Solvay has launched the production of torrefied biomass at an industrial scale in the United States, creating a new business that aims to provide an innovative and renewable energy solution. This business will be run by the recently created Solvay Biomass Energy joint venture between Solvay and U.S. company New Biomass Energy (NBE).
Torrefied biomass, which handles and burns similarly to coal, is produced through torrefaction, a process that modifies the chemical properties of waste wood and biomass. Torrefied biomass can immediately and practically substitute coal, enabling power plants to generate clean energy.
Today, some power plants in Europe use traditional wood pellets to replace coal. Torrefied biomass, however, contains 35% more energy by weight than wood pellets, which also yields significant logistical benefits to customers. Moreover, Solvay is improving the water repellent properties of torrefied biomass to further enhance its storage and handling properties.
“This new business has a two-fold objective: on the one hand, to offer innovative and competitive solutions to utilities and energy companies, allowing them to lower the cost of using biomass in their plants, and in parallel to expand our access to biomass and to create new biosourced applications. Solvay aims to further develop products and technologies that support the global transition to sustainable energy,” said Philippe Rosier, President of Solvay Energy Services.
Torrefied biomass is produced in Quitman, Mississippi at a plant that was built and developed by NBE. Solvay will provide its industrial expertise to more than triple annual production capacity to 250,000 tons by the end of 2014 from 80,000 tons currently. Solvay Biomass Energy will use by-products, such as sawmill residues, from the highly developed timber industry in the area’s managed forests.
Solvay Biomass Energy, majority-owned by Solvay’s business unit Solvay Energy Services, is in charge of the plant’s operations and maintenance, feedstock sourcing, logistics and technology as well as of the product’s marketing mainly to energy producers in Europe and Asia.