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Biorefinery Meeting Briefed on Northern Sweden's 'Pilot' Facilities Print E-mail
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Written by Anna Strom   
Thursday, 15 December 2011 19:45
As signaled, we publish a round up and presentations of biorefinery development or 'pilot' units in northern Sweden, gleaned from a talks at a meeting 1 December of scientists and representatives of biorefinery industry at Örnsköldsvik, given by Bio4Energy and the Processum Biorefinery Initiative.

Pilot facility for production of biomass from algae at Umeå, Sweden


FranscescoGentili compFranscesco Gentili talks up Umeå pilot facilities for biorefinery of algae. Photo by Bio4Energy.Project leader Francesco Gentili of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences said the installation would be used to produce a about a kilogramme per day worth of algae-based biomass suitable for making fertilizers, biofuels, bio-based plastics or fish meal. Gentili said production would imply “closing the chain” in terms of removing unwanted emissions to the environment, including gases thought to spur climate change, such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides.

“It can remove CO2 and NOx, and heavy metals”, he mused. The petroleum company “Preem wants to test the product in its biorefinery” to make biodiesel, said Gentili with reference to a certain line of testing at the pilot installation.

“We have to lower costs so as to show that we can produce [products and be competitive] in northern Sweden”, he said.

Processum Pilot Park, Örnsköldsvik, Sweden

David Blomberg of Bio4Energy, based at Örnsköldsvik and Processum had the substantial task of describing a “pilotDavidBlomberg 024David Blomberg of Bio4Energy described a new park of pilot installations courtesy of the Processum Biorefinery Initiative. Photo by Bio4Energy.  park” to be launched the same day at the premises of MoRe Research, a firm assisting companies in the paper and pulp industry with research and development. MoRe cooperates with scientists on several of the B4E platforms.

There were a set of ATEX-classified reactors in which chemical synthesis experiments could be performed, said Blomberg. These were reactors that needed to sit in a room which could be sealed to prevent leakage of potentially harmful gases, or to lower the risk for people in the event of an explosion, according to Sören Back of Processum. Next door was the BioBo, an installation so named after the Governor of the County of Västernorrland, Bo Källstrand who inaugurated it 1 December (see previous couple of articles in this News' section).

The BioBo installation would be useful for those wanting to study biochemical reactions, B4E scientist Leif Jönsson explained. More specifically, this piece of equipment—made up of a computer screen mounted next to a sort of metal barrel equipped with many tubes and pipes—would be used to spur enzymatic reactions and run yeast fermentation processes. End products refined from lignocellulose derived from plants could be ethanol, butanol or succinic acid, or biopolymers, the Umeå University professor Jönsson added. Another line of use for the BioBo would be the production of fish meal based on single-cell protein, he said. 

The Processum “pilot park” also had a filter press for processing different types of bio-based sludge or of lignin slurry; a decanter centrifuge designed for separation of solids from mixed liquid-solid materials containing bio-based sludge, cellulose or lignin and; a “liquid-liquid” extraction module. This latter could serve to separate chemicals from waste streams or byproducts, Blomberg said. Further an application for grinding barks or wood chips, particularly their cellulosic components—a ‘Hosokawa Alpine UPZ 100’ mill—was intended for used by the firm Akso Nobel.

Finally, a CEPA high-speed centrifuge would render the park complete by offering facilities for separating microbial biomass from different process streams.

Ethanol Pilot, Domsjö development area, Sweden

The near industrial-size facilities for producing biofuels at the Domsjö project park at Örnsköldsvik, ‘Ethanol Pilot’, was a “demonstration unit for biomass fractionation and verification of industrial biotechnology”, said Sune Wännström of SEKAB, which company is involved in running the demonstration unit. There ten “bioreactors” ran yeast fermentation process that turned sawdust, wheat straw, sugarcane bagasse, wood fiber, fiber sludge and forestry residues into ethanol, he said.

The equivalent of two tonnes of dry woodchips could be processed each day, Wännström added. He stressed that the demonstration unit was equipped to carry out all steps of the biorefinery process from the input of raw material to end product. There was also a filter press. Further types of products would be developed during 2012. Researchers Ulrika Rova and Chris Berglund of Bio4Energy and the Luleå University of Technology were mentioned in connection to the development of a ‘sugar platform’. 

