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BIOMASS FEEDSTOCKS PREPARATION METHODS FOR ENERGY PRODUCTION AND ITS ECONOMIC EVALUATION

R. Ramos Casado, L.E. Esteban Pascual CIEMAT - CEDER N-111 Road, 206 km. 42290 Lubia Soria. SPAIN Phone +34 975281013 Fax +34 975281051 E-mail: raquel.ramos@ciemat.es INTRODUCTION Biomass gasification allows the conversion of different biomass feedstocks to a more convenient gaseosus fuel that can be used in conventional equipment (e.g. boilers, engines and turbines) or advanced equipment (e.g. fuel cells) for the generation of heat and electricity. The conversion to a gaseosus fuel provides a wider choice to technologies for heat and electricity generation for small to large scale application. In general, the conversion of biomass to heat and electricity via gasification involves the following steps: biomass storage and transport, size reduction, drying, feeding, gasification, fuel gas cleaning and ash disposal and recycling. The former of these activities are also typical of combustion system in which biomass feedstocks are valorised. Biomass includes many different materials, most of them are very heterogeneous and it has low density. Many operations are involved in pre-treatment of the feedstocks to obtain materials suitable to be introduced into the feeding system of the combustion or gasification process. Size distribution and moisture content affecting the flow behaviour and the process himself, therefore size control and drying operations have are relevant tasks. Biomass particle size affects gasification reaction rates and gas composition. Since comminution operations are expensive and energy intensive, there is a trade-off, in terms of cost and energy, between particle size reduction and yield and characteristics of the product gas. Besides the biomass particle size is determined by adopted gasification system. The use of bio fuels in densified forms, like pellets, may be a challenge because particles of the same size are formed from heterogeneous materials. The costs of pellets production are high, and only if gasification of pellets optimize the product gas composition could be considered this option. In the scope of Spanish project on-cultivos (www.oncultivos.es) about energy crops, CIEMAT is working on gasification of biomass materials. The gasifier is an atmospheric circulanting fluidized bed placed in CEDER (Centre of Development of Renewable Energies). This work present an evaluation of the energy demanded to prepare this type of biomass feedstock. Two possibilities are considered: only size reduction and pelletization. MATERIALS AND METHODS Rape straw and poplar wood have been chosen as materials to feed the circulating bed gasifier. Rape (brassica genus) is a crop adapted to unirrigated zones and it is delivered directly from the land harvested as bales of straw. On the other hand, poplar has been growed using densities up to 10.000 plants per hectare and harvesting in short rotation with cycles less than five years. Generally woody materials are crushed into chips on the land.

In table 1 the properties of raw materials are shown. The moisture content is very high in poplar chips, but the natural drying of wood in the storage place during 3 or 4 month is enough to decrease the moisture until 25%. The low ash content of this type of materials improves the thermal balance in the process, and reduces the occlusion and loss of carbon in the residue. The composition of nitrogen in feedstock leads to the formation of ammonia (NH3). Elements such as sulfur and chlorine lead to the formation of corrosive gas components such as H2S and HCl. In this sense woody materials have better properties than herbaceous ones. Table 1.- Chemical characteristics of raw materials Bulk Moisture Ash N S density content content (% d.b.) (% d.b.) (kg/m3) (%) (% d.b.) 125 140 10 - 15 40 - 55 4-8 1,5 - 3 1,4 1,7 0,1- 0,3 0,3 - 0,8 0,02-0,03

BIOMASS FEEDSTOCK RAPE (Brassica) POPLAR

Cl (% d.b.) 0,1 - 0,4 <0,01

The comminution methods used for size reduction of materials involves three steps: chopping or shredding, cutting and milling. The raw material harvested as bales of straw is fed firstly to a circular chopper (15 kW of drive power) and then it is transported by pneumatic transport into a knife mill (35 kW of drive power), where simultaneously it is sieved at 10 mm of particle diameter. However woody raw material, delivered as chips, is introduced to a shredder (22 kW of drive power) of double axis and then it is conveyed into the knife mill. In both cases a hammer mill (11 kW of drive power) is used to reduce the particle diameter from 10 to 4 mm. The material prepared in this way is able to be pressed in the biomass pellet plant. The facility comprises a feeding system which allows the possibility of blends up three different materials, a pellet press and a cooling and bagging equipment. The pellet press is a flat die type Amandus Kahl 33-500 of 30 kW of drive power, equipped with a hydraulic system able to generate a pressure up to 110 bar. Two variables of the process are included: - Specific mass flow calculated as the kilogram of dry matter per hour and per kilowatt of drive power (kg/h./kW) - Specific energy calculated as power per ton of dry matter (kWh/t) Distribution particle size, moisture output and bulk density after the pre-treatment are also evaluated.

