Finland’s Joensuu Biocoal Oy has partnered with Austrian engineering companies Andritz and POLYTECHNIK in its bid to build the largest industrial-scale torrefied biomass production plant in Europe. 

The technology heats sustainably harvested forest residues such as local forestry byproducts that include bark and low-grade biomass, in a low-oxygen environment to produce a carbon-rich end-product called torrefied biomass, or biocoal. This has a higher energy density than traditional woody biomass and is therefore more efficient to transport and easier to use in existing coal power facilities or cement plants. It can be used in power generation, heating and as a carbon-neutral alternative in industrial processes within the metals industry.

Industrial technology group ANDRITZ will provide the reactor, based on NextFuel AB technology. In addition, bioenergy solutions provider POLYTECHNIK will contribute the lean gas burner and the technology for the “circular” use of the process energy. Construction is scheduled to start in mid-2023, and production in late-2024.

“The plant is started with external energy from biomass or gas, after which the process is self-sustaining and built for circularity – it even generates excess energy, which is fed into the local district heating network,” a POLYTECHNIK spokesperson told Energy Monitor.

“Of course, this should only be done along with the sustainable procurement of biomass, with the technology’s potential lying in making previously unused biomass usable.”

Located in Joensuu, Finland, on the site of the Savon Voima electricity and thermal power plant, the new facility will produce up to 60,000 tonnes per year of biocoal briquettes. There are also plans to build a “cluster” around the plant – involving institutions such as the Natural Resources Institute Finland, the University of Eastern Finland, Karelia University of Applied Sciences and Business Joensuu – to develop products and refine new uses for torrefied biomass.

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The spokesperson added: “Dust emissions from the torrefaction plant in Joensuu will be well below the set EU targets thanks to the special thermal use of the process gas after torrefaction, which is made possible by POLYTECHNIK’s innovative technology.”