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case studies

Mobile biomass-to-energy plant Australia’s agriculture sector is soon set to benefit from the arrival of a mobile biomass-to-bioenergy plant down under. Not only can the plant generate bioenergy at the biomass site in seconds, it can be used as a mobile bolt-on electricity plant that can potentially make agribusinesses completely independent of the grid. An alternative to fossil fuels, bioenergy has the potential to be predominant in rural areas thanks to technologies than can convert biomass — woody waste and feedstocks — into biofuels, biochemicals, heat and electricity. The expense of transporting biomass to a high-cost off-site conversion plant, however, has been a deterrent for many Australian agribusinesses — until now. The Mobile Pyrolysis Plant (MPP) uses fast pyrolysis technology — high-temperature, low-oxygen treatment of woody waste — to generate biofuels and biochemicals (such as bio-crude oil, wood gas, charcoal and wood vinegar) and electricity. The technology mimics nature’s process at high speed, producing bio-crude oil and its offsets in a similar way that the environment formed oil reserves over millions of years. The MPP comes in two sizes and can be used by agribusinesses for bolt-on electricity generation. The 2-tonne version is transportable on a car trailer, while the 10-tonne size is collapsible, easily transportable

on a truck and able to generate 1.2 MW of energy over a 12-hour process. This enables agribusinesses to power up machinery — and potentially their entire operations — independent of external energy sources. Developed in the Netherlands by renewable energy technology manufacturer Nettenergy BV, the MPP will be distributed across Australasia by Pyrotech Energy, which also has the rights to manufacture and license the plant throughout the region. With a high thermal energy output yet very low emissions, it is claimed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from biomass by up to 85%. “Australia’s agriculture sector produces millions of tonnes of waste wood and second-generation feedstock residue annually — these create carbon dioxide emissions when left as waste,” said Pyrotech Energy Director Christos Karantonis. “The MPP technology turns this waste into valuable product without harming the environment, allowing agribusinesses to create legitimate commercial income far easier than through existing bioenergy plants or technologies. “Farmers, forestries, waste collectors, municipalities [and] water treatment facilities can use the bio-crude (pyrolysis) oil in boilers, furnaces, kilns or turbines to create heat and electricity. When connected to their grid, they can supply their operations with 50–25 kW of electricity per hour, depending the project and the application.”

New catalyst converts CO2 to natural gas Australian scientists have developed a new efficient catalyst that converts carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air into synthetic natural gas, in what is claimed to be a clean process using solar energy. Invented at the University of Adelaide in collaboration with CSIRO, the process has the potential to replace fossil fuels while continuing the use of existing carbon-based fuel technologies without increasing atmospheric CO2. “Capturing carbon from the air and utilising it for industrial processes is one strategy for controlling CO2 emissions and reducing the need for fossil fuels,” said University of Adelaide PhD candidate Renata Lippi, first author of the research published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A. “But for this to be economically viable, we need an energy-efficient process that utilises CO2 as a carbon source. “Research has shown that the hydrogen can be produced efficiently with solar energy. But combining the hydrogen with CO2 to produce methane is a safer option than using hydrogen directly as an energy source and allows the use of existing natural gas infrastructure. “The main sticking point, however, is the catalyst — a compound needed to drive the reaction because CO2 is usually a very inert or unreactive chemical.” The researchers created this catalyst using porous crystals called metal-organic frameworks which allow precise spatial control of the

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chemical elements. As noted by Dr Danielle Kennedy, AIM future science platform director with CSIRO, “The catalyst discovery process involved the synthesis and screening of more than 100 materials.” Other catalysts have suffered from issues around poor CO 2 conversion, unwanted carbon-monoxide production, catalyst stability, low methane production rates and high reaction temperatures. The new catalyst efficiently produces almost pure methane from CO2, with minimal carbon-monoxide production and high stability under both continuous reaction for several days and after shutdown and exposure to air. Importantly, only a small amount of the catalyst is needed for high production of methane, which increases economic viability. The catalyst also operates at mild temperatures and low pressures, making solar thermal energy possible. “What we’ve produced is a highly active, highly selective (producing almost pure methane without side products) and stable catalyst that will run on solar energy,” said project leader Professor Christian Doonan, director of the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Advanced Nanomaterials. “This makes carbon-neutral fuel from CO2 a viable option.”

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Sustainability Matters Dec 2017/Jan 2018  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...

Sustainability Matters Dec 2017/Jan 2018  

Sustainability Matters is a bi-monthly magazine showcasing the latest products, technology and sustainable solutions for industry, governmen...