What are torrefied fuels?
These are fuels produced through “torrefaction” – the heating of biomass or biodegradable waste products in the absence of oxygen so as not to precipitate combustion. This process reduces the water content, and partly decomposes the feedstock, producing a solid, dry, blackened material – otherwise known as bio-coal
After the biomass is torrefied it can be densified, usually into pellets, which increases its energy density as well as improving its hydrophobic properties. This increased energy density makes it perfect for use in co-firing power stations and other industrial capacities.
One of our green investments is in a waste-to-energy company based in the UK that creates renewable torrefied fuels from waste.
The UK market
The market is experiencing very strong growth currently, both in the UK and globally. This is driven by the fact that countries are increasingly keen to meet their EU targets for energy from renewable sources, and the conversion of existing energy infrastructure to use biomass is one avenue through which this can be achieved both quickly and efficiently. UK imports of torrefied fuels have tripled since 2012 due to increasing consumption. It is predicted that this trajectory will continue and that the UK will account for 25% of global consumption within two years. Last year saw the conversion to co-firing of two further UK power stations, at Lynemouth and Teesside, and Drax (which supplies 6% of the UK’s energy needs) is now proceeding to convert their fourth unit, meaning this power station alone could soon require up to two million tonnes of torrefied fuel per annum.
Global upward trends
This trend is occurring across Europe, with the Netherlands converting five formerly coal-burning power stations to co-firing and Germany a further two. South Korea and Japan are leading the way in the Asian markets, with Japanese imports of torrefied fuels increasing by 140% since 2017 and South Korea’s imports of biomass pellets from Vietnam alone exceeding 2.4 million tonnes. This all amounts to a very positive outlook for the market in 2019.
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