Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Wake up and smell the willow: 'Pre-roasted' plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations

Date:
January 12, 2011
Source:
University of Leeds
Summary:
More plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations if this "green" fuel were delivered pre-roasted like coffee beans, according to researchers from UK.

More plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations if this 'green' fuel were delivered pre-roasted like coffee beans, according to researchers from the University of Leeds, UK.

Related Articles


Many UK power stations are now burning plant matter, or biomass, as well as coal in a bid to cut their carbon footprint. Unlike fossil fuels, plants like willow, Miscanthus and poplar are a virtually carbon-neutral source of energy: the carbon dioxide emitted when they burn is absorbed during photosynthesis by the next batch of 'energy crops' planted in their place.

But the environmental benefits of biomass are countered by some real practical and economic challenges that are forcing power stations to restrict the amount of biomass used. Biomass is moist and bulky, making it relatively expensive to transport and difficult to store for long periods without going mouldy. The fibrous plant matter is also extremely difficult to process in the mills that are used to grind dry lumps of coal into dust before they are burned.

A roasting process known as torrefaction is the answer, according to Professor Jenny Jones and colleagues from the University of Leeds' School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering. This process, which sees the plant matter heated to around 300 degrees centigrade in an air-free container, transforms bulky biomass into a dry, energy-rich fuel that is cheaper and easier to move around and has a much longer shelf life.

A study of two common energy crops, willow and Miscanthus, has also shown that when the plant matter is 'torrefied' it can be ground into a powder just as easily as some good quality coals. This makes it far more practical and cost-effective to replace containers of coal with biomass in existing power stations.

Team members are now exploring whether the torrefaction process can be scaled up, with a view to producing a design 'blueprint' for industrial engineers.

"If we can show that torrefaction is feasible on an industrial scale then we would hope to end up with a demonstration plant here in the UK," Professor Jones said. "We already know that many more famers would be interested in growing energy crops on areas of poorer quality soil if the economic barriers were lowered and the power companies could use more biomass without losing out financially."

The project will address outstanding questions about the safety, practicality and environmental impact of large-scale torrefaction. For example, researchers will find out what the liquid and gaseous by-products of the roasting process are made up of. They will also assess how likely it is for dust generated by the roasting and milling processes to trigger explosions.

"It is well known that fine powders can cause violent explosions under certain conditions. We will be carrying out experiments to characterise the explosibility of biomass and torrified biomass powder so that appropriate safety features can be designed into industrial-scale powder handling and power generation plants," said University of Leeds researcher Dr Roth Phylaktou, an expert on fire and explosion safety engineering and a co-investigator on the project.

The researchers will work with a range of different materials that could potentially replace coal in future. These include energy crops such as willow and Miscanthus, which are grown specifically for making 'green' fuel, as well as waste plant matter from forestry plantations and farms, such as the branches of harvested pine trees and straw.

"These are all materials that grow well in the UK but not at the expense of food crops," said Professor Jones. "We do not want farmers to have to choose between planting a field of wheat or barley and a field of willow. Ultimately, this is all about providing a secure energy supply for the future and one that is sustainable on all levels. "

The project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The work is being carried out in collaboration with Alstom Power, Drax Power, EON and RWE nPower.

The team of engineering researchers at Leeds includes Professor Jenny Jones, Professor Alan Williams, Professor Gordon Andrews, Dr Roth Phylaktou and Dr Leilani Darvell.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leeds. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Leeds. "Wake up and smell the willow: 'Pre-roasted' plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110104133911.htm>.
University of Leeds. (2011, January 12). Wake up and smell the willow: 'Pre-roasted' plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110104133911.htm
University of Leeds. "Wake up and smell the willow: 'Pre-roasted' plant matter could be burned in coal-fired power stations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110104133911.htm (accessed November 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

Toyota's Hydrogen Fuel-Cell Green Car Soon Available in the US

AFP (Nov. 21, 2014) Toyota presented its hydrogen fuel-cell compact car called "Mirai" to US consumers at the Los Angeles auto show. The car should go on sale in 2015 for around $60.000. It combines stored hydrogen with oxygen to generate its own power. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
5 Hot Months, 1 Warm Year And All The Arguments To Follow

5 Hot Months, 1 Warm Year And All The Arguments To Follow

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) The NOAA released statistics Thursday showing October was the fifth month this year with record temps and 2014 will likely be the hottest on record. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nations Pledge $9.3 Bn for Green Climate Fund

Nations Pledge $9.3 Bn for Green Climate Fund

AFP (Nov. 20, 2014) Nations meeting in Berlin pledge $9.3 billion (7.4 bn euros) for a climate fund to help poor countries cut emissions and prepare for global warming, just shy of a $10bn target. Duration: 00:46 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins