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Coleraine Biomass Conversion Lab


Three men wearing safety gear

NRRI's Biomass Conversion Lab at its Coleraine, Minn., facility began operation in 2016. This $4.0 million project enhances the understanding of a variety of commercial-scale processes, characterizing their efficiency, industry application and environmental impact. The technologies (indirectly heated rotary kiln and a moving bed reactor) convert woody biomass and agricultural byproducts into renewable, regional fuel products and more advanced materials that can be used for solid fuels, biochars, and other advanced carbon products These biomass-based, energy-enhanced products have the potential to reduce sulfur, mercury and nitrogen oxide emissions. The goal is to move bio-based solid materials into value-added products that can reduce the need for coal and petroleum to provide future fuels, fillers and chemicals.

Key Services and Equipment

Biomass conversion to solid fuels and advanced products

Man looks small standing next to tall machineryTorrefaction and beyond:
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 2-4 tons of energy enhanced solids/d. Wood chips and other biomass will be used as feedstock. In addition, it is currently commissioning a moving bed reactor that employs super-heated steam to process biomass to an energy enhanced state. A steam-based boiler/electric generator system will run in parallel to the moving bed reactor to produce 100 kilowatts per day and will produce up to three tons of solid biofuel a day. The kiln has the capability of going to process temperatures as high as 2,012oF allowing production of biochar and activated carbon products at the facility.

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
  • Xcel RDF 4-11: Demonstrating the Potential for Distributed Power Generation using Converted Biomass
  • Creating biochar from agricultural and woody biomass materials
  • Producing torrefied fuels from ponderosa pine and other Western wood species