Revolutionary Biomass ‘drop-in’ coal replacement fuel for industrial power generation

Coal-fired power plants are widely acknowledged to be the major source - 44%, according to the International Energy Agency 2014 Report - of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, the primary causes of global warming and climate change. As a result, governments around the world have introduced increasingly stringent regulations in an effort to force power generators to switch to renewable fuel sources that emit far fewer pollutants and cause considerably less damage to the environment.

The European Parliament has made phasing out coal a major priority, committing member states to a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and to ensuring that 20% of their total energy consumption is derived from renewable sources by 2020. In the United States, President Obama’s Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide levels in 2030 by 32% from 2005 levels, and to increase renewable energy generation by 30% - primarily by instructing coal-fired energy producers to ‘Clean Up or Shut Down’.

Their efforts are already bearing fruit: global coal use decreased by at least 2.3% in 2015, and is expected to continue to fall - in the U.S. coal consumption fell by 11% between January and July 2015, and coal’s share of electricity generation fell to 36% in 2015 from 50% in 2005.

However, during the transition to a decarbonised future and the elimination of fossil fuels, governments have a duty to deliver their citizens secure, reliable and cost-efficient energy. Immediately shutting down coal-fired power stations would lead to a dramatic fall in electricity generation capacity, with potentially catastrophic economic and sociological consequences.

According to the IEA Clean Coal Centre, there are over 2,300 coal fired power plants worldwide (7,000 individual units). To date, the only method of reducing the harmful emissions they produce was to install expensive chemical scrubbers, or to modify them - ‘retro-fitting’ - to burn renewable fuels, typically Biomass. One of the best-known examples is the Drax power plant in the U.K., which has committed to spending some £700 million (US$1.1 billion) on converting three of its coal-fired generating units to burn Biomass, and a similar amount to establish fuel manufacturing facilities in the U.S. to supply them with feedstock.

Biomass - a carbon neutral renewable energy source derived from plant- or wood-based matter, which provides an 85% net saving on carbon dioxide emissions compared to coal - is an effective alternative to coal, and already accounts for some 60% of European Union renewable energy production. But enabling coal-fired power plants to burn Biomass without costly retro-fitting has long been the ‘holy grail’ of the power generation industry.

AEG CoalSwitch is the world’s first ‘drop-in’ Biomass fuel that can directly replace coal completely - or be co-fired at high percentages with coal - in industrial power plants, without requiring any furnace, logistics, handling or storage modifications.

Uniquely, AEG CoalSwitch fuel possesses comparable energy (BTU) levels to coal, and has similar handling and friability characteristics, which combined with greatly-reduced low- and mid-volatiles post-production makes it safer to handle than traditional Biomass pellets or other fuels.

The result of seven years of extensive research and development, for which seventeen ‘greenfield’ patents have already been filed, AEG CoalSwitch is set to transform the power generation industry and propel Biomass into the energy mainstream.

It enables coal-fired power plant owners to significantly reduce pollution levels and greenhouse gas emissions, immediately benefitting the environment and improving air quality; and allowing them to continue generating power while complying with new emissions regulations.

Uniquely, the AEG CoalSwitch manufacturing technology works with any plant- or wood-based Biomass material, including previously-unusable timber (branches, bark and forestry thinnings), sawmill waste (contaminated or aged sawdust and offcuts) and industrial timber (construction and demolition waste, chemically-impregnated wood and railway sleepers/railroad ties); by removing contaminants in an organic process that leaves no harmful residues.

Aside from producing high-energy fuel with similar characteristic to coal, the AEG CoalSwitch process provides several key advantages over existing Biomass fuel pelleting solutions. They include high volume throughput, lower production costs, the ability to supply the finished feedstock in different formats (pellets, granules, briquettes and bales) and - crucially - greatly reduced storage, handling and distribution costs, as the final product is hydrophobic (i.e. water-resistant).

Commencing in 2016, AEG CoalSwitch - a joint venture between Active Energy Group Plc and Biomass Energy Enhancements LLC, the process inventors - intends to roll out an innovative ‘build-own-operate-toll’ business model, under which the company will construct a network of advanced demountable fuel manufacturing facilities close to large-scale Biomass raw material sources, including forests, sawmills and agricultural/industrial waste sites.

For more information on AEG CoalSwitch and how we may be able to work together, please complete our Contact Us form, or email Dan Shaw, AEG CoalSwitch Director of Business Development, at dan.shaw@active-energy.com.

AEG TimberLands

AEG WoodFibre