Gasification & wood chipping technologies, Härnösand region

Pilot installations consisting of four gasification units were presented by Olof Björkqvist of the Mid Sweden University. A keyOlofBjörkqvist compOlof Björkqvist of the Mid Sweden University said trials performed with a new type of wood chipper had been promising. Photo by Bio4Energy. technology used relied on adding biomass to a hot sand bed heated to 800 degrees Celsius, a so called fluidised bed. The versatility of the technology lay in its acceptance of relatively inhomogeneous fuels (wood pellets, in this case) with “high” moisture content. However inter-reactor tar formation was a hurdle to be overcome before a synthesis gas clean enough to be turned into bioDME could be produced. BioDME was a kind of biodiesel which, when used to power an automotive engine, had to meet near-zero emission criteria for it to carry the mention, said Johan Thorén of the Piteå-based Solander Science Park. Scientists there have developed bioDME from black liquor, a waste stream in the pulping and paper industries, together with Bio4Energy's industrial partner Chemrec

A mechanical pulping technology developed in “close cooperation” with SCA, a company that makes hygene products and forest-sourced ones, was also described. “The metallurgical industry is interested in this technology”, said Björkqvist. In the same geographically central region of Sweden, a “pilot wood chipper” stood to be found at an Utansjö “chipping” pilot plant, he said. Moreover, in the same cluster, technology supplier to firms in the pulp and paper industry Metso operated a “refinery” pilot plant for making fiberboards. “There are riveting things in the wood which are not destroyed when you grind it instead of boiling it. This (line of research) is really… our focus”, said Björkqvist.

ETC at Piteå & the Solander Science Park, Sweden

Henrik Wiinnikka of the Energy Technology Centre at Piteå described a range of development units hosted by the ETC. They are presented in more detail in the corresponding presentation (attached). Briefly, the park included a gasification pilot unit operated by Bio4Energy industrial partner Chemrec, producing bioDME from raw synthesis gas obtained by gasifying black liquor, a forestry waste stream, with an input of about 20 tonnes of black liquor per day. A reactor called ‘Pressurized Entrained Flow Gasification of Biomass’, PEBG, run on wood “powder” from ground bark, forest residues and torrefied biomass had been developed by the team of Magnus Marklund of B4E.

Also at Piteå, a cyclone gasifier of biomass, or VIPP Gasifier, owned by MEVA Innovation, turned wood “powder”, reed canary grass and torrefied biomass into electricity generated on a small scale. A wet electricity scrubber was at hand, which could remove environmentally-harmful substances from the synthesis gas obtained, Wiinnikka said. Finally, a cyclone reactor for producing pyrolysis oils, owned by ETC, could turn out 20 kilogramme of oil per hour.

Biomass boiling & membrane filtering by MoRe Research, Örnsköldsvik

Stefan Svensson of MoRe Research said the company had five “smaller” circulation boilers, a “cost-efficient and flexibleStefanSvensson 043Stefan Svensson of MoRe Research presented the company's biorefinery pilot facilities. Photo by Bio4Energy. large pilot boiler”, as well as a membrane filtering devise that worked best at low temperatures. Moreover a spinning pilot, which was said to have been the “missing link” at the Domsjö research and development park at Örnsköldsvik, had been added for the purpose of testing methods or processes for making textiles or "superior-quality" viscose thread from regenerated cellulose fiber. (The textile referred to might be known to some as ‘rayon’.) The pilot installation was said to have the capacity to make 20 grammes of thread from 250 millilitre of input material which was “rather a lot”.

Umeå drying and torrefaction facilities used by B4E researchers

Bio4Energy scientist Sylvia Larsson, of the Pretreatment and Fractionation Platform, is a researcher with the Biofuel Technology SylviaLarsson 049Sylvia Larsson said her team could help designing new biomass-based materials at Umeå pilot facilities. Photo by Bio4Energy.Centre of Umeå University and of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). She described the “pelletising and briquetting lines” of the Umeå “drying and torrefaction pilot” owned by SLU. She said her team could “join other projects as a partner… and design well-defined materials for them”. A “Tornado” dryer was available for drying “materials that are very hard to dry”, such as peat, algae and hydrolytic lignin, she said. This dryer could perform drying, grinding and fractionation of biomass in “one step", Larsson said, adding, "You’d be surprised to see the ease with which (the input biomass) flows” through the reactor.

Finally, Anders Nordin, of Umeå University and B4E, described pilot installations designed to perform torrefaction of forest-sourced biomass and a reformer used in gasification processes, which were being operated thanks to funding from B4E and Processum. Describing plans to develop a “coal-to-liquids” technology, Nordin said that, “We want to make ‘green’ coal using a technique for making (fossil-based black) coal”.

“That is we want to turn biomass into 'green' coal by roasting or torrefying it”, he clarified. Researchers were testing biomass-based input materials such as spruce, eucalyptus, reed canary grass and forest residues, to see which of them appeared to have the most desirable characteristics for further refinement, he added.

Other outputs from the pilot installations could include a “high-quality” gas to be used for fuel or as a process gas in industry, Nordin said. Plans for combining the production of pyrolysis oil and torrefaction were being sketched out, Nordin revealed.