SteamBio – Flexible Superheated Steam Torrefaction and Grinding of Indigenous Biomass from Remote Rural Sources to Produce Stable Densified Feedstocks for Chemical and Energy Applications

The project “SteamBio“, which is coordinated by Fraunhofer IGB, aims to provide stable, densified feedstock for the process industries by upgrading lignocellulosic biomass (e.g. agro‑forestry residues from remote rural sources) through a flexible superheated steam torrefaction and grinding process mounted on mobile units. Eleven project partners from four European countries are doing research from February 2015 for three years together in this challenging project.

© Fraunhofer IGB
Pilot plant for the torrefaction of lignocellulosic raw materials.

Torrefaction and transport conditioning of wood

Wood or lignocellulose is one of the most important renewable raw materials. In the EU SteamBio project, Fraunhofer IGB has developed a process for the pretreatment and torrefaction of raw materials and residues containing lignocellulose. This process is based on the principle of drying by means of superheated steam at atmospheric pressure. During torrefaction, the biomass is heated in an oxygen‑free steam atmosphere for a certain process time. At approx. 220 °C – 250 °C, the process temperature is below the value above which carbonization (pyrolysis) takes place. Water and hemicellulose are driven out together with other volatile substances and selectively condensed for use as platform chemicals. What remains is a hydrophobic material of high energy density that can easily be grinded into a highly reactive substrate.

 

Demonstration on industrial scale

To demonstrate the process on an industrial scale, a semi‑mobile plant was built as part of the SteamBio project. The plant consists of a 20‑foot container with a storage hopper and energy center as well as a 40‑foot frame accommodating the reactors for drying and torrefaction, a device for solids discharge (with cooling) and condensers for the volatile fraction. The throughput of the plant can be adjusted flexibly depending on the substrate and is designed for 150 kg/h of raw material (freshly harvested wood chips). Agricultural waste such as vineyard pruning or press‑cakes (olives, wine, fruit) can also be processed.

The system is designed for automated, continuous 24/7 operation and is controlled by software with integrated data acquisition developed at Fraunhofer IGB, which also allows remote control operation. A heating capacity of 155 kW using electrical elements is installed in order to permit compact construction, flexible operation and better measurement of the energy flows. A demonstration operation for the torrefaction of different substrates and the characterization of the products is currently performed in Spain.

Project information

Project title

SteamBio – Flexible Superheated Steam Torrefaction and Grinding of Indigenous Biomass from Remote Rural Sources to Produce Stable Densified Feedstocks for Chemical and Energy Applications

 

Project duration

February 2015 – July 2018

 

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB (Germany)
  • Heckmann Metall- und Maschinenbau GmbH (Germany)
  • Network New Europe Limited (UK)
  • Comercial e Industrial Aries SA (Spain)
  • Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (Schweden)
  • Fundacion CIRCE – Centro de Investigacion de Recursos y Consumos Energeticos (Spain)
  • AVA-CO²-Forschung GmbH (Germany)
  • University of Strathclyde (UK)
  • Normag Labor- und Prozesstechnik GmbH (Germany)
  • Urbion Consultores SL (Spain)
  • Manrochem (UK)

Funding

The project “SteamBio“ has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement n° 636865.