The industrial-size demonstration plant, which required around $10 million in public and private investments for its design, construction, and start-up, showcases the latest biomass torrefaction technology, called CarbonFX. This unique, revolutionary technology, designed by Airex Energy, significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions for many industries still using coal or coal by-products.
Airex Energy's torrefaction process transforms biomass residues into biocoal pellets, a clean and renewable fuel that can replace coal and oil. Biocoal's unique properties allows it to easily disintegrate, so it can be ground up and combined with bituminous coal in thermal power stations producing electricity, without major changes to existing systems for handling, storing, and grinding coal.
"Airex Energy's green innovation is helping Canada prosper by creating products with high value and enormous export potential," said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development."What's more, it is helping us to reduce our carbon footprint. The Government of Canada is proud to be a partner in the development of this innovative clean technology project that is creating valuable middle-class jobs for Quebecers and Canadians."
The CarbonFX system also produces biochar, a product with a high carbon content used for soil remediation, liquid filtration and metal reduction. Biochar, when mixed with compost or peat moss, promotes plant growth. Biochar also helps reduce metals and enables rehabilitation of former mining sites.
"Our government is proud to support projects such as the one that Airex Energy is proposing, an innovative process in the emerging energy source sector that will reduce GHG emissions and use forest by-products, a local, renewable resource. The attainment of the objectives set in the 2030 Energy Policy hinges on the use of energies that are less damaging to the environment and on energy efficiency. The commitment of Québec business executives such as those at Airex Energy will enable us to genuinely modernize our economy, in particular by means of the energy transition", added the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Plan Nord, Pierre Arcand.
Airex Energy's business model is to export its CarbonFX systems worldwide. The entire forest industry, including sawmills, pulp and paper, and wood pellet producers, is Airex's primary market for the CarbonFX systems. The processing of wood residues into value-added products can allow companies in the sector to increase their profitability while diversifying their sources of income. And because of its simple design and small footprint, the CarbonFX technology is cost-competitive.
"We believe our technology will provide new ways for forestry companies to increase profitability while diversifying their sources of revenue. With this in mind, we have started marketing our CarbonFX systems in Canada and the United States, in order to roll out this technology in all markets generating substantial amounts of residual biomass," said Sylvain Bertrand, CEO of Airex Energy.
Technology that opens the door to a greener future
Climate change and greenhouse gas reduction are major concerns and 38 per cent of electricity produced on the planet still comes from coal, a polluting energy source that is responsible for the emission of large amounts of greenhouse gases. Biocoal is a step in a greener direction for the planet.
"With Canada's commitment to a 30 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 compared to 2005 levels, we are confident that our unique torrefaction process can replace coal used in thermal power plants for electricity production, without requiring changes or major investments to existing systems and equipment. We firmly believe that biocoal will also allow Quebec to completely eliminate the use of thermal coal as an energy source by 2030, as set out in Quebec's recent energy policy," Bertrand adds.
Since December 2015, Airex Energy has conducted a gradual commissioning of the plant's equipment and performed several tests to optimize the process. The company started commercial biocoal and biochar production, with the goal of producing 15,000 tonnes annually from residual biomass such as forest residues, sawdust, bark, and recycled wood for current and future clients in Canada and the United States.
Read Canadian Biomass' coverage of the project here.