Interest in the torrefaction industry in growing

Agriculture in the world’s second most populous country,

Agriculture in the world’s second most populous country, India, produces some 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) simply by ridding themselves of the left over biomass from the harvest of their crops. Although burning crop residue in open air is an economical solution to an old problem, it is proving a waste and an environmental threat.

Torrefaction, although similar to pyrolysis, uses a thermochemical procedure at temperatures somewhat lower, 200 – 350°C, to carbonize lignocellulosic plant materials like wood, straw, or reeds.

The process takes about an hour, and produces a product which doesn’t absorb water, won’t rot, and is up to 40 per cent more energy dense than the original feedstock. Businesses around the world are busy setting up pilot plants to determine how to best utilize this waste “biomass” and turn it into marketable product referred to as “bio-coal.”

As a replacement for traditional fossil coal, bio coal does not add to GHG levels. Biomass takes up atmospheric carbon as it grows, later, when needed this carbon is released when the torrefaction produced “bio-coal” is burnt.

The net benefit of using this process, would allow industries such as those generating electrical energy, steel plants, and the like, to produce their products without increasing atmospheric GHG readings. By not increasing these levels, naturally occurring carbon uptake processes can reduce current concentrations.

Scientists, and industry, in Finland, Holland, Belgium and Austria are making serious investigations and setting up pilot plants to develop large commercialization of the torrefied products in Europe. Issues with the torrefaction process lay in uniformity, smaller particles carbonize faster than Torrefaction larger, but the pelletizing industry offers a sensible solution with the technology that is currently feeding residential wood stoves.

Canadian businesses, and research facilities, such as University of British Columbia with its NORAM study, are also actively engaged. We have a wood pellet industry represented by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) and although its biggest customer is the European market, it is funding various research projects here at home.

Newcastle, New Brunswick is home to companies’ Swedish based Vatenfall, and Miramichi Premium Pellets, which are collaborating on the feasibility of a torrefaction project. In Quebec Torrefuels has completed a laboratory scale proof of concept and Airex Energy in Montreal has developed a patented “CarbonFX” technology. Airex’s proof of concept prototype produces 0.25 tonnes per hour and is the first step in a commercial venture with Colacem, a cement company that will use bio-coal co-fired with conventional coal.

In British Columbia, Allied Blower, a company that supplies wood pellet equipment, developed an indirect torrefaction process for the drying of the wood pellets. In Burnaby, Diacarbon has commissioned a 1.3 tonne per hour pilot plant with plans for an installation 2.5 times as large.

Although the torrefaction industry in Canada is small, interest is growing, and with the obvious advantages of pellet technologies the huge benefits seen with “bio-coal” will undoubtedly prevail and inevitably succeed. Maybe Alberta can step up to the plate and take advantage of a new ecofriendly industry.

Lorne Oja can be reached at lorne@solartechnical.ca.

Just Posted

Judge allows Mr. Big evidence in murder trial

Two men accused of triple-murder admitted their involvement to undercover police

Red Deer agency supporting for LGBTQ2S+ youth

New report on LGBTQ2S+ youth from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate

Four people arrested after gas and dash

Four people were arrested after an alleged gas and dash in two… Continue reading

Arrests made at Red Deer Rebels game

Charges pending against two people

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer: Nov. 19

Watch news highlights from the week of Nov. 13

Red Deer Christmas Bureau to help 1,300 children this year

Demand is high, but Red Deer always provides

CP Holiday train to stop in Ponoka for another year

The popular train will feature entertainment from Colin James and Emma-Lee

Kittens rescued after allegedly being tossed from vehicle

Couple finds abandoned kittens new home through Facebook

VIDEO: ‘Party bus’ goes up in flames in Vancouver

Fire crews responded to the late night blaze

Chicken crosses B.C. road, stops traffic

Rooster makes early morning commuters wait in Maple Ridge

Red Deerian honours her brother who died in a motorcycle collision

Houaida Haddad is encouraging Red Deer residents to donate blood

Red Deer County firefighters to be recognized for Waterton help

RCMP brass will give formal recognition Monday

Ron James tries to lighten humanity’s load through humour

The comedian returns to Red Deer for shows Dec. 1 and 2

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month