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CAPCOM

 

Towards a Clean Agro Pellet Commodity (CAPCOM); a standardized and sustainable biomass trading product.

 

 

Research

This project investigates how a standardized biopellet can be produced with raw biomass materials: which ingredients and which production processes lend themselves for this? The aim of the development of the standard product is to enable large-scale use of residual products from the agricultural sector to produce heat, liquid fuels and chemicals.

A product in the form of a pellet (a pill or bullet shape, think of rabbit food) should be clean so that no rust is created on the heat exchangers due to potassium and chlorine in the residual products. On the other hand, it would be useful if the nutrients (minerals) can be easily extracted from the biomass for useful applications, such as fertilizing agricultural land. Steam treatment of the biomass can ensure the desired purity of the product.

The research must provide an integral and sustainable production process to produce a biopellet based on various raw materials. To this end, the study looks at the application of sugar beet residues, elephant grass (mischanthus) and empty fruit bunches (f.e. from bananas).

The biopellet must always be of the same quality, regardless of where the source material comes from, in the same way as existing standard products such as Brent oil. Such a standard product does not yet exist in the field of biomass, while availability would offer many advantages.

 

Opportunities

  • Benefits of transport and storage. When pelletizing, the density of the material increases enormously, resulting in a volume advantage. Also, the material is easy to store and transport in the form of pellets, because the volume and mass are always the same.
  • The pellets are moisture-resistant, so that mass and volume do not increase unintentionally and unexpectedly.
  • Because the product is standard, a standard price can be determined per quantity (just as with other commodities).
  • The arrival of a standard biomass product based on plant residues from fields and plantations reduces the need to fell trees for energy production. It ensures the use of remains that are otherwise often incinerated, resulting in a lot of emissions.
  • The technology to make these pellets provides a completely new export product for the Netherlands.

Challenges

  • Biomass is not always regarded as a sustainable energy source. The debate on this is still going on in politics. As a result, legislation lags behind.
  • Availability of suitable raw materials.
  • Nutrients from the plants residue. The plant residues that are extracted from the fields and plantations for pellet production contain many nutrients. They are not necessary for the biomass end product, but should be preserved for the fields and plantations. That is why the nutrients are extracted from the material so that they can be returned to the fields. In that extraction process, the nutrients become available in large quantities of water. Mixing them in irrigation water is a good solution. But the difficulty that the factory where the extraction takes place is often down in a valley. How does the water with the nutrients get to the fields or plantations above?
  • To find first users. First users are needed to get the processes going.
  • How can we produce an end product that is always, and in all aspects uniform while having an ever-changing supply of raw materials?

 

Impact

  • The CAPCOM development contributes to reaching the Dutch targets for a sustainable energy supply in 2023 (16%).
  • Large-scale application of residual products from agriculture provides a biomass product that can be used to produce heat, electricity, liquid fuels and chemicals.

 

Partners

ECN (TNO), TKI-BBE, Viride, Cradle Crops, Wageningen Food and Biobased Research (WFBR), RWE, Alco Energy Rotterdam.

Duration

2019 – 2021

 

Direct contact

 

More information

Contact Natalya Rijk for more information about these and other projects.

 

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