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Fuel usage of peat in industrial times
1st edition
2016 Prof. Dr J. Clifford Jones &
ISBN 978-87-403-1501-1

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Preface 8

1 Electricity generation 9
1.1 Introduction 9
1.2 Shatura Power Station, Moscow Oblast 9
1.3 Rwanda 10
1.4 Finland 13
1.5 The Republic of Ireland 14
1.6 Estonia 15
1.7 Indonesia 16
1.8 Irish peat fired power stations no longer in service 16
1.9 Sweden 17
1.10 Lithuania 17
1.11 Further information and background on the structure of depositions 19
1.12 References 20

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2 Briquetted and Pelletised Peat 22

2.1 Background 22
2.2 Country-by-country production of briquettes 22
2.3 Pelletised peat 25
2.4 Concluding remarks 26
2.5 References 26

3 Carbonised Peat 28
3.1 Experimental investigations 28
3.2 Carbonised peat products 31
3.3 Concluding remarks 32
3.4 References 33

4 Combustion and related applications internationally 35

4.1 Table of examples 35
4.2 Further remarks 43
4.3 References 44

5 Gasification and Liquefaction of Peat 47

5.1 Producer gas 47
5.2 Retorting 49
5.3 Steam gasification 52
5.4 Liquid fuels from peat via Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) 53
5.5 Further remarks 54
5.6 References 54

6 Carbon sequestration 55
6.1 Comparisons with carbon sequestration by trees 55
6.2 Further remarks 66
6.3 References 67

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7 Domestic heating with peat 70

7.1 Introduction 70
7.2 Historical examples 70
7.3 Stoves and fireplaces 73
7.4 Air requirements 75
7.5 References 77

8 Hazards with peat 78

8.1 Spontaneous heating 78
8.2 Dust explosions 78
8.3 Peat fires 81
8.4 References 83

Postscript 84

Endnotes 85

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Dedicated to:
Lois Stratford

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This is one of a succession of books on fuels which I have published with Ventus. I have
been encouraged by numbers of downloadings of the earlier ones and hope that this book
on peat might similarly perform.

Clifford Jones.

Churchill, Victoria.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

Peat is formed from decaying vegetation over a period of thousands or tens of thousands
of years and is the precursor to coal. It has been used as a fuel since time immemorial.
This book is concerned with its fuel use in the current milieu. Properties of peat will be
discussed as they arise in descriptions and accounts of its industrial use.


This power station, now operated by E.ON, began producing electricity commercially in
1925, initially with peat as the sole fuel. There was gradual partial adoption of other fuels,
and by the early years of the 21st Century the fuel mix contained around 10% peat, balance
natural gas, fuel oil and coal: this continues. The nameplate capacity is 1493 MW. Plate 1.1
below shows the power station as it now looks.

Plate 1.1. Shatura power station, Russia. Image taken from:

The peat used at Shatura is locally sourced. It now has combined cycle generation whereby the
residual heat from gas turbine generation is diverted to generation from a steam turbine [2].
The plant dates back to when not all of the region was supplied with electricity, and was
part of a move towards wider electrification (see footnote). Peat was the sole fuel up to
the 1980s [3]1. Full-scale production was preceded by a trial plant which produced 5MW
of electricity and was commissioned in late July 19202. By that time there was extensive
production of the peat for domestic heating, and electricity from this unit was used to
power the machinery for that.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

Notwithstanding the dual gas- and steam turbines now at Shatura as noted, we have to
conjecture that the 5 MW pilot generator there used a steam turbine as gas turbines did not
come into use in electricity production until about 20 years later [5]. If the steam turbine
used saturated steam efficiency would have been in the neighbourhood of 30%. If we
postulate that the peat had experienced some natural drying without any further dewatering
its calorific value would have been 10 MJ kg-1. These data provide a route to estimating
the rate of use of peat at the 5 MW plant at Shatura and this is in the boxed area below.

5 MW of electricity requires 5/0.3 = 16.7 MW of heat, requiring peat supply at:

16.7 106 J s-1/(10 106 J kg-1) = 1.67 kg s-1 or 144 tonne per day.

The plant at Shatura has expanded from 180 MW to its present capacity over the decades, a
major change being the installation of natural gas burners in the 1980s. Where a peat fired
power plant is in need of refurbishment fluidised bed combustion is seen as being suitable,
and that this applies to Shatura has been noted [6] (see also section 1.3.2).

Before moving on from Russia to a totally different part of the world, the fact that there
is abundant peat on Sakhalin Island and that it is being considered for fuel use [7] will be
mentioned. At present there is major power production from lignite at Sakhalin. There is
a little more on Russia in Section 1.9.


Two such facilities are at the development stage in Rwanda, where the benefits of locally
obtained peat over expensive exported fuels are seen as being important to the economy.
The two will be considered in turn.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation


Construction of this began in 2015. Production at a nameplate capacity of 80MW is

expected by 2020, with peat as the sole fuel. It will burn the peat in a fluidised bed. The
location is 75 km from the national capital Kigali. The time to completion depends not
only on building and commissioning but also on setting up the peat supply. The peat will
be obtained from the South Akanyaru deposit, also in Gisagara. The peat will need to be
harvested, air dried (over two to three days: it is mechanically turned during drying) and
stockpiled. A calculation similar to that in section 1.2 for Shatura reveals that of the order
of 2000 tonne per day of the peat will be needed. Plate 1.2 below shows peat from the
South Akanyaru deposit. South Akanyaru peat is moderate in ash, 620%.

Plate 1.2. Peat from the South Akanyaru deposit, Rwanda. Image taken from:

A longer term view of power from peat in Rwanda is taken in [9], in which the following
information is given. Although South Akanyaru is currently the only peat reserve in Rwanda
to be drawn on for electricity production there are several other such reserves. The quantity
at South Akanyaru, estimated as an equivalent amount of dried peat, is 69 million tonnes.
The total known amounts are 155 million tonnes, calculated to be capable of producing
500 MW of electricity over a 30 year period. (See also section 7.4.)

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation


A distance of 200 km from Kigali, this plant is intended to produce 15 MW of electricity

from peat. The construction project has met with difficulties [10]. Even so, it is expected
after significant delays to be producing electricity in the second half of 2016. It will use
peat from nearby. Gishoma is expected to supply power to a cement works, an arrangement
which was intended to be in place for 25 years. However, questions have been raised as to
whether the peat in close proximity to the proposed station will be enough to sustain it
that long. The quantity of peat required for 15 MW would, on the basis of the calculation
in section 1.2, be expected to require (3 144) = 432 tonnes per day of peat. This is in
fact exactly the daily amount stated in [11]3, and the concern is that if local peat became
depleted this would have to be transported from other deposits including Akanyaru.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation


Details of these are given in Table 1.1, which is followed by comments.

Name of the plant Details

Wood, coal and peat used as fuels, which can be fired together. Combined
heat and power (CHP): electricity for the grid and heat for local industries
including a paper mill. A change in the 1990s from burning peat as p.f. to
burning it in a fluidised bed. 418 GWh of electricity in 2005.

Also CHP. In service since 1977. Current fuel mix 65% peat, balance wood

Table 1.1. Finnish peat fired power stations.

Wood and peat are the only naturally occurring fuels in Finland. It is recorded in [12] that
the peat as fired at Rauhalahti has a calorific value of 10 MJ kg-1 (see endnote 4). The figure
given for 2005 electricity production converts to a rate of supply of:

418 109 Wh/(365 24 h) = 48 MW

Not only was there performance enhancement by replacement of pulverised fuel burning
with a fluidised bed, but also a reduction in nitric oxide emissions [13] enabling the plant
to comply with Finnish standards [13]. On the negative side emissions of nitrous oxide, a
greenhouse gas, were raised by use of a fluidised bed instead of pulverised fuel [14]. Wood
usage has exceeded peat usage at the plant since 1998. Finland has over 1 billion tonnes of
recoverable peat [15]. It finds thermal application other than in power generation, as will
be described later in the book.

Plate 1.3 below shows the Toppila power plant, the nameplate capacity of which is 210 MW
of electricity, and this is from two generating units.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

Plate 1.3. Toppila power plant, Finland. Image taken from:

The peat used at Topilla has been examined for slagging propensity [17] and it is noted that
slag formation had sometimes caused shutdown. Slagging of course means ash deposition on
to surfaces and consolidation there. Five peat samples four from the deposit that serves
Topilla and one from elsewhere were examined in [17]. The ash from each of these was
analysed and the slagging index (Rs) determined. The scale of this is such that Rs > 2.6
indicates severe slagging whilst Rs < 0.6 signifies non-slagging. Two of the four ashes from
the Finnish peats had Rs values not far from unity, indicating significant slagging. The other
two had Rs values of 0.2 and 0.1, indicating no slagging4. For a little more on Finland
see Table 8.1.



This power plant in Ireland began operations in 2000 when it was solely peat fired. Since
2008 it has co-fired with biomass and ultimate aim is 30% biomass [18]. It uses fluidised
bed combustion. The output of electricity is up to 128 MW from a single steam turbine,
and peat combustion is 1 million tonnes annually.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation


This power plant (below) entered service in 2005. It uses peat to generate at 100 MW.

Plate 1.4 Lough Ree Power Station, Ireland. Image taken from:

Its presence is seen by some in the community as depleting the local peat reserves to the
jeopardy of the area.


This uses peat to provide steam for a turbine rated at 150 MW. The peat is burnt in a
fluidised bed. The plant has been in service since 2004.


There has been peat fired electricity generation on the site of Vo since circa 1920. The
present plant dates only from 2009, and uses peat and wood chips. Using a CHP cycle, it
produces 25 MW of electricity and 49 MW of heat. A second power plant at Vo is under
construction which, using the same fuel mix as the original one, will produce 21.4 MW
of power and 76.5 MW of heat [19].

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

The country has enormous reserves of peat, but an examination of possible power generation
from it in the 1980s led to a negative outcome. There was further interest in circa 2006
because of the aging of some of the oil fields in Indonesia, when imported peat was
proposed. There is one small power station in southern Sumatra which is peat fired [20].
See also section 6.1.


These include that at Portarlington, which generated over the period 19501988 [21, 22].
It used lumps of peat (sods) therefore required grate combustion, and it is noted in [23]
that a chain grate stoker was used at Portarlington. Peat in lump form was at that stage the
sole fuel, and Portarlington had two steam turbines each capable of producing 12.5 MW.
Reference [23] gives the condition of the steam as 425 pounds per square inch and 825oF
(29.3 bar, 441oC), and consultation of steam tables reveals that the steam must therefore
have had a high degree of superheating.



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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

The Allenwood power station, also in Ireland, was in service from 19521994. It used peat
in sod form as fuel. In 1952 there was a debate in the Irish legislature5 on Allenwood [24]
some points from which are paraphrased below.

i) Peat was being taken from Dublin to Allenwood in spite of the availability of peat
near Allenwood.
ii) Peat from near Allenwood was used for purposes other than electricity generation,
and the Electricity Supply Board was prepared to buy any surplus whilst continuing
to source peat from merchants in Dublin.
iii) Some peat was being transported from the vicinity of Allenwood to Dublin, then
back to Allenwood6.
iv) Peat from near Allenwood was all hand-won, whereas it was the policy of the
Electricity Supply Board to use machine-won peat.
v) The Electricity Supply Board conceded that it was cheaper to use hand-won peat
than to use imported coal.

Allenwood produced electricity at 40 MW. See section 3.2 for more on Allenwood peat.

There was major use of peat to generate electricity in Belarus up to 1986 [25]. It was replaced
by oil and natural gas. That was of course when Belarus was still part of the Soviet Union.
As is usual there are different varieties of peat and they include Carex peat, an example of
a sedge peat.

There are a number of power plants in Sweden using peat amongst other fuels. They include
rtofta (39 MW CHP), Dva-2 (30 MW CHP) and Karlskoga (15 MW CHP). The E.ON
power plant at Abyverket uses peat amongst other fuels.

The Fortum Klaipda CHP plant uses 5% peat in the fuel balance [26]. A photograph
of this facility forms plate 1.5 below. There is also major household use of peat as a fuel
in Lithuania.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

Plate 1.5. Fortum Klaipda CHP plant, Lithuania.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation


When coal is being used in power generation the rank of coal is of great importance. One
does not use the term rank for peat, although one might use the term maturity. Groups
on this basis are fibric, hemic or sapric in ascending order of maturity [27, 28]7. With a
peat neither maturity nor the nature of the original plant deposition is invariant along a
depth profile. Also important in a coal is the type, dependent on the nature of the plant
decomposition and expressible by petrographic analysis.

The maturity of a particular peat is dependent on time since deposition. Varieties of peat
include sphagnum peat having originated from mosses of that genus as well as sedge peat
whose botanical precursor is grass-like. The co-existence of several such varieties at a peat
deposit means that in an application such as electricity generation characterisation of the
peat is imprecise. Such details are not however totally lacking, for example sphagnum peat
forms a major part of Finlands peat reserves. Interesting though these features maturity
and botanical origin are, they do not play a part in thermal utilisation of peats to the
degree that their equivalents for coal do.

Though it is very much the exception rather than the rule, peats do sometimes show signs
of maceral presence. A maceral is of course the organic counterpart, roughly speaking, of a
mineral and maceral analysis is central to coal characterisation. The analogy with minerals
goes further: whereas in an inorganic formation there are identifiable minerals and amorphous
rock in a coal there are macerals and groundmass. The discussion of variation of botanical
variation within a layer of peat can be taken further by considering the peat later in its
development where it has become lignite. In is totally intuitive that differences in botanical
composition and in maturity will determine which part of the peat becomes macerals and
which becomes groundmass. One occasionally encounters the term peaty groundmass in
a petrographic account of a lignite.

Peat usage in power generation is fairly minor on the world scene, the countries reviewed
in this chapter being the only ones engaged in it. Hypothetical production of power from
the vast peat reserves of Bangladesh is covered in Chapter 4. It is interesting to note that
although the USA has never had a peat fired power generation programme expertise from
that country was drawn on by the Russian power industry before the days of the Cold
War [29]. At Nayiza, 50 miles from St. Petersburg, peat fired power was put in place by
American experts as a Technical Exchange Scheme and that part of Russia became known
as Amerika. Since the demise of peat fired electricity in that part of Russia, Amerika has
become an extremely cold ghost town.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Electricity generation

[9] Hakizimana K.J. de D.K., Yoon S-P., Kang T-J, Kima H-T, , Jeon Y-S, Choi Y-C.
Potential for peat-to-power usage in Rwanda and associated implications Energy
Strategy Reviews (2016)
[10] What stalled Gishoma Peat Power project? New York Times 4th March 2015.
[13] Rauhalahti BFB boiler cuts emission Fuel and Energy Abstracts September 1995
p. 375.
[14] Ohlstrom M.O., Lehtinen K.E.J., Moisio M., Jokiniemi J.K. Fine-particle emissions
of energy production in Finland Atmospheric Environment 34 37013711 (2000).
[17] Heikkinen R., Laitinen R.S., Patrikainen T., Tiainen M., Virtanen M. Slagging
tendency of peat ash Fuel Processing Technology 56 6980 (1998).

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[25] Trinnaman J., Clarke A. (Eds.) 2004 Survey of Energy Resources Elsevier accessible
online as an e-book.



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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Briquetted and Pelletised Peat

To briquette a solid fuel is of course to mould it into a regular shape, and across the range
of solid fuels coals of all ranks and biomass there has been briquetting. This chapter
is concerned with peat in that form. Plate 2.1 below shows a package of briquettes made
from Irish peat. These are binderless.

Plate 2.1. Briquettes of Irish peat. Image taken from:


This will be discussed in the form of a table followed by further details.

Country Details of peat briquette production

Production at places including Portarlington in the 19th Century. Com-

mencement of commercial production in 1941 to ease reliance on imported
coal [1]. Briquette factories at places including Lullymore, Croghan and
Derrinlough [2].

Over three quarters of the peat briquettes distributed within Belarus put to
Belarus. residential use [6]. Eighteen peat briquette factories in Belarus. Export on a
large scale (see below). Predicted increase in production up to 2020.

Estonia. Briquette production currently at a low ebb. See comments in the main text.

Russia. Production of peat briquettes at Bor in Siberia.

Table 2.2. Peat briquette combustion.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Briquetted and Pelletised Peat

It is interesting to note that commercial production of briquettes in Ireland predates the

Portarlington and Allenwood power stations, which nevertheless used peat sods. The output
of each of these was moderate, and higher output had it been required could have been
obtained by substitution of briquettes for raw lumps.

At the time of its closure in 1992, the briquette factory at Lullymore in Co. Kildare was
one of four briquetting factories operated by Bord na Mna, still functioning as a provider
of electricity amongst other services, which was brought into being by the Turf [Peat]
Development Act 19468. In 1992 the four factories were producing between them 560000
tonnes annually of peat briquettes [3], whereas it was estimated that there was a market
only for 400000 tonnes, and further decline was expected. Lullymore was identified as the
factory having the highest production costs of the four.

The briquette factory at Croghan was closed in 2000, having commenced production in
1961. By 1970 it was producing 137000 tonnes annually [4]. The method of briquetting
at the Bord na Mna factories of the period was as follows. Each of the factories received
about 1000 Imperial tons per day of milled peat, which was first made as homogeneous
as possible by being placed on a belt and allowed to fall under gravity to form a layer of
about 8 m depth. Attention was paid to moisture content, ash content and bulk density
of the peat so assembled. In order that the supply of peat along the path to the pressing
stage should be uniform and consistent, this was followed by levelling of the peat. Drying
followed using heat obtained from burning pulverised peat. The force experienced by the
peat in the press was 7 Imperial tons weight 70 kN.

Peat briquettes continue to be made in Ireland and some find their way across to Great Britain9.
Bord na Mna currently manufacture peat briquettes at Littleton and at Derrinlough [5],
and marketing is directed at household users. The process is (as noted) binderless.

Moving on to Belarus, it is reported in [7] that in 2010 a quantity of 2.93 million tonnes
of peat briquettes was produced in that country and that 1.69 million tonnes were exported.
Countries receiving peat briquettes from Belarus include Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland
and Germany. In June 2016 the Swedish company Vattenfall entered into a contract to
purchase peat briquettes from Belarus [8].

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Briquetted and Pelletised Peat

This is a suitable point in the book to introduce the matter of depletion of peat deposits
and effects of that on carbon dioxide. The peatlands of the world are seen as a carbon
dioxide sink possibly as important as the trees of the world in their carbon sequestration
role (see Chapter 6). On the time scale of coalification, microbial action ceases with
peat and subsequent transformation is geochemical. A peat deposit however experiences
microbial activity, and the microbial population of a peat deposit is large and varied. Some
micro-organisms function aerobically and some anaerobically. Decomposition by microbes
to carbon dioxide can be via methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) subsequently oxidised
by microbial action. One might intuitively expect that humic acid decomposition would
contribute to carbon dioxide release. However lignites, to which peat is the precursor, are
rich in humic acids indicating that the humic acids are not lost even on the time scale of
coalification. To this can be added the fact that the carboxyl and phenol structures in peat
represent carbon already in a higher oxidation state than elemental.


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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Briquetted and Pelletised Peat

An appreciation of the above can be obtained from an examination of typical analysis figures
for a peat. A Finnish peat had oxygen content 35.5% [9], signifying the oxidised carbon in
its structure as carboxylic groups and phenolic groups. A peat in situ can have a moisture
content as high as 80% and this leads to a further point of importance. Peat decomposition
is restricted by waterlogged conditions at peatlands [10]. So to drain a peatland even without
subsequently burning the peat will also have effects relevant to carbon dioxide build-up. In
Belarus as well as more widely the effects of peat fuel usage on carbon dioxide levels is of
some concern, and there are moves to offer wood briquettes instead of peat briquettes to
some users. Wood is carbon-neutral: the fact that peat is not, and the reason why, have been
emphasised in a recent contribution to the literature [11]. Two further points will be made:

i) Peatlands have been drained not to obtain the peat as fuel but to free up land for
agriculture, in which case one would expect the highly humic peat to provide a
good growth medium for crops. Peatlands have also been drained to make space
for the planting of trees.
ii) Peatland once drained can be restored by re-wetting [12]. This has in fact taken
place in Belarus [13], where carbon credits have ensued (see section 5.4). Even so
this is not always totally effective, as has been discovered in the Iraqi wetlands. In
Estonia (next row of the table) Sangla Turvas, a major producer of peat briquettes,
was declared bankrupt in 2015, and its assets have been taken over by another
company who intend to resume production [14]. The peatlands of Siberia (next
row) also contain natural gas hydrates, and recent evidence that these are releasing
methane increasingly rapidly is causing concern [15]. Methane is of course a more
powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.


Generic quantities for peat pellets are given in [16] as:

Moisture Content: 510%

Ash Content: 1%5%

Sulphur Content: 0.06%

Calorific Value: 1721 GJ tonne-1

Diameters commonly available: 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 12mm.

Bulk Density: 700750 kg m-3

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Briquetted and Pelletised Peat

There has since 2006 been a peat pelletising factory at Gusevskiy in Russia [17]. This takes
3 tonnes per hour of milled peat and converts that to pellets. The moisture content of the
pellets is such that major drying is required in their manufacture and this is carried out
simultaneously with particle size reduction in a drum dryer (see below).

Plate 2.2. Drum dryer at the peat pelletising factory at Gusevskiy. Image taken from [17].

The peat pellets from Gusevskiy contain no binder, are of low sulphur and low ash. So they
have the makings of a very satisfactory general-purpose solid fuel.


Limited but not insignificant usage of peat in these beneficiated forms is taking place.
Expansion has to be weighed against protection of peatlands as noted and an awareness of
their importance to carbon sequestration. There is more on carbon sequestration in Chapter 6.

[1] Bielenberg A., Ryan R. An Economic History of Ireland since Independence
Routledge (2013) accessible online as an e-book.
[7] Raslavicius L. Renewable energy sector in Belarus: A review Renewable and
Sustainable Energy Reviews 16 53995413 (2012).

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Briquetted and Pelletised Peat

[10] Smith J., Nayak D.R., Smith P. Wind farms on undegraded peatlands are unlikely
to reduce future carbon emissions Energy Policy 66 585591 (2014).
[11] Jones J.C. Biomass-peat blends and carbon neutrality Fuel 158 1016 (2015).


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Table 3.1 below gives accounts of some research into carbonised peat. The table is followed
by comments.

Reference Details

Rwanda: evaluation of carbonised briquettes as cooking fuel. Peat briquettes

carbonised at 450oC.

A Turkish lignite and a Turkish peat co-pyrolysed at 900oC under argon in a

thermogravimetric analyser.

[3] Samples of Russian peat carbonised in a microwave oven for 60 minutes.

[4] Peat retorted in a coal gasifier.

Wet carbonisation of peat.

See comments in the main text.

[7] Activated carbon from peat used in the adsorption of benzene vapour.

[8] Use of carbonised peat in the manufacture of carbon disulphide.

Canadian peat pyrolysed at 450oC and activated either with zinc chloride or
phosphoric acid.

Activated carbon of surface area 893 m2g-1 obtained from peat harvested
[10] in Malaysia. Pyrolysis at 800oC under inert conditions followed by activation
in air at 500oC.

[12] Estonian peat carbonised at 52oC.

Peat from Indonesia prepared by carbonisation followed by steam activation.

A BET surface area of 900 m2g-1.

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The peat from which the briquettes in row 1 were made was from a deposit which had been
drained. Briquetting was binderless, and the calorific value of the briquettes was as high as
18.4 MJ kg-1. The Turkish peat in the second column was 41% oxygen, dry basis. Experiments
were performed in the thermogravimetric unit across the entire mixture composition range
from peat only to lignite only, and the temperature corresponding to the maximum rate
of mass loss was noted. This is about 470oC up to 20% peat, declining to around 300oC
at and beyond 50% peat. Note is made of the fact that this temperature is slightly higher
for 20% peat, balance lignite than for lignite only. There is an obvious reason for studying
blends of peat and lignite in this way: peat and lignite frequently co-exist in the earth.
Moving to the following row, the carbonised solid residue from the microwave carbonisation
of the Russian peat had an internal surface are of 1320 m2 kg-1, making them very suitable
for use as activated carbons. The work in the following row dates from nearly a century ago
and was conducted in the UK. It used peat from Ireland which, before testing, had been
spread out and air dried for time of the order of months.

Wet carbonisation of peat (following row) is a means of beneficiating peat. In [5] peat from
Minnesota was reduced in moisture content from 85% to 67% by heating in the temperature
range 175 to 260C. A continuous process was used, and the calorific value enhancement
as a function of residence time, which varied from 1 minute to one hour, determined. Such
enhancements of up to 20% were observed. The peat so beneficiated could be briquetted
or mechanically dewatered down to 3540%. We note in passing that Minnesota has the
largest are of peatland of all of the lower 48 states of the US10, and some is harvested for
horticultural (not thermal) use [6].

Moving on the work in [7], some of the peat-derived carbons had been activated with
carbon dioxide11. The basis of this is:

CO2 + C 2CO

The others were chemically activated with sodium carbonate. Some of the peat samples were
acid washed to demineralise them before being carbonised and carbonisation was at 750oC
or at 850oC. Across the range of carbons activated with carbon dioxide the BET surface
areas ranged from 282 to 622 m2g-1. Chemical activation gave values of around 525 m2g-1.
When a substance is intended for use as an adsorbent it is advantageous for most of the
surface area to be in the micropores, rather than the meso- or macropores. For the peat-
derived carbons in this study the percentage of the porosity in the micropores ranged from
44% to 88%. Benzene uptake was expressed in g benzene per 100 g of carbon, and were
in the range 1.17 to 8.18 in these units. A related calculation follows.

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The mid range in the above amounts of benzene is 4.7 g per 100 g carbon. The molar mass
of benzene is 78 g mol-1 so this becomes (using Avogadros number) 3.6 1022 molecules per
100 g carbon. Using a value of 3 10-19 m2 for the surface area of one per 100 g of the carbon,
of 108 m2 per g carbon. This is below the BET areas indicating that the adsorption did not reach
a monolayer. There is a fairly obvious reason for this. The diameters of the micropores are less
0.7 nanometre (nm). A pore this size if circular would have a cross section of:

(0.35 10-9)2 m2 = 4 10-19 m2

Allowing for approximations made, this is about the same as the area of a benzene molecule,
and supports the view that most of the micropore volume would be of too small pore diameter
to admit benzene molecules. Most of the adsorption is therefore in the mesopores which for all
of the seventeen carbons except four accounted for less than half of the pore volume [7]. The
BET area is measured with nitrogen which is able to get into the micropores.


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Moving on to the next row, it is noted in [8] that in some locations peat from carbon
might not be able to compete economically with charcoal, from wood pyrolysis, in this
application. In the work on Canadian peat in the following row surface areas of 900 m2g-1
were obtained. The distribution of pore sizes depended on the choice of chemical for
activation: zinc chloride favoured micropore formation and phosphoric acid promoted
mesopore formation12. The peat in the following row is from the part of Malaysia called
Selangor. Concern has been expressed [11] about the drainage of peatlands in Malaysia, where
such drainage has sometimes taken place to accommodate palm oil plantations. Sengalor is
one of two remaining sizeable peatlands in Malaysia. In the work in the final row of the
table, the peat originated in Eastern Malaysia, not at the Malay Peninsula.



Manufacturers of activated carbon from peat include Peat Resources Limited in Toronto
[14]. As is clear from the research investigations in the previous section carbonisation is
followed by activation, and in [14] it is stated that chemical activation is used to make
adsorbent carbons for wastewater treatment. Steam- or CO2- activated carbons are used for
gas cleansing and for mercury capture from post-combustion gases.

Plate 3.1. Packaged products of Peat Resources Limited, Toronto.

Image taken from [14].

Peat Resources Limited own two areas of peatland, one containing > 155 million tonnes
and the other containing > 40 million tonnes. There is at present no peat fired electricity
generation anywhere in North America.

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There are extensive peatlands in the Netherlands, and peat derived activated carbons have
been made there since 1921 [15]. Peats have different degrees of maturity (see section 1.10)
and therefore of transformation of the original plant material and it is noted in [15] that
in the Netherlands the more mature peats, identifiable by being darker in colour, were
chosen for this application (see also Table 4.1, where this quality in relation to peat from
Bangladesh in noted). The earliest Dutch peat derived activated carbons were used in the
sugar industry. At the present time the Dutch industry produces activated carbon at its plant
in Klazienaveen from peat amongst other starting materials including lignite. There has been
activated carbon production in Ireland using peat from Allenwood [16] (see section 1.8).


This has been made from peat sod in Finland and in Germany. In the latter there has been
a tendency to use peat sod rather than milled peat in heating applications.

Peat coke finds metallurgical application, notably in the production of ferrosilicon. In

1906 [17] peat coke was suggested for the smelting of magnetite in Canada. It was noted
that peat for the purpose was available in Ontario and in Quebec. Use of peat coke goes
much further back even than this. In a tome from 1840 [18] it is stated that coke from
the carbonisation of Lancashire peat contains nothing which would, during the burning,
be more injurious to iron than wood charcoal or the best [coal-derived] coke whether it be
used to work iron, or under boilers for the generation of steam. That there should have been
an interest in such products from peat that time is for one fairly obvious reason: peat is cut
from the surface, and coal mining at that time was an appallingly dangerous occupation.


Carbonisation overlaps with gasification, and is describable as partial gasification This will
be discussed in a subsequent chapter. See also section 5.2 and illustration therein.

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[1] Hakizimana J. de D. K., Kim H-T. Peat briquette as an alternative to cooking fuel:
A techno-economic viability assessment in Rwanda Energy 102 453464 (2016).
[2] Guldogan Y., Durusoy T., Ozbas T., Bozdemir O. Pyrolysis kinetics of blends of
Tuncbilek lignite with Denizli peat Thermochimica Acta 332 7581 (1999).
[4] J.W.C. The Carbonisation of Peat in Vertical Gas Retorts Nature 108 588 (1921)
[5] Lau F.S., Robert M.J., Rue D.M., Punwamp D.V., Wen W-W., Johnson P.B.
Peat beneficiation by wet carbonization International Journal of Coal Geology 8
111121 (1987).
[7] Veksha A., Sasaoka E., Uddin M.A. The influence of porosity and surface oxygen
groups of peat-based activated carbons on benzene adsorption from dry and humid
air Carbon 47 23712378 (2009).
[8] Fuchsman C. Peat: Industrial Chemistry and Technology Elsevier (2012) accessible
online as an e-book.
[9] Donald J., Ohtsuka Y., Xu C. Effects of activation agents and intrinsic minerals
on pore development in activated carbons derived from a Canadian peat Materials
Letters 65 744747 (2011).

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[10] Khadiran T., Hussein M.Z., Zainal Z., Rusli R. Activated carbon derived from peat
soil as a framework for the preparation of shape-stabilized phase change material
Energy 82 468478 (2015).
[12] Luik H., Palu V., Luik L., Sokolova J., Bojesen-Koefoed J. Peat semicoking and
hydrocracking Journal of Analytical and Applied Pyrolysis 85 497501 (2009).
[18] Minor D.K., Schaeffer G.C. American Railroad Journal and Mechanics Magazine,
Volume 11 (1840) accessible online as an e-book.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally


The table is followed by comments. Both large- and small-scale applications feature, as
do proposed and actual utilisation and most of the industrial era is spanned. By related
applications is meant chiefly metallurgical applications. Domestic heating with peat and
gasification of it are dealt with in later parts of the book.

Reference Details

Yorkshire, England early 1800s. Peat obtained from a moorland location and
blended with local coal.

[2] Scotland: Peat used in the drying of barley for whisky production.

[3] Kathmandu Valley, Nepal: peat to provide heat for brick manufacture.

[4] Circa 1970: use of a peat kiln to make ceramics.

Inclusion of a small amount of copper with peat in a boiler furnace to

reduce slagging.

WWII Canada: Use of peat instead of wood or coal in Quebec.

See also comments in the main text.

East Pakistan (later Bangladesh): 1000 million tons of mature (darkly coloured)
peat evaluated for thermal use.

[9] Sweden: use of peat amongst other fuels in district heating.

[10] Lithuania: several district heating plants capable of being fired with peat.

Latvia: previously major fuel use of peat, now heavily diminished. See also
comments in the main text.

[12] Korea, immediately after the Korean war.

[14] Ontario, mid-Nineteenth Century: Use of peat in steam locomotives.

[16] Near Ottawa, early 20th Century: Attempts to put local peat into fuel use.

[17] Ireland: Use of peat to fire locomotives. See comments in the main text.

[19] Bavaria: locomotives fired with peat.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

Nrpi, Finland: 3 MW of heat from peat and wood chips for the heating
of greenhouses.

[21] Japan: use of peat in making whisky.

17th Century Amsterdam: extensive fuel use of peat, and depletion

necessitating import of peat by canal.

Burundi, 1980s: with foreign aid an attempt to extend peat fuel utilisation.
See comments in the main text.

[25] Lesotho: peatlands identified and fuel potential recognised.

Nineteenth Century: deliberations on the energy requirements for peat

production. See also comments in the main text.

Yorkshire, England, circa 1900: peat retorted to make organic chemicals.

See also the entry for Dartmoor.

[28] Belgium 19th Century: significant production for fuel use.

[29] Gateshead England circa 1840: smelting of iron with peat.

Dartmoor, Devon, England: extensive gathering of peat for fuel use in pre-
industrial and industrial times. See also comments in the main text.

USA 20th Century: loss of peat deposits once identified as having fuel
potential. See comments in the main text.

[40] Italy: Significant reserves. Fuel use only during wartime exigencies.

Table 4.1. Examples of fuel use of peat.

The entry in the first row of the table appertains to a time 40 to 50 years into the industrialisation
of England. The part of Yorkshire where the peat was discovered Swaledale remains
rural. It is recorded in [1] that the peat did not burn readily so was mixed with coal from
Tan Hill. Coal mining at Tan Hill continued until 1930. Peat drying of the barley has an
effect on the flavour of the resultant whisky and the expression peaty whisky is used by
connoisseurs. (See also row 17.) In one part of Scotland where peat is so used there has
been concern about local depletion and peat has had to be brought from a different part
of Scotland. Peat co-exists with lignite in the Kathmandu Valley, and in application to
brick production is supplemented with wood. Amounts neither of peat nor of lignite are
sufficient for export. Use of peat in the production of ceramics (next row) long predates
industrialisation. When copper is used to prevent slagging in a peat fired boiler (row five)
the oxychloride (Cu2(OH)3Cl) and the sulphate (CuSO4) are equally effective.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

Reference [6] contains interesting information additional to that in the table. For example,
the French Army used peat from Alsace as a fuel during WWI. It is also stated that during
the Great Depression there was significant fuel use of peat in England, as there was during
WWII. Such peat was in the form of peat sod. It is reported in [7] that experts from
Ireland, from the Netherlands and from Canada were hired to advise on peat reserves in
the then East Pakistan. It is recorded in [7] that the calorific value of this peat is 6000 to
7000 BTU per pound, and the middle of the range converts to 15.2 MJ kg-1. Other places
where advice from the Irish concern Bord na Mna (see Section 2.2) has been sought in
relation to peatlands include Angola, the Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Central America,
Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, Chile, China, Angola, Madagascar and Fiji [8]. Their
leadership in the field is clear. (See the entry on Burundi.)

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Notwithstanding the statement in the following row of the table, peat from Sweden is mainly
put to horticultural use. It is recorded in section 1.8 that power stations from Sweden which
use peat amongst other fuels are CHP, therefore able to contribute to district heating. In
Finland likewise district heating accompanies power generation. Moving on to the next row
of the table and noting that CHP in Lithuania with a fuel mix including peat was described
in a previous chapter, the heat plants referred to in the table are new ones with versatility of
fuel supply. Some older ones use peat in grate combustion (see reference 26, Chapter 1). In
Latvia (next row) the government document Guidelines of Energy Development 20072016
expresses the possibility of a resurgence of fuel usage of peat.

Moving on to Korea (row eleven), in the reconstruction after the Korean war there were
proposals for peat for industrial purposes and for the heating of large buildings including
schools and orphanages, as well as for steam locomotives in place of coal. It is noted in [12]
that in Korea peat is cut from rice paddies13. There was some steam locomotive use much
earlier in Canada (following row). Reference [14] introduces the term condensed peat which
means peat prepared for fuel use by mechanical breakage of the lumps and concomitant
air drying [15]. It is noted in [14] that in the use of the peat for steam locomotives it
cost $2.50 per ton so to process the peat, which added to the cost of the raw peat which
was $17.50 per ton. An acre of the peatland drawn on produced one thousand tons of
condensed peat. Locomotives trialled with peat fuel included that in the illustration below
(or ones very like it).

