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Coleraine Biomass Conversion Lab

Two men walk by large machinery


NRRI's Biomass Conversion Lab at its Coleraine, Minn., facility began operation in 2016. This $2.5 million project enhances the understanding of a variety of commercial-scale processes, characterizing their efficiency, industry application and environmental impact. The technologies convert woody biomass and agricultural byproducts into renewable, regional fuel products that can be used in combination with coal, diesel and propane. These biomass-based fuels have the potential to reduce sulfur, mercury and nitrogen oxide emissions. The goal is to move bio-based solid and liquid fuels to commercial scale.

Biomass conversion to solid fuels

  • Torrefaction: A roasting process that converts biomass into a solid fuel with properties similar to coal in combustibility and BTU output. NRRI has an indirect-fired rotary kiln torrefaction and briquetting process that will produce 4-6 tons of biofuel a day. Wood chips and other biomass will be used as feedstock. A steam-electric boiler/generator system will run in parallel to the kiln to produce 100 kilowatts per day from a moving bed torrefaction system, producing three tons of solid biofuel a day.
  • Hydrothermal Carbonization: This "wet" torrefaction process captures 100 percent of the carbon in the biomass to produce a biochar slurry material. This material will be tested as a binder material.

Biomass conversion to liquid fuels

  • SynGas (Synthesis Gas): This process will test production with an ilmenite catalyst. This low-cost process efficiently converts biomass-based, low hydrogen syngas into hydrocarbon liquid fuels.

Special Projects

  • Coalition for Sustainable Rail: Installation and demo of steam generated electricity