean, after all, YOU can't be a brilliant Scientist, Inventor, Engineer AND businessman, all at the same time. So - they will be happy to coach you - AND - will present you to their ready, willing and able panel of people, who have MILLIONS to spend on you.

The second kind, offer funding with "no money down, no credit history, no pre-requisites, and no equity given up. All they want - is a few thousand in "Due Diligence" fees, and the "taps" with money will open. I actually received a presentation with those words - and they likened fund-raising to having a bath. As soon as you signed on to their program - you'd be luxuriating in more money than you know what to do with. What a crock!

So, there you have it. Lessons learned from the past 3 years of my life in this field. Where are we now?

Well. For the most part, the Industry hasn't progressed much beyond the point it was 3 years ago. Certainly the knowledge base is much broader, and there has been some development at the Commercial Scale, but all in all, we are still in the very early stages.

Everyone was looking for the elusive "Eureka" moment. This is a false idol, as that moment will never come to pass. What will come to pass, is small achievements, by many people, aggregating together to create the whole. During this journey, we have found a lot of kindred spirits, and we walk together now through the fog. Each person is another set of ears and eyes; and another mind. It is only through these collaborations that we believe we will succeed. Oddly enough, it is a strange brew of Academics; Intellectuals, Engineers, Scientists, Technicians, and a host of others.

Without them, I am nothing, so I thought I would take a bit of time to give credit, where credit is due.

George - the man without whom, I would have never been inspired to start this journey. You have been my inspiration, and the foundation of my belief in all of this.

John - a better, more patient business partner I could not ask for. You have suffered my hair-brained ideas, and always stood squarely beside me. Your insights and encouragement are the fuel of my engine.

Ira - my longest and best friend. We have certainly had our times, but we have managed through the good, the bad, and the ugly. One day, some day, we will reach the goal that we both have dedicated so much of our lives to.

Johan - we are a very odd match indeed. The accidental connection that brought us together,  has proven to be a very strong bond. We have struggled through this at every step, and I have always tried my best to live up to the expectations. Ours is truly a quid pro quo relationship, and I am grateful for your patience and understanding, as we find out way to the destination. Your honour and integrity are a an inspiration and aspiration to me.

Edward - My mentor, and often times, my reality therapist. I once learned that to be a success, you need to surround yourself with successful people. I don't know why you have tolerated me for all these years now, but your dedication and devotion has been a driving force. One that keeps me going, when I felt like giving up. Thank you for showing me the brass ring.

Ben - For 2 years now we have walked this journey. You're the only person I know at such an intimate level, that I have never actually spoken to.(Are you EVER going to send me your phone number?). You bring to me - the macro view. All too often I get caught up in my world - and you show me the greater world around me.

Nikolaus - a man who has brought more technical insight to me than anyone else. I hope to be able to reward you 10-fold in the days to come.

Karen - My love, and my life. This business has seen the destruction of us as a family - and in the adversity - we have found strength. One day we will be together again.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

On the road of Experience . . .

Many years ago, a songwriter penned the following words:

On the road of experience, I'm trying to find my own way.
Sometimes I wish that I could fly away
When I think that I'm moving, suddently things stand still
I'm afraid 'cause I think they always will

We are all, as developers, on that "Road of experience". As much as I would love to say that some maturity exists in this nascent Industry; reality doesn't mirror desire.

Case in point . . . The recent Fire at Stramproy-Greens Steenwijk Torrefaction Plant.

In spite of highly experienced Design Engineers . . .
In spite of independent Third-Party assessment and Validation . . . .
In spite of all best efforts . . . .

The worst possible of all scenarios - AKA FIRE - reared it's ugly head.

Now the very last thing that any biomass manufacturer or consumer needs is to have their plant go up in smoke. (Just ask RWE at Tilbury) These types of events, while destructive, are also instructive. Lessons learned enhance the Database of understanding, and provide for the opportunity to prevent History from repeating itself.

Along this road, for which we have no map, there have been many twists and turns. Thankfully - we are merely part of the convoy - and not in the lead. During the course of the Journey - we have seen many dash out in front - at breakneck speeds; This of course, left the rest of the pack in their dust.

However . . . a short time later - they were found on the side of the road, either broken down or worse (upside down in a ditch - in a ball of flames).

There are many old adages that apply - the one I like best is "Slow . . . and steady . . wins the race. Development of any new technology is always a difficult choice of being first to market - or just getting to market. Rapid development comes with it several inherent dangers:

  1. Lack of thorough investigation - with the resultant disappointment
  2. Premature launch - and the consequence of ill preparedness
  3. Industry suspicion - driven by the "Eureka" complex
The consequence of the above can be anything from setbacks to catastrophic failure.