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

Plate 4.1. #15 locomotive, Great Western Railway of Canada, built in 1853, and in service at the time Great
Western were testing local peat for locomotive use.
Image taken from:

Moving on to the next row, the motivation for attempted development of the peat source
near Ottawa was the distance of the city from coal fields. The undertaking reached pilot
stage when 300 acres of peatland were allocated to the developers and storage facilities
capable of holding 300 tons of peat were provided. Digging was to a depth of 8 feet, and
the site was served with a railway for transporting the peat for storage to await distribution.
That was in 1906, and in 1913 the operation became commercial though only for a very
short time, and the commencement of WWI precluded revival. Use of peat for steam
locomotives in Ireland was on an exploratory basis in the mid Nineteenth Century. By a
century later Welsh coal was the fuel used by the Irish railways, but restricted availability
of this as a result of the exigencies of WWII lead to a revival of interest in peat. This was
used not alone but mixed with coal to extend it. After the War there was R&D into using
peat (called turf in Ireland) as the sole fuel for a locomotive and 1000 h.p. was aimed for.
Some musings follow.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

1000 h.p. 746 kW of power to the locomotive requiring, at 15% efficiency [18], 4973 kW of heat.

Using a value of 15 MJ kg-1 for the calorific value, peat required =

[(4973000 J s-1)/(15 106 J kg-1)] 3600 s hour1 = 1.2 tonne per hour.

The locomotives tender could carry 8 tons (8.6 tonne) of turf, enough to sustain it
for 7 hours when operating at the nominal power. So the numbers hang together.

The chief engineer in the post-war endeavours to use peat in locomotives was O. Bulleid of
the Southern Railway in England, and he also experimented with peat there. The locomotives
in Bavaria (next row) operated during the final quarter of the Nineteenth Century and could
reach speeds up to about 47 m.p.h. It is clear from the table that there has been significant
activity into peat for steam locomotives.

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In the enterprise in the next row peat or wood chips are used according to price, and it is
noted in [20] that as orders for peat are renewed over the years the peat is brought by the
suppliers from increasingly distant locations. Japanese whisky is less peaty than Scotch whisky,
in spite of the fact that peat is used in its production (following row). It is recorded in [21]
that a distillery on Hokkaido uses peat from the Ishikari river basin to dry the barley. Half
(in area terms) of the peatlands at the Ishikari river basin are paddy fields (see endnote 11).
There is also peat utilisation in the production of whisky in Tasmania14.

The entry in the following row is strictly outside the period covered by the book, although
as the author has stated elsewhere [23] it is not possible to assign even to within a decade
a date to industrialisation. It is reported in [22] that export of peat by canal was widely
practised in that part of Europe at that period. The endeavours in Burundi were aided by
Bord na Mna amongst other foreign organisations. At the time of reference [24] Burundi
was producing 3550 tons per year of peat fuel, which was being used at places including
prisons, hospitals and school canteens. Peat from Burundi has the disadvantage of being
unusually high in ash, 20% in contrast to about 5% for peat fuel from Ireland or from
Finland. In Lesotho, a landlocked country in southern Africa, peatlands occur at considerable
altitudes. Charcoal is often encountered with the peat, indicating that there have been peat
fires (see also Section 8.3).

In todays world we hear a lot about Energy-Return-on-Energy-Invested for fuels including

crude oil: for an oilfield in the North Sea it might typically be 510 barrels returned for one
barrel invested. That theme for peat in very early industrial usage occurs in reference [26],
next row of the table. With reference to a particular Irish peat source (near Portarlington:
see Section 1.8) it is stated that, because of the high moisture content, 6 to 10 tons of wet
peat must be gathered for every one ton of the final peat fuel product obtained, and that
a new approach involving compressing the peat during the harvesting process could reduce
this to 2.5 tons per ton of useable peat. At that time artificial heat, raised by burning a
fuel, was sometimes applied to the drying of peat, although natural evaporation was more
common and dewatering by compression was also practised as noted. A tonne of peat could
be accompanied by up to 9 tonne of water, and it is easy to show that thermal dewatering
of this by artificial heat would make production of the peat fuel quite non-viable in EROEI
terms15. Moving on to the next row peat, being very high in volatiles, is more productive
of liquid pyrolysis products than even lower rank coals are. Peat tar in general has been a
good source of organics including phenols. The statement regarding Belgium in the following
row is equally true of other European countries including England. At that time and earlier,
production of metallic lead in England used peat where coal was inconveniently distant.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

The English location where iron smelting was trialled with peat (following row) is, anomalously,
a centre of higher rank coal production. Why go to peat? Certain advantages are pointed
out, chiefly that the peat in contrast to the coal with which it was being compared contained
no sulphur therefore no sulphuretted hydrogen (H2S) was produced on thermal breakdown
such as occurs in such a metallurgical application. There was a counter-argument that the
peat in Amiens in northern France had been found to contain significant sulphur. Writing
about half a century into the industrial era, the authors of [30] point out that then and
earlier blacksmiths tried to adapt to whatever fuel was available. Whereas those in Wales
adapted to anthracite those in Cornwall adapted to peat.

Digression into the sulphur content of peats generally is appropriate at this point as in any
industrial combustion applications sulphur dioxide emissions have to be strictly controlled.
Below are given some sulphur contents of peat reported in the research literature.

Peat from Western Canada [31]. 0.2% sulphur dry basis.

Finnish peat used in power generation. [32] 0.2% sulphur dry, ash-free basis.

Peat reserves in Rwanda. [34] Average 0.69%.

Organic sulphur across 40 samples in

Muthurajawela peat deposit, Sri Lanka. [35] the range 0 to 2.22%. Also some pyrite
(FeS2) and sulphate in every sample.

0.14 to 0.16% across a range

Peat Aaba region Northern Turkey [36].
of seven samples.

Increasing amounts of pyritic sulphur

Coastal peat from Germany [37].
with depth into the bed.

Peats are usually low in sulphur. It is noted in [33] that in the 1980s and 1990s SO2
emissions in Finland were controlled by substituting peat and low-sulphur coal for fuel oil.
In the case of the German peat in the final row, iron had entered the deposit as ions in
fresh water. Sulphate from a marine incursion is reduced to sulphide by bacteria and the
pyrite formed in this way.

Returning to Table 4.1, three scenes of activity follow. There is lead ore in south west
England, and both peat and coal have been used in the smelting of that in a device working
along the principles of a blast furnace: reduction of the metal from its oxidised state in
the ore to elemental. Moving on to the next row of the table, we first reiterate the point
made earlier that there has never been electrical power production from peat in the USA.
In a survey of 1922 peat deposits in the USA with potential fuel use were identified, but
such use or even further appraisal was precluded by destruction over time of the deposits.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally


The just under forty entries in the table are intended to give a representative scan of peat fuel
usage other than in power generation and domestic heating, which are covered separately. It
inevitably has something of a historical tone because some of the entries date from a century
or more ago, although they are no less interesting for that. In reviewing past applications
for peat fuel we can read significance into the fact that the USA has never had major fuel
peat production and therefore did not provide a lead or stimulate world interest16. In terms
of the present and the future there is the fact that peat is (as already noted) not carbon
neutral, compounded by the fact that to burn it is to return sequestrated carbon to the
atmosphere as fossil fuel carbon dioxide. Earlier proponents for peat fuel would not have
sensed this disadvantage, a major one in these carbon constrained times. On the other hand
successful power generation from peat continues in a number of countries as recorded in
this book and there are also domestic heating and gasification applications, to be discussed
in following chapters.


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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

[4] Shapiro M. A Chosen Path: The Ceramic Art of Karen Karnes University of North
Carolina Press (2010) accessible online as an e-book.
[5] Raask E. Mineral Impurities in Coal Combustion: Behaviour, Problems, and Remedial
Measures Taylor and Francis (1985) accessible online as an e-book.
[6] Rotherham I.D., Handley C. War and Peat (2013) accessible online as
an e-book.
[8] Osaki M., Tsuji N. Tropical Peatland Ecosystems Springer (2015) accessible online
as an e-book.
[12] Korea turning to use of peat The Spokesman-Review August 21st 1956.
[13] Takijima Y., Shiojima M., Konno K. Studies on soils of peaty paddy fields I
Geographical Distribution. Characteristics and Classification of Soils in Miyagi
Prefecture Soil and Plant Food 4 8392 (1958).
[14] Guay D.R.P. Great Western Railway of Canada: Southern Ontarios Pioneer Railway
Dundurn (2015) accessible online as an e-book.
[15] Johnson S.W. Peat and Its Uses: As Fertilizer and Fuel Five Moons Printers (1866)
accessible online as an e-book.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

