28 June 2010 – Topell Energy and RWE Innogy have laid the foundation stone at Duiven in the Dutch province of Gelderland for the first commercial-scale plant for the production of biocoal pellets.
The plant with a production capacity of 60 000 tonnes per year will be realized by Topell Nederland, a joint venture of RWE Innogy (49.9 per cent) and Topell Energy (50.1 per cent). It is due to be commissioned early in 2011. The investment in the plant will total some EUR15m ($18.5m).
These pellets can be used in both dedicated biomass power plants and coal-fired power plants of RWE in Europe. Compared with a conventional German hard coal-fired power plant, their use can save about 1 million tonnes of CO2 per year.
RWE Innogy had already taken a share in the young, Dutch technology company Topell Energy two years ago as part of its venture capital activities. The ceremony was attended the Dutch Economics Minister Maria van der Hoeven and Dr. Leonhard Birnbaum, member of the Executive Board of RWE AG, Ewout Maaskant, CEO of Topell Energy and Peter Terium, CEO of Essent N.V.
Dr. Leonhard Birnbaum, member of the Executive Board of RWE AG: “Our commitment to Topell was the very first venture capital investment of RWE Innogy. Today shows that our decision was right. Our intention was to commercialise a new process for the production of efficient biocoal, which significantly improves and extends the potential applications of biomass.
“As a leading operator of coal fired power plants, we consider it to be our responsibility to reduce the CO2 emissions of electricity generation as much as possible. The plant whose foundation stone we are laying today is another major step in this direction.”
The process developed by Topell enables the continuous production of biocoal pellets on an industrial scale. The manufacturing process is highly flexible in terms of raw material input. Biocoal is easily transported. When co-fired with conventional coal, no additional infrastructural measures are required, such as separate storage and pulverisation.
RWE’s Dutch subsidiary Essent will be the first company to use the biocoal pellets over a period of five years for combustion in the Amer coal fired power plants. Significant CO2 reductions can be achieved by replacing fossil energy sources by biomass.
Prof. Fritz Vahrenholt, Chief Executive Officer of RWE Innogy: “With the torrefaction of biomass we are solving three problems in one go, with which biomass is currently still struggling: Unlike woodchips used for conventional combustion, the biocoal pellets have a significantly higher energy density and much more homogeneous combustion properties. This is why they can ideally be transported, stored and burned with coal. This can decarbonise an existing infrastructure.”
Ewout Maaskant, Chief Executive Officer of Topell Energy, pointed out: “Torrefaction is a key process to upgrade biomass as to enable large-scale co-firing with coal. The Topell Energy plant in Duiven is one of the first and most innovative torrefaction plants worldwide. The start of its construction is an important step in fulfilling our ambition to play a key role as integrated technology provider for torrefaction solutions in a fast-growing market, such facilitated by Topell Energy’s proven reactor technology and highly scalable torrefaction process.”