The briquette is cheaper than and oil and coal in most markets and can be used to replace some or all of the coal normally used by a coal plant. It has already been tested and proven and the first operational plant has been opened by NextFuel in Austria. The company is currently implementing its first large projects in East Africa and South America and it was recently chosen as a best practice project by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s R20 Austrian World Summit.
NextFuel will be presented at the UN Climate Summit on December 12, in Katowice, Poland. An estimated 20 thousand people from 190 countries will take part in the event, including politicians, representatives of non-governmental organizations, the scientific community and business sector.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) new report focused on a process known as BECCS (burning organic material of wood for energy - with carbon capture and storage) as the best climate solution for reaching the 1.5 degree target fast enough. The NextFuel solution that focuses on grass instead of wood avoids many of the drawbacks of BECCS, while makes it possible to reach this target faster for far less costs.
Biomass energy was the primary fuel for centuries before coal, oil and gas became readily available. Today, as CO2 emissions affect the environment, it has become a serious contender in the global energy mix. Biomass includes any organic material from plants or animals, but it often takes the form of slow – growing wood that takes decades to grow. Based in Sweden, clean-tech start-up NextFuel has pioneered a method using an alternative to wood pellets.
Elephant grass is a specialised plant that can grow up to four meters in just 100 days, producing several crops to harvest each year; the grass also stores around 20 percent of the CO2 in the roots in the soil. Once the grass has been harvested, NextFuel’s technology requires very little energy to transform it into a briquette in its factory. Though it may seem counter – intuitive, less CO2 is released into the atmosphere when the fuel is burned than was captured from the atmosphere a few months earlier when the grass was growing. On a yearly basis the carbon cycle becomes negative. The first NextFuel project is expected to reduce the CO2 footprint of a cement factory by 105 percent compared to the coal they are using today.
After the grass is harvested it is dried and fed into a patented reactor. This is a rotary drum, indirectly heated and operated with a low oxygen atmosphere. While inside that drum, volatile elements are separated from the grass, and the physical properties together with the energy content are transformed in less than 30 minutes to a clean copy of fossil fuel.
The reactor also drives out the off-gases from the grass. They are used as surplus energy to produce heat or electricity to power the facility.
After the reactor is finished, the fuel is densified and turned into briquettes that are cooled. These briquettes are ready to use directly as a CO2 negative fossil fuel substitute both in industrial and electricity production. It can also be used directly in a coal plant without any infrastructure adjustments.
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