[22] Hunt L.C., Evans J. International Handbook on the Economics of Energy Edward
Elgar Publishing (2011) accessible online as an e-book.
[23] Jones J.C. Combustion in Pre-Industrial English Literature 225 pp. Ventus
Publishing, Fredricksberg (2016).
[26] Betts Brown A. Engineering Facts and Figures A. Fullerton (1807)17.
[27] Hey D. A History of the South Yorkshire Countryside Pen and Sword (2015)
accessible online as an e-book.
[29] Simmons I.G. The Moorlands of England and Wales: An Environmental History 8000
BC to AD 2000 Edinburgh University Press (2003) accessible online as an e-book.
[30] Herapaths Railway Journal, Volume 6 (1839).
[31] Shao Y., Xu C., Zhu J., Preto F., Wang J., Tourigny G., Badour C., Li H. Ash and
chlorine deposition during co-combustion of lignite and a chlorine-rich Canadian
peat in a fluidized bed Effects of blending ratio, moisture content and sulfur
addition Fuel 95 2534 (2012).
[33] Kunnas J., Myllyntaus T. Anxiety and technological change Explaining the
inverted U-curve of sulphur dioxide emissions in late 20th century Finland Ecological
Economics 69 15871593 (2010).
[34] J. de D.K. Hakizimana, Yoon S-P., Kang T-J, Kim H-T, Jeon Y-S, Choi Y-C.
Potential for peat-to-power usage in Rwanda and associated implications Energy
Strategy Reviews in press
[35] Senaratne A., Tobschall H.J. Dissanayake C.B. Diagenesis of sulphur in a peat
forming environment: a case study from Sri Lanka Fuel 69 327333 (1990).
[36] Ho-ebi F., Korkmaz S. Organic Geochemistry of Aaba Yayla Peat Deposits,
(2015) Kprba/Trabzon, NE Turkey International Journal of Coal Geology 146

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Combustion and related applications internationally

[37] Dellwiga O., Watermann F., Brumsack H-J., Gerdes G., Krumbein W.E. Sulphur
and iron geochemistry of Holocene coastal peats (NW Germany): a tool for
palaeoenvironmental reconstruction Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
167 359379 (2001).
[39] United States Geological Survey Professional Paper U.S. Government Printing
Office (1973), accessible on:

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Gasification and Liquefaction of Peat

This is the most basic form of manufactured gas, made by passing air and (possibly)
water into a bed of coal, coke or other suitable feedstock notably (nowadays) biomass, the
producer gas from which will be carbon neutral by paternity. The first gas producer entered
service in the mid 19th Century and was a Siemens invention. The dominant flammable
constituent is carbon monoxide and, especially if water is admitted to the producer as well
as air, hydrogen. The resulting gas is heavily diluted with nitrogen, restricting its calorific
value to around 5 MJ m-3.

Notwithstanding the lack of fuel use of peat in the USA previously noted, there has been
producer gas production from peat in that country. It is noted in [1] that in early 20th
Century USA there were gas producers using peat. More details are given in [2], where it
is also recorded that there was such usage in Germany and in Sweden. A figure of 48000
cubic feet of producer gas per ton of dry peat (52800 cubic feet of gas per tonne of dry
peat) is given as well as a calorific value of 152 BTU per cubic foot (5.75 MJ m-3) for
producer gas in Europe. Two peats were examined, one from Massachusetts and one from
Florida. The former yielded a gas of calorific value 166 BTU per cubic foot (6.27 MJ m-3)
and the other a gas of calorific value 175 BTU per cubic foot (6.62 MJ m-3). These are
very good calorific values. The tests were done at the USGS fuel-testing plant at St. Louis
Missouri with a gas producer designed for bituminous coals and anthracite. Each of the
peats was air dried before gasification, and there would have been some residual water to
react according to:

C + H2O CO + H2

Also the high calorific values suggest that small amounts of hydrocarbon have found their
way into the producer gas. This might have been by simple pyrolysis although it is possible
that there was some subsequent cracking. It is also noted in [2] that although there had
been air drying of the peat this was not essential to the peat gasification process, and that
raw peat can be so converted to gas. Consideration was given to the possibility of using
the gas so produced to make electricity, and the conclusion reached that 2 to 3 pounds of
dry peat would raise 1 electrical horsepower hour18. These data are examined in the boxed
area below.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Gasification and Liquefaction of Peat

Assigning the peat a calorific value of 16 MJ kg-1, 2.5 lb (1.13 kg) would release 18.08 MJ of heat.

1 h.p. hour = 2684519 J or 2.68 MJ.

Now the generation of electricity would have been at about 20% efficiency, so the heat produced
at the generator per 2.5 lb of peat gasified would have been about four times that or around
10.7 MJ. This requires about 2 cubic metres of producer gas.

Using the European value on the previous page for yield of producer gas, 1478 m3 of producer
gas per are yielded per tonne of dry peat, so 1.13 kg of dry peat yields 1.7 cubic metres which
having regard to approximations made (for example in the efficiency) is in fair agreement with
the required quantity of 2 cubic metres of producer gas calculated above.

Notwithstanding the promise of these investigations, producer gas from peat was not to
catch on in the US and had become non-existent by 1920. This was in spite of an awareness
that the preparation required to gasify the peat involved much less than the preparation
required to burn it directly.

Any review of use of producer gas generally would require inclusion of mobile applications.
In the 1930s and 1940s in many countries a gas producer would be attached to a vehicle
to provide fuel for it. Reports of the time reveal little application of peat this this, although
it is amongst the feedstocks by means of which 38 trucks drove from Rome to Paris on gas
producers in 1935 [3]. The trucks ranged from 4 tons to 13 tons in weight and it is possible
that the respective feedstocks wood, charcoal, coal and peat were being evaluated for
suitability. In 1938 Germany there were 6000 commercial trucks powered by producer gas,
using feedstocks including peat (also wood and brown coal briquettes) [4].

Sweden was mentioned in passing earlier in this chapter. Reference [5] is an account of
the production of producer gas from peat in Sweden at that time, and will be drawn
on in what follows. The first peat-utilising gas producer in Europe was that at Skabersjo
in Sweden, entering service in 1904 and being extended in 1906. The gas was burnt to
supply electricity at up to 0.22 MW to the nearby population. The peat requirement of
the combined gas producer generator set-up at Skabersjo is given as 2 kg (4.4 lb) of peat
per h.p. hour, a little up on the trial values obtained at the St. Louis plant reported above.
At Visby in Sweden there was electricity from peat derived producer gas not for general
distribution but to service a particular local industrial concern [5]. Later extended, the unit
initially could provide 250 h.p. (0.18 MW) of electricity. In early 20th Century Germany
there was producer gas production from peat at Nymphenburg near Munich [2]. The gas
from it had calorific value 4.3 MJ m-3.

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The point was made in section 3.3 that carbonisation of any solid fuel coal, wood, peat
is equivalent to partial gasification as a flammable gas mixture is amongst the products.
Plate 5.1 below is a print from 1850 which shows Irish peat being retorted to make charcoal,
and there would have been a gaseous by-product.

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Plate 5.1. Retorting peat to make charcoal, mid Nineteenth Century Ireland. Image taken

At Dartmoor (see Table 4.1) fuel gas was being made from peat for lighting purposes in the
1840s. Over the period JuneSeptember 1851, 2000 tons of peat were cut on Dartmoor
by convict labour from the prison and a considerable proportion of it was used to provide
gas for lighting at the prison [6]. One might expect the calorific value of such a gas to
be somewhat higher than that of producer gas from the peat because of the absence of
nitrogen from the retorted gas. However, decarboxylation of the humic acids causes the
retort gas to be diluted with carbon dioxide. In the boxed area below are given figures for
the composition of the gas from pyrolysis of a Swedish peat under nitrogen [7]. Across peat
samples, especially with degree of maturity, such figures will vary but those below can be
seen as representative and some related calculations follow.

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Yields of gases in cm3g-1:

C2H6 2.3 (2.2%)

C2H4 1.3 (1.3%)

CH4 23.0 (22.2%)

CO 21.2 (20.4%)

CO2 56.0 (53.9%)


Total 103.8

Heats of combustion/kJ mol-1:

C2H6 1560

CH4 889

C2H4 1387

CO 283

Now 1 m3 of any gas or gas mixture at 1 bar pressure, 15C contains 40 moles. The heat of
combustion of the gas derived from peat is then:

40 mol m-3[(0.022 1560) + (0.013 1387) +

(0.222 889) + (0.204 283)] kJ mol-1 = 12.3 MJ m-3

a value about twice that of producer gas.

By way of comparison this value is about the same as that for blue water gas and lower
than those for retorted coal gas or carburetted water gas which are around 20 MJ m-3. It
is about a third the calorific value of natural gas.

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Conventional steam gasification involves passing steam into a bed of the material being
gasified and conversion of it to a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. In the
processing of wastes gasification by means of an electric arc plasma gasification is
becoming increasingly prevalent [8]. This can be done in the presence of steam and peat
has been evaluated as a substance suitable for such treatment to yield a medium BTU
fuel gas [9]. It is believed that peat is more suitable for this than are coals, largely because
(see section 4.1) peat tends to be low in sulphur. Alternatively to a fuel gas a synthesis
gas, having CO and H2 in the ratio 2:1, might be obtainable by this means and there are
reports [9] that a peat from Quebec had in exploratory steam plasma gasification yielded
a gas having a value of 1.8 for this ratio.