RESULTS A- Milled biomass The fluidizing bed technology requires small particles sizes of materials around a few centimetres. The milling of raw materials until 10 mm sieve aperture was considered firstly. As it is showed in table 2, the specific energy consume to size reduction of straw is one order of magnitude higher than to reduce the size of woody material. Therefore it takes into account that woody materials is delivered already as chips.

Table 2.- Evaluation of milling cost SPECIFIC SPECIFIC BULK BIOMASS RAW PROCESS MASS FLOW ENERGY DENSITY FEEDSTOCK MATERIAL (Kg/h. kW) (kWh/t) (kg/m3) CHOP + MILL RAPE Big bale 6,3 114 185 (Sieve 10 mm) SHRED + MILL POPLAR Chips 31,9 38 190 (Sieve 10 mm) The bulk density of both materials is similar, close to 190 kg/m3. Studying the distribution particle size curves (figures 1 and 2) it can be seen that the amount of particles less than 1 mm (fine particles) is much higher in the herbaceous materials like rape straw. A percentage of fine particles close to 60%is produced in rape straw milling. However this value is less than 30% in wood poplar milling.
RAPE (BRASSICA)
100

Cumulative percentage undersize (d.b.)

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 0,01

0,1

10

100

Sieve aperture (mm)

Figure 1.- Distribution particle size of milled rape straw to 10 mm of sieve aperture.

POPLAR
100

Cumulative percentage undersize (d.b.)

90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 0,01

0,1

10

100

Sieve aperture (mm)

Figure 2.- Distribution particle size of milled poplar wood to 10 mm of sieve aperture.

B- Pelletized biomass The pellets are produced from the milled material with 4 mm of sieve aperture in both cases given enough to pelletize with 6 mm opening. The values of specific energy consumed that are shown in table 3, point out that the total energy demanded to pelletize the rape (181 kWh/t) is higher than the poplar (136kWh/t). However, in the rape straw case more than half of the total energy is inverted in communition (121 of 181 kWh/t ) and in the poplar chips case the energy consumed for size reduction (64 kWh/t) is similar than for pressing process (72 kWh/t). Table 3.- Evaluation of pelletizing cost SPECIFIC BIOMASS INPUT MASS STAGE FEEDSTOCK MATERIAL FLOW (kg/h.kW) CHOP + MILL Big bale 6,3 (Sieve 10 mm) RAPE MILLING Milled to 10 mm 54,8 (Sieve 4 mm) Milled to 4 mm PELLETIZING 10 SHRED + MILL Chips 31,9 (Sieve 10 mm) POPLAR MILLING Milled to 10 mm 20,7 (Sieve 4 mm) Milled to 4 mm PELLETIZING 8

SPECIFIC BULK ENERGY DENSITY (kWh/t) (kg/m3) 114 7 60 38 26 72 185 245 600 190 210 670

The table 4 gathers the characteristics of produced pellets. It is worth pointing out that: - The moisture content of pellets is uniform, close to 10%. - The density of pellets is up to 4,5 times the density of raw materials. - The pellets size is very homogeneous. Table 4.- Characteristics of pellets. BULK BIOMASS PARTICLE SIZE MOISTURE DENSITY FEEDSTOCK (mm) CONTENT (%) (kg/m3) RAPE Diameter: 6 600 10,4 (Brassica) Length : 15-25 Diameter: 6 POPLAR 670 9,7 Length : 15-25

HEAT VALUE LHV (MJ/kg d.b.) 15.3 16.8

CONCLUSION Milling and pelletizing are energy intensive process. Pellets have physical characteristics as lower moisture, homogeneous size and higher density respect to the biomass feedstocks that justified the pelletizing energy cost.