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Torrefaction continues at SERC; and a visit with CSU Chancellor

October 3, 2011

Torrefaction Continues at SERC Andrea Alstone  SERC Energy News (Fall 2011 Vol 6, #3)

SERC is continuing its work with Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) on torrefaction. Torrefaction is the process of heating biomass to 250 – 300 degrees Celsius in the absence of oxygen.

The resulting product, referred to by RFT as “BioCoal,” has a higher energy density and is easier to pelletize than raw biomass. It is also hydrophobic, meaning it does not absorb water. These properties make BioCoal easier and less costly to store and transport compared to raw biomass. BioCoal can be used as a feedstock for liquid biofuels or co-fired in a coal power plant, thus replacing fossil fuels with a renewable energy source.

SERC and RFT are just completing a project for Mendel Biotechnology, Inc. that produced more than 50 pounds of torrefied Miscanthus grass. Miscanthus is a perennial grass that is getting a lot of attention as an energy crop. The fast growing grass can achieve high biomass yields and can be grown on marginal lands currently not under cultivation. Mendel has developed a hybrid that is more easily propagated than current public varieties, and they are working to create hybrids that are custom tailored for different climates and growing regions.

A Visit with CSU Chancellor Reed

While up at the Schatz Energy Research Center working on the Mendel project, CEO Mark Wechsler had an opportunity to discuss Torrefaction and RFT’s prototype BioCoal Processer, with HSU President Rollin Richmond and California CSU Chancellor Charles Reed, while Chancellor Reed was visiting Humboldt State University.

President Rollin Richmond, SERC Research Engineer Kyle Palmer, Chancellor Charles Reed, and Renewable Fuel Technologies (RFT) CEO Mark Wechsler discussing SERC and RFT’s torrefaction research partnership. Photo credit Kellie Jo Brown.

Foreground: RFT CEO Mark Wechsler and CSU Chancellor Charles Reed – Photo Credit Kelly Jo Brown

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