A newly developed process produces a biocarbon fuel that can replace coal, using only organic waste. The production itself is carbon-neutral, and produces lower levels of other waste like nitrogen, sulfur, and chlorine. The technique was developed by Ingelia, a Spanish company, according to Business Insider.
The substance, called biochar, burns just like coal, with the same energy production potential. Yet, the process of producing biochar, from waste such as compost and sewage, is clean and sustainable.
Biochar was developed by Ingelia’s founder and CEO, Marisa Hernández, alongside two partners at the company.
Hernández explained the process:
“Under specific pressure and temperature conditions, 20 bars and 200ºC, we dehydrate the organic matter and siphon off the humid matter in liquid form. In other words, we concentrate 95% of the carbon in the waste.”
Most waste, such as nitrogen and sulfur, are removed in the residual liquid. The process produces a final product that is solid, dry, and cylindrical.
Performing the process in a closed tank helps to contain the odor released by the process, making production viable even in populated areas. The process is already in use in the company’s plants in the UK, Italy, and Spain.
In Italy, the country’s largest sewage manager is using the process in Tuscany, at a plant that treats 80,000 tons of sewage annually. A treatment plant in Belgium is also planning to implement the process.
“Compared with a standard composting or a biogas plant where the process takes around 30 days, the timescale for our method is as little as eight hours,” said Hernández. “We use the organic collection of trash, the organic portion of municipal waste, sewage from treatment plants, and even waste from gardening,”
The material can also be used for batteries, or to produce biopolymers like plastics.
Ingelia is planning to capture 3 percent of the waste management market in Europe, and are already in negotiations with most of Spain’s waste management companies. They earned $2.29 million in net sales in 2017, and are expecting to end this year with $3.44 million. They expect the real uptick to come next year, projecting $28.4 million, and as much as $107 million in 2022.
“With our process, by 2022 we’d be able to replace 220,000 tons of coal per year and avoid the emission of half a million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.”