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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Gasification and Liquefaction of Peat

It is also possible to gasify peat with supercritical water. Reference [10] from Peat Resources
Limited (see section 3.2.1), dried peat having a calorific value of 21 MJ kg-1, was treated
with water in the supercritical part of its phase diagram, and there were liquid and solid
by-products. The temperature range was 350440oC. The liquid products comprised both
water-soluble and water-insoluble parts, and yields of char and gas were respectively up to
27% of the coal weight and up to 30% of the coal weight. The gas had a calorific value of
2.81 MJ kg-1 (note the non-standard units), whereas if a calcium hydroxide catalyst was used
there was a dramatic increase of this to 27.7 MJ kg1. This is because of increases in hydrogen
and hydrocarbon contents (especially the former) over the gas obtained without a catalyst.
Some of the other catalysts (e.g. potassium carbonate) brought about an enhancement in
calorific value but not the extent that the calcium hydroxide did. If heavy oil rather than
gas was the desired primary product the best catalyst was rutile.


That this is possible there is no question. When it was considered in detail for Finland
[11] the concern was depletion of the peatlands with all that that involves in terms of
sequestration, expressed in section 6.2 of this book. The issue is multifactorial to a degree
of complication. A peat bed is formed only over a period of thousands or tens of thousands
of years, orders of magnitude lower than times for coalification. In expansive peatland such
as those in Finland carbon capture from the conversion of plant cellulose to humic acids
(peatification) in a single year is measurable, and a value for this in relation to Finland is
given in [11] as 5 Mtonne per year CO2 equivalent, about the sequestration performance
of 125 million trees19. Finland is heavily afforested and has of the order of 20 billion trees
so clearly at the present time that has greater potential for carbon sequestration, but that
in some locations peatland and arboreal carbon sequestration are equally important is
believed. There are also the following points to be thought of, each of which has in more
general terms been considered previously in this book. Flora in the peatlands take up carbon
dioxide, and when peatland is drained (as has happened to a degree in Finland [11]) there is
decomposition carbon dioxide. Liquid fuels made from peat are not of course carbon-neutral,
as liquid fuels made from wood are. So in examining the feasibility of peat as a feedstock for
manufacturing any fuel the loss of its sequestration capacity has to be factored in. That is
true for such things as wood and energy crops, but these are much more rapidly renewable
than peat is (respectively time of the order of years and time of the order of millennia).


The theme of the section above is continued into the next chapter. That a particular area
of peatland can change from net sequestration to net emission is not in doubt.

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[1] Fernald R.H. Recent development of the producer-gas power plant in the United
States Government Printing Office (1909) accessible online as an e-book.
[2] Bulletin, Issues 374378 U.S. Government Printing Office (1909) accessible online
as an e-book.
[3] Producer Gas: Another Fuel for Motor Transport: Report of an Ad Hoc Panel of the
Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation, Board on Science and Technology
for International Development, Office of International Affairs, National Research
Council National Academies (1983) accessible online as an e-book.
[4] Donath E.E. Vehicle gas producers Fuel Processing Technology 3 141153 (1980).
[7] Hoist L.E., Andersson L.A., Bjerle I. Investigation of peat pyrolysis under inert
gas atmosphere Fuel 70 10171022 (1991).
[8] Jones J.C. Thermal Processing of Waste 99 pp. Ventus Publishing, Fredricksberg
[9] Gauvin W.H. Novel reactors for plasma gasification Chemical Engineering Science
45 24532460, 1990.
[10] Xu C., Donald J. Upgrading peat to gas and liquid fuels in supercritical water
with catalysts Fuel 102 1625 (2012).
[11] Kirkinen J., Soimakallio S., Makinen T., Savolainen I. Greenhouse impact assessment
of peat-based Fischer-Tropsch diesel life-cycle Energy Policy 38 301311(2010).

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This matter for Finland was discussed in an earlier chapter, in which it was also pointed out
that loss of or damage to peatlands adversely affects carbon sequestration and that this has
been a disincentive in introduction of new uses such as liquefaction. In contrast to Finland
which has about 20 billion trees, Iraq has only about half a billion [1]. There are peatlands
in southern Iraq some of which were drained under the regime of Saddam Hussein [2], so
a suggestion that the remaining unspoilt peatlands might be as important as the trees in
carbon sequestration in that country can be taken seriously. Other countries are examined
along these lines in Table 6.1 below, which is followed by comments.

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Country and number

of trees [1]

Most damaged by drainage. Restoration of a million

UK: 3 billion.
hectares of peatland hoped for by 2020 [3].

Peatlands in the Snowy Mountains, NSW [5].

Australia: 76.7 billion.
See discussion in the main text.

Brazil: 300 billion.

25 billion tonnes of peat over an area of 15000 km2 [6].
Significant deforestation.

Deposits include a peat swamp at Bacho.

Thailand: 8.3 billion.
See comments in the main text.

Exploration for peat continuing. A peat mound

Myanmar: 24.5 billion.
discovered at Taung Bo Gyi Village near Inle Lake [7].

Afghanistan: 0.36 billion. 120 km2 (12000 ha) of peatlands [12].

Including those at the Danau Sentarum National

Indonesia: 80.7 billion.
Park [13]. See comments in the main text.

Exploration and evaluation by Bord na

Madagascar: 22.4 billion.
Mona (see section 4.1) [18].

Kazakhstan: 6.1 billion. 17420 km2 of histosols [19]. See comments in the main text.

Ethiopia: 13.8 billion. Carex peat at a mountain location [22].

Guyana: 11.8 billion. 8000 km2 of peatland, 4% of the total land area [23].

Taiwan: 2.3 billion. No known peatlands [24].

Japan: 18.6 billion. 6% of the area of Hokkaido peatland.

The Netherlands: Major deposits of peat.

0.34 billion. See also section 3.2.1.

Sri Lanka: 2.4 billion. 150 km2 (15000 ha) of peatlands [28].

Cuba: 2.3 billion. Peatlands holding 650 Mtonne of carbon stock [29].

Poland: 6.4 billion. 11500 km2 (1150000 ha) of peatlands [29].

Falkland Islands:
11500 km2 (1150000 ha) of peatlands [30].
0.19 billion.

Peru: 46 billion. 50000 km2 (5000000 ha) of peatlands [31].

Israel: 0.13 billion. Peat at Hula [32]. See comments in the main text.

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2% of the area occupied by elevated peatlands, partly damaged

Mongolia: 7.4 billion. by mining for metals and by animal grazing.20
> 40 million tonnes of CO2 released from them annually [34].

Vietnam: 9.4 billion. 24000 ha of peatland [35].

Pakistan: 1 billion. 15000 ha of peatland [29].

Spain: 11.4 billion. Severe damage to peatlands by drainage [39].

Modest peatlands: 1% in area terms of the total

France: 12 billion.
peatlands of Europe [40]. See also section 4.1.

Table 6.1. Trees and peatlands (both carbon sequestrators) in selected countries.

With reference to the first row of the table it is envisaged that once the restoration referred
to is complete owners of peatland will be able to generate income from the carbon credits.
Restoration involves re-admittance of water where there has been draining. The point was
made earlier in the text that drainage of peatland enables the peat to break down and
release carbon dioxide. It is stated in [4] that CO2 arising in this way in the UK is 2.98
megatonnes annually, about 1% of the total annual release in that country. A point made
in section 5.5 will be repeated with emphasis: processes in peatlands can work for or against
carbon dioxide mitigation. There is loss of mitigation when peatlands are drained. There is
gain in mitigation when peat develops naturally from vegetation.

In Australia (following row), very extensive peatlands from the south east of the country have
been selected for discussion. Here again the generation of carbon credits is seen as important
and where restoration of the peatland takes place that will generate credits on the basis of
avoidance of carbon dioxide emissions from the peat. Additional to this is sequestration by
existing deposits: maintenance of these in a condition such that they continue to sequestrate
carbon dioxide is equivalent to restoration of damaged peatland in its potential to generate
carbon credits [5]. So amounts of peat carbon (carbon stock) are here expressible in financial
terms. Carex and sphagnum peat are both evident in the Snowy Mountains as are other
sorts including peat originating from the Australian genus Empodisma. In Brazil (next row)
the combined effect in carbon terms of deforestation and of emissions from peatlands is
major. If it could be reversed as of course it could in principle by reforestation and by
re-wetting damaged peatland that would offset the CO2 emissions from the entire fleet
of motor vehicles in the country.

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This discussion is concerned with peatland vis--vis trees in carbon sequestration. That the
two sometimes coincide interactively is of course well known and that is the basis of a peat
swamp, where debris from the trees is prevented from decomposing in air by the presence
of large amounts of water. This leads to peat formation and such peat can be an emitter of
carbon dioxide. Bacho in Thailand (next row) is an example. A peat mound (next row) is
due to the hydraulic action of the water content, and can sometimes be correlated with the
presence of aquifers. That at Taung Bo Gyi is the only documented one in Asia. Details of
peat mounds in other locations are given below.

Mounds about 3 m height from the base.

Tasmania [8].
Up to 30 m in diameter.

A mound of area 3 hectares elevated 2

Wisconsin USA [9].
metres above the surrounding peatland.

> 50 mounds ranging in diameter from 515

Caithness, Scotland [10].
m and in height from 0.3 to 1 m.

Shetland Islands, Scotland [11]. Mounds up to about 100 m2 in area.