We have watched as many Companies have apparently jumped to the front of the queue, well ahead of us. I have lost count now of the number of "ready to go" systems that are being marketed. The first question that comes to my mind is - "How on Earth did they do that? Seemingly appearing out of the ether - and launching on to the scene with a flurry and a flash. Alas . . . none of them, so far, have passed any measure of due-diligence on the part of a ready and waiting customer base.

Now if you have read my previous blogs, you will know that there are a few things you need to do, to prove out the functionality of a torrefaction Reactor System. As reality is Always reality - there are no ways to circumvent these. Try as I might - I am yet to find any evidence of a 1,000 tonne plus test burn of torrefied fuel, at a Power Station. (Perhaps someone can enlighten me on this?) Certainly - there have been many, MANY small burns (<1 tonne); and that is a natural first step. The real "acid test" is proof of product through use. This takes a dirty big pile of fuel, in a dirty big burner, of a dirty big power station.

Investors are a funny bunch. The moment you have a catastrophic failure at one site - it overshadows the entire industry with a black cloud, and creates an even more difficult situation for the rest of us. ("when I think I'm moving, suddenly time stands still"). As one would assume (perfectly naturally) the investors get nervous - and it halts, for a while, the interest; until someone addresses the problem - and comes up with a way to mitigate or eliminate it. After all, profits are derived from operations - and when your facility is burnt to the ground - it isn't making any money - which tends to upset even the most patient funder. (Not to mention - the Insurance Industry)

Recent events have only served to highlight the over-riding question "How do we know - what we DON'T know?" One of the joys of development - is travelling around that next turn - and seeing what's there. Let's hope it isn't a brick wall!

"Sometimes I wish that I could fly away . . . . . . . "


P.S. - I tried to put a small video of the explosivity testing we are doing. Unfortunately - it appears that I haven't got the necessary skills to do so. If anyone would like to see the fire and brimstone that is the consequence of mixing Bio-Coal powder and a spark - let me know and I will email it to you. In the meantime - The photo above is a 1m3 ISO Explosion vessel.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Present and future price of torrefied fuel

One of the questions I get asked regularly is "How much does Bio-Coal (sic) cost per tonne"?

That's a whole lot like asking how long a string is . . . or "are we there yet?" (By now - you've figured out that I have children I have taken on Long Road Trips ;-)

My usual answer is . . . . $156.02 - No, Wait - $197.53 . . . HOLD ON - ummmm - $276.27 . . . NOPE - it's $432.91

"Which one is correct?" is the usual next question.

The answer is . . . ALL of them. You see - it depends on where you are . . . Where your Customer is . . . How much volume . . . For how long . . . etc. etc.

I suppose that the FIRST thing one has to realise - is that Bio-Coal will NEVER be sold by the tonne. This would be suicidal to the purchaser (as the energy value varies so widely) and unfair to the producer - who makes a higher energy product than the competition.

Now don't get me wrong, at this stage - it is well and truly a "sellers market". After all - If you took the sum total of all of the torrefied Biomass that has ever been produced in the world, it wouldn't make a very impressive pile of anything.

The industry, to date, has been driven by the desire of end users (Utilities and the like) to get their hands on ANY volume of this product.

It's been an interesting development path. Not too long ago . . . Utilities took a "wait and see" attitude. They were undoubtedly inundated with "offers" of torrefied fuel, from a multitude of Developers. Promises were more plentiful than bugs on a bumper. Unfortunately - performance didn't follow promise.

Other than a few micro-test burns, NO ONE has actually shown that Bio-Coal does what it says on the tin. The reason is very simple - there hasn't been enough of it made yet. That however - is changing rapidly.

I don't think a week goes buy, that I don;t get yet another request from a broker, trader, intermediary or other "middle man", asking for volumes of Bio-Coal. The carrot of huge orders is dangled in front of me, once the product is validated. Hmmmmmm . . . . I wonder where that notion came from?

The fact of the matter is - there are a few Utilities that have taken the step of placing orders for trial volumes with manufacturers (we are one of them) and the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Do we believe that there is a big pot of gold at the end of this rainbow? ABSOLUTELY! It is not however - just a simple matter of "here you go - give this a try" - as power stations tend to be very careful about what they feed their burners.

Of course - producing these volumes at "pilot plant" scale makes them quite expensive. yet again - we find ourselves in a "catch 22". We have to be able to produce Commercial Volumes, without having a commercial Reactor. Demo reactors are nice (albeit - expensive at about $1 Million each) and they take a larger staff to run than a full-blown commercial system would. So - the cost of the product ends up somewhere in the stratosphere. However - it is something that has to be done to get to the next level. The secret - is finding a partner (with deep pockets and long arms) that will stump up this cost - in order to get preferential access to the first commercial production.

We see this going on all around us. More, and more, technology developers are getting into bed with End-Users, and locking up varying amounts of future volumes. What is now happening - is that the opportunity to join this "brotherhood" is slowly, but surely closing.

So - any of you that are thinking about jumping in at the last minute (like a sniper on Ebay) are going to be sorely disappointed. I have always likened this to a flock of punters at the betting window - who want to place their bet, JUST before the horse-race is over. Unfortunately for them - the window is rapidly closing - and the opportunity will be lost.

We have recently received our first commission - to design and implement a 120 Kilotonne Bio-Coal Facility. This is the first, of 4 that will be built to provide feedstock for a new Power Station here in the UK. It's all very exciting. As far as I know - this will be the largest project of its kind in the EU to date - and will likely be the "flagship" of Bio-Coal production.

It might only be enough to power a 50 MWe Station - but that's more than big enough to launch the technology. Wish us luck - as it is an ambitious, challenging and somewhat terrifying (or is that Torrefying?) prospect.

The price? $40.00 a tonne for the Torrefaction Processing.

Now . . . you know.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Just when you thought you had it all figured out

My father once said to me "the older I get - the smarter I was". For a very long time - I had no idea what on EARTH he was talking about. (I lost him at an early age - some 37 years ago - and wasn't old enough to appreciate his wisdom)

Now that I AM my Father - in many respects - I have come to learn just how bright he was.

Take for example - Torrefaction. (After all - this IS what this blog is supposed to be about.)

At first - I believed it was all about Process. WRONG. While the technology is certainly the starting point, and developing an efficient, cost-effective, commercially viable solution was a lofty ambition (and is now a reality) - It was only the very beginning. Once we figured out how to make the stuff - we needed to learn what it was that we had figured out how to make. (Sounds a bit bass-ackwards - doesn't it?)

Of course - the next step was to determine not only what it was that we were supposed to be making - but how it could behave. So - Combustion testing; Alkaloid deposition trials, Storage and leachate trials; explosivity; the list goes on and on and on.

JUST when we thought that we actually KNEW something about this wonder product - Along comes the ECHA. (European Chemicals Agency). NOW - it seems that these guys have a right to know EVERYTHING about all the stuff that you want to move around in Europe. They have a program called REACH (and it is rather far REACHing in it's effect) that purports to control the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals. Holy Cow - that's a mouthful. Anyway - these guys have the obligation to make sure that all of the stuff moving around the EU, in quantities of 1,000 tonnes per year or more, is actually safe.

The FIRST think I noticed on their website was the "ENFORCEMENT REGIME". So - I said to myself . . . . this MUST be rather important -if the predominant information presented is not the mechanism for compliance - but rather how you get beat up if you DON'T comply - and I had better look at compliance as pathway.

As it happens - It's really not that difficult a process (Compared to launching a Manned Moon Landing) and shouldn't take more than 6 to 12 months - and cost more than a few hundred thousand pounds sterling. You know - it's funny - but they just won't "take my word for it" when I tell them that Bio-Coal is Okidoki stuff. They ACTUALLY want to see data, and evidence, and tests, and independent verification, and peer review and, and, and.

At the end of it all - what do we end up with? A "registration" number. WOW - now I've always wanted one of those - in fact - from the time I was a child - I decided that spending a few years wages to get a registration number was one of my goals. (NOT)

However - regulations being what they are - we will now start again, and fill out unlimited forms; provide unlimited Data; Substantiation; Empirical Evidence and a big bag of Money to get what we need to sell our product.

Hence - just when we THOUGHT we knew something - it turns out that we really don't. We are however - MILES ahead of anyone else in this industry (with the exception of our partners and collaborators and supporters).

Here are some of the areas that we are now exploring:

Exposure limits:


Sensitizing capability:


Reproductive toxicity:



By the way - if there is anyone out there that would like to avail themselves of our research and the progress we have made - get in touch with me. We are firm believers in Collaboration rather than Competition. The Ultimate goal is to get this to Market - and we are happy to work with ANYONE who is a bona-fide developer of this product.

On a final note - a few weeks ago - I received a call from a very upset man - who was one of the principles of Zilkha Biomass. He was quite upset at the comment I made in a previous blog - where he indicated that he didn't think it was right for me to compare his fuel to Chicken S**t. Well, I reviewed the blog, and in fact - I DID NOT say that Zilkha Black pellets were chicken s**t at all. What I said was - that they were no more torrefied pellets - than Chicken SOUP was Chicken S**T"

He reiterated to me that NO WHERE, at NO TIME, did they EVER say that their pellets were torrefied. That is blatantly obvious.

Now - in discussion with him - he said that he was going to be very nice - and ASK me to print a retraction. IF I refused to do so - then the next people I would hear from were his Lawyers. (Apparently - in his view - I had Slandered them and Libelled them and was an all around not-nice person)

Yet again - I offered to tell the WHOLE story of their product - and requested samples in order to undertake a peer review. The Risk of this, of course, was that as a scientist - it would be a very factual and un-compromised analysis - and that isn't something that is always particularly flattering.

For the record:

Zilkha Black pellets are in NO WAY, SHAPE or FORM Torrefied fuel, and have never been promoted as such.