Wood torrefaction - market prospects and integration with the forest and energy industry



The research project "Biocoal – a new energy carrier for saw mills, CHP plants and wood industry integrates" was carried out within the Groove programme of Tekes during the years 2010–2013. The main objective of the project was to enhance the commercialization of integrated wood torrefaction technology into current forest industry operations. Several integration concepts were elaborated together with the participating companies with a focus on sawmills and municipal and industrial CHP plants.

The European forest industry constitutes a potential platform for the productionof torrefied wood pellets and other bioenergy carriers. VTT, in collaboration withindustrial partners, has developed new bioenergy carrier solutions integrated into forest industry operations in sawmills. A new torrefaction process was developed and market analysis was performed, including a road map for demonstrations and market introduction. Some preliminary test work was also carried out in order to assess the possible advantages of the use of torrefied biomass in fixed-bed and fluidised bed gasification applications, bio-oil production and as a potential raw material for new advanced wood products.

The primary prerequisite for the torrefied pellet market is the energy plant's need for and interest in using them as fuel. The main users are assumed to befound in the power production sector. Substituting coal by co-firing biomass in large pulverised coal-fired power plants needs significant green electricity incentives, however, or a considerably higher CO2 price in order to be feasible.

From the raw-material point of view, the benefits from integrated torrefied pelletproduction are related to by-product utilization at sawmills or plywood mills, but also to general wood procurement logistics at forest industry plants. In the casewhere processing residues can be utilized at site, cost savings can be achieved if the alternative option is to transport residues to an external facility.

A market analysis of integrated bioenergy carrier production was undertaken at sawmills in Finland. It was concluded that the market conditions for torrefied pellets, and for solid biomass fuels in general, is challenging due to the unexpected low prices for CO2 (about €5/t CO2) certificates and for coal (about €8/MWh). The results indicated that there needs to be a feed-in tariff or similar support mechanism for torrefied pellets to guarantee a paying capability for coal fired power plants above €35/MWh so as to make the investments viable.

Carl Wilen, Kai Sipila, Sanna Tuomi, Ilkka Hiltunen & Christian Lindfors, VTT