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Quality determination of solid biofuels in real time

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - BioValue (Quality determination of solid biofuels in real time)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2019-09-30

The purpose of this project has been to enable “Quality determination of biofuels in real time” and Mantex did propose the idea to develop a “Novel biomass scanner for measurement of inhomogeneous biomass”.

The problem that this project addressed was the absence of easy-to-use quality measurement methods within the biofuel industry. This issue leads to two challenges: a dysfunctional biomass trading market and suboptimal use of bioenergy production capacity.

The overall objectives were:

1. Develop a fully functional lab-prototype
2. Build and install a demonstrator at customer site
3. Demonstrate high precision level of all key parameters and categorisation and identification in real time.

In conclusion, the project has succeeded to build a lab demonstrator that has evolved to four demonstrators that have been validated at customer sites. These validations have identified that the required precision level on the key parameters was not enough. A technical solution to address this (and the following categorisation and identification) is now identified and is under development.
Mantex has developed a new modularized architecture for multi-sensor biomass scanners and has completed detail design of the generic modules. The new modules have enabled a fast design and build of a new biofuel sample analyzer, the Mantex BFA (BioFuel Analyzer) that has been used in comprehensive research activities.

Four units of the Mantex BFA have been validated in the lab as well as in field trials at customer sites (Fortum, Borås Energi, Jämtkraft and Norrtälje Energi). It has also gone through the process of type approval in Sweden. Thousands of measurements have been performed during the project. During these trails and tests the initially identified risk of too low measurement accuracy due to high variation in biomass assortments and within the material itself was realized. Extensive efforts have been put into the project to handle this issue. Mechatronics, X-Ray calibration, material analysis, fundamental physics and algorithms have all been addressed. Finally, in the last year of the project, a technical solution is available and is now in development. However, this work has impacted the progress of other activities in the project.

During the whole project there have been extensive dissemination and exploitation. Marketing, customer seminars, pilot customer groups, validation assessments and technical reports have been performed. The project has, based on intense customer interaction in Europe as well as in Asia 2018/2019 and those customers' very clear priority, changed the prime target from in-line measurement (on a transportation belt) used for process improvements to at-line measurements (sample measurements) for pricing and quality control at arrival of solid biomass to the Bioenergy plants.

The project initially also targeted to build an online biofuel scanner based on the new modularized architecture. This solution was to be integrated directly over the existing conveyor belt at a biopower plant. Due to too high BOM and implementation costs this solution was reworked to a stand-alone biofuel measurement lab, the Mantex MxS, where the scanners should be placed over a smaller tubular shaped conveyor belt. This has been realized to a container-based material handling, transportation and presentation unit. However, due to the intense focus on the measurement accuracy and the shift in our customers' priorities as described above, the integration and testing of scanners in this unit was halted.
The global bioenergy industry has traditional and lab-oriented methods for analysing the biomass for trade purpose and process control. These analysis methods take a long time, sometimes up to several days, and usually do not cover all parameters that both the seller and the buyer would like to know. Thus, the industry has for decades been looking for a technical solution where the analysis can be made in real time with high accuracy, provide a complete analysis of the biomass and with no demand for a lab with lab skilled personnel. In this search, the industry has tested many different technologies and products but none of them have so far met the customers requirements. Mantex Biofuel Analyzer is about to meet all those requirements.

The need for Mantex Biofuel Analyzer is so strong globally that, although it’s not yet ready for volume production Mantex have already got several agreements with customers covering up to 10-year measurement services as well as a long line of customers waiting to place orders when Mantex can accept them.

Mantex Biofuel Analyzer provides a solution where the industry can improve their trading handling regarding pricing and quality control in a very easy and fast way. It also enables improved process control resulting in both cost savings and positive environmental effects. Potentially it also enables the industry to renew the existing classification systems, that today include irrelevant information like the origin of the biomass and process methods used. In the future the classifications can be based not only on parameters that count, like energy content, ash content, moisture content, fraction size but also on levels of dangerous content like Chlorine, Sulphur, etc.

All in all, Mantex Biofuel Analyzer can revolutionize the biomass analysis capability throughout the global Bioenergy industry and thus being part of reducing environmental impact, improving process control and saving costs for all parties in this industry.
From the factory acceptance tests - stable biofuel flow into tube conveyor
Mantex mobile online biofuel measurement lab outside Mantex' premises
Mantex BioFuel Analyzer in Swedish magazine Bioenergitidningen no 3 2018.