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Large-scale production of charcoal for use in coal fired power and co-generation plants

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Charcoal for electrical power production

An EU-funded project aimed to develop a new process for large-scale production of charcoal for use as a sustainable fuel in coal-fired electric power stations.

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The 'Large-scale production of charcoal for use in coal fired power and co-generation plants' (Power-Grade Charcoal) project's goal was to develop an innovative method for making charcoal enabling the carbonisation process to achieve higher conversion yield and benefits of scale. In order to compete with alternative biomass feedstock, efforts had to aim at realising a 30 % drop in current charcoal production costs. Power-Grade Charcoal designed a scaled-up production plant that can produce 10 000 tonnes per year of charcoal compared to an existing plant capable of only 800 tonnes per year. The design, which also incorporates a business plan, offers two distinct business opportunities to participating small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The first allows charcoal producers to increase production achieving a rate of return of 14 %. Looking to the future, SME partners will be able to sell scaled-up charcoal production technology. Researchers found that in the short to medium-term market, conditions will not allow for the production of competitively priced power grade charcoal for the electric power sector. However, Power-Grade Charcoal recommends that SMEs concentrate on the traditional barbecue market. Contracts are negotiated annually and producers are able to pass on cost increases such as transport to the buyers, including supermarket chains. Project research results have provided a comprehensive and realistic roadmap for large-scale charcoal production on a profitable basis. Using wood charcoal as a co-firing fuel can overcome problems associated with raw biomass and Power-Grade Charcoal have provided the research platform to continue to explore the most efficient ways of sustainable fuel production in coal-fired electric power plants.

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