Monday, 2 December 2013

Briquettes and Biogas from Biomass

Two blue containers are parked up at Hafod y Llan, the National Trusts’ flagship farm near Beddgelert, to demonstrate the conversion of biomass into biogas and briquettes. Short cut silage is passed through a hydrothermal conditioner, basically a 45 minute warm shower, washing out the bulk of the minerals, such as potassium and sulphur, which you would not want in a solid fuel.

The brown liquid, with the washed out minerals, goes into an anaerobic digester whilst the rest, the ‘pressed cake’, is dried out and then compressed into briquettes ready for storage and ultimate burning in a two-stage combustion boiler.  

The demonstrator was made by the German University of Kassel. An industrial scale version, which produces 700Kg of briquettes an hour plus the biogas, has been operating for six months in the city of Baden-Baden.

Within Wales the partners involved in promoting the technology are the Severn Wye Energy Agency, the National Trust and Cwm Harry. The technology is called IFBB which when Googled is likely to return something about Body Building. This IFBB stands for the Integrated generation of solid Fuel and Biogas from Biomass.

The National Trust is keen to explore how some of their most plentiful nuisance plants such as rush, bracken, and gorse, can be converted into energy. The Trunk Road Agency is also involved; do trunk road verges amount to 10% of land in Wales? There are huge benefits to biodiversity if roadside cuttings are removed (see Plantlife campaign) and the extra cost of removal could be compensated by fuel production.

So, there are many reasons to hope that this technology can be effectively implemented. You can hear the German scientists describing how it works on this Sunday’s Country Focus, Radio Wales. If you want to see it in action, contact Wyn Owen, the farm administrator at Hafod y Llan; the demonstration units should be around until the end of March. In case you don't get there, this is what it looks like:

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