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Fibric, mesic and sapric peats all feature in the description of peatlands in Tasmania [8].
At Wisconsin (next row) the area of the mound is equivalent to that of a circle of 200 m
diameter making it significantly larger than the mound in Tasmania. Carex peat features in
the mix at the site of the mound. Those in Caithness (next row) are squat by comparison.

Returning to Table 6.1, the modest peatland area of Afghanistan has been largely damaged
by draining for urban development. The ecosystem at the Danau Sentarum National Park
(next row of the table and Plate 6.1) includes peat swamps.

Plate 6.1. Danau Sentarum National Park, Indonesia. Image taken from:

Details of peat samples from the Danau Sentarum National Park are given in [13]. An
average across 431 peat samples of the carbon content, dry basis, was 51.3%. This will first
be compared with the value for another peat from Kalimantan [14] the carbon content of
which is 53.9% and the oxygen content 30.4%, elemental balance H, N and S (0.52%,
compare with the values in section 4.1). These data can be used as background for a few
general considerations.

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The high oxygen content reflects the fact already emphasised in this book that much of the
carbon in peat is already in an oxidised state in carboxylic and phenolic structures. Burning
of the peat causes this carbon to enter the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Carbon in lower
oxidation states, that attached to other carbons and to hydrogens, also becomes carbon
dioxide. It is carbon in these two forms which is the basis of the carbon sequestration
capacity of peatlands and together they constitute the carbon stock of the peatlands as noted
above. A mineral soil as opposed to a peat soil has a low humic acid content making the
carbon dilute and precluding fuel usage (though the carbon would burn if a sample of such
soil was placed in a muffle furnace at say 1000C). Yet another document originating in
Indonesia [15] provides a means of estimating by calculation the carbon stock of a peatland
from the following correlations:


where Co is the organic content of the soil (kg m-3), BD the bulk density (kg m-3) and PCC
the (analytically determined) percentage carbon of the peat, and:

Cstock = CoAh tonnes

where A is the area of the peatland and h its depth.

A generic value for Co [14], making the first of the correlations above redundant, is 0.06
tonne m-3 (60 kg m-3), although a more precise calculation might assign different values for
fibric, hemic and sapric peats (respectively 0.08, 0.06 and 0.05 in [15]). A simple example
calculation is in the boxed area below.

are informed in [16] that the Keasden Moor peat deposit in Lancashire, England area of 25 ha
(250000 m2). At a site within the deposit where the depth is 1 m the carbon stock would be:

0.06 tonne m-3 250000 m2 1 m = 15000 tonne (600 tonne per hectare).

Note that if for whatever reason decomposition or burning any of the carbon stock is
converted to carbon dioxide, a factor (44/12) = 3.67 applies. The worlds peatlands occupy
an area of 400 million hectares [17], so for say 5m depth the carbon stock is equivalent to
carbon dioxide in a quantity:

0.06 tonne m3 400 106 10000 m2 5 m 3.67 = 4 1012 tonnes.

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The total number of trees in the world is of the order of 3 1012 each capable of taking
up 0.04 tonne per year of carbon dioxide so the total arboreal sequestration is

3 1012 0.04 tonnes = 1.2 1011 tonnes year-1.

So the carbon stock of the peat is equivalent to that sequestrated by trees in:

(4 1012/1.2 1011) years = 33 years.

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The comparison is interesting and helpful if viewed with an awareness that the value for
peatlands is nowhere near as simply obtained as that for the trees. In the latter case it is
simply removal by photosynthesis at a rate of around 40 kg per tree per year. The former
case is much more multi-faceted as already emphasised in this book, for example in section
5.4. Rather than take the numerical information in the above calculations as being hard
numbers, a reader should see it as indication that forest conservation and attention to peatland
condition each have an role in carbon sequestration. A further interesting perspective is that
there are live trees over a thousand years old, the time scale for peat production from dead
vegetation. Some information on the areas and depths of peatlands of Madagascar (following
row) is given in [18]. A maximum peat depth of 10.5 m was recorded for the country.

With reference to the entry for Kazakhstan, whether histosol (derived from the Greek word
for tissue) is synonymous with peat has to be considered. Histosol occurs in the titles of
many very recent research publications e.g. [20]. The World Reference Base for Soil Resources
2014 [21] defines histosols as Soils with thick organic layers and does not give a definition
for peat although in a detailed description of histosols it is stated that Histosols comprise
soils formed in organic material accumulating as groundwater peat (fen) and that They
[histosols] vary from soils developed in predominantly moss peat in arctic, subarctic and
boreal regions, via moss peat (Sphagnum species). Moreover, it is also stated in [21] that
peat soils are a common name for histosols. It would not be correct to say that histosol is a
term more commonly used in agricultural and horticultural applications of such substances
than in thermal.

The peat in Ethiopia noted includes Carex peat, which has already featured in this book
in relation to places including Tasmania and Belarus. The Carex species is classified as a
sedge (see section 1.11). Peat is not however abundant in Ethiopia, as mineral soil tends to
dominate. In natural carbon sequestration in Ethiopia the trees therefore have the major part
to play. Guyana (next row), which has a number of trees comparable to that for Ethiopia,
has major peatlands. In carbon budgeting for the respective countries the difference will
feature centrally. In Taiwan (next row) the total absence of peatland will have to be factored
in. Taiwan is a major oil refining country, capacity 1.2 million barrels per day (2014 figure
[25]). It is a rule of thumb that the carbon footprint of the refining of a barrel of oil is 50
kg of CO2. So the Taiwanese oil refineries if working at nameplate capacity would release
annually an amount of carbon dioxide equivalent to a carbon stock of:

1.2 106 bbl 365 day year-1 50 kg 44/12 = 22 Mtonne.

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so hypothetical discovery of a peatland in Taiwan with this degree of carbon stock would offset
the refining if it was kept in good condition and drainage was avoided. In such a situation
one could view upkeep of the peatlands as equivalent to sequestration of the carbon dioxide
from the refineries. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has 0.3 billion trees. Japan
(next row) had a refining performance in 2014 of 3.75 million barrels per day [26]. Carbon
stock of about 250 Mtonne carbon dioxide equivalent would offset the annual emission.

Points of wider interest can be made with reference [27] as background. A deposit of peat
will experience microbial activity causing decomposition as already noted, and salination of
peat can decelerate such microbial decomposition as is shown in [27] with the Netherlands
peat as an example. The salination process might therefore be expected to be a potential
source of carbon credits. The peat deposit in Sri Lanka (following row) has a depth of 1 m
therefore the carbon stock is:

0.06 kg m-3 150 106 m2 10 m = 90 kilotonne.

and this is in terms of elemental carbon, not carbon dioxide equivalent. Cuba (next row)
is one of a number of countries for which estimates have been made of carbon dioxide
release due to drainage of peatlands, and this is 2.7 Mtonne annually. The carbon dioxide
so released [29] is classified into that due to peatland drainage for peat cutting and that due
to peatland drainage for other purposes. Where removal has been for peat fuel production
there is the additional factor of CO2 release from that on burning. Examining the quantity
of 2.7 Mtonne of carbon dioxide we note that the carbon footprint of a motor car is 400 g
per mile21 so the quantity is equivalent to that from:

(2.7 1012 g/400 g mile-1) = 6.75 109 miles

For an average annual mileage of 12000, this is equivalent to

the CO2 release from just over half a million cars.

In Poland (following row), with its very extensive peatlands, the annual loss of CO2 from
drained peatlands is an order of magnitude higher at 25 Mtonne. Fuel peat production of
peat in Poland, which 70 years ago was major and included briquettes, has disappeared and
all current production is for agriculture and horticulture. As noted in an earlier chapter,
Poland currently imports peat briquettes from Belarus.

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In the Falkland Islands (next row) peat is used for fuel, and peat cutting activity is shown
in Plate 6.2. A remarkable 94.6% of the total land area of the Falklands is peatland, the
highest figure for any territory in the world [29]. The carbon stock is 1000 Mtonne [30],
equivalent to 3670 Mtonne of carbon dioxide. The trees of the Falkland Islands would take
about 500 years to sequestrate this amount of carbon dioxide so this is clearly a scene where
peatland storage of carbon dioxide is more important than arboreal. There has been significant
impairment of the peatlands from production as would be expected, with accompanying
carbon dioxide release. The peatlands of Peru (next row) include those of the southern
Peruvian Amazon where measurements of quantities have been made [33]. The mean depth
of the peatland examined was 2.5 m, although it was as deep as 9 m in a few places. The
carbon stock of the southern Peruvian Amazon peatlands has been examined [32],

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Plate 6.2. Newly cut peat in the Falkland Islands. Image taken from:

and marked variations across an expanse noted. One part of the peatlands had a carbon
stock of (1391 710) tonne per hectare. The lower bound of this range is 681 tonne per
hectare, which compares well with the value of 600 tonne per hectare calculated for the
peatland in England above. The upper bound is nearly half an order of magnitude higher
than that for the peatland in England. The peatland at Hula (next row) was drained in the
1950s22 to provide land for agriculture. There has been re-wetting of part of them. One
would expect the peatlands to releasers in view of their condition. Israel has only 573 trees
per square kilometre [1], compared with for example > 12000 trees per square kilometre
in the UK and 10000 trees per square kilometre in Australia (