The Hydro-Thermal Carbonisation (HTC) rig, located at the CPL Industries production site at Immingham, North Lincs is a technology for converting high-moisture biomass into solid fuels using moderate temperatures and high pressures. The HTC process effectively mimics the long-term natural process of coal formation, with the process taking a matter of hours rather than millennia. The process is able to convert waste streams such as green / organic waste into value-added fuel products that can be used in both domestic and industrial applications.
UoN is working in partnership with CPL Industries, a leading manufacturer and supplier of smokeless fuels and other carbon-based products, to develop this capability. The HTC rig is the first commercial-scale example of this technology in the UK and CPL’s intention, as part of their ‘Eco-fuels & Carbon Technology Park’, is to investigate suitable replacements for fossil fuels in its home heating products with possible future developments being the replacement of coking coals in industrial applications such as foundries and smelters.
The HTC can also be used to treat anaerobic digestate to produce Biochar. Digestate is the end product of anaerobic digestion and is a liquid rich in nitrogen, potash, phosphate and other trace elements that are highly valuable when returned to land as a biofertilser. R&D into a much more ambitious and comprehensive biochar demonstration programme is also ongoing involving arable fields, grass and woodland, contaminated land and where soil erosion control is required.
Another area of research is in the separation of pure terephthalic acid (TPA) from dyes and other impurities, that relates to the processing of textile waste made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). The HTC rig and subsequent chemical processing enables polyester clothing and other PET fabric waste to be depolymerized to yield the constituent monomers that then enables the material to be fully recycled. This solves a major UK issue as thousands of tonnes of polyester clothing, airbags and other dyed PET either goes to landfill or gets exported each year. Recycling of this problematic material supports the EU target of having plastic bottles across Europe containing at least 30% recycled plastic by 2030. The HTC rig acts as a test bed for developing and refining processes coupled with the creation of appropriate economic modelling to enable this recycling to take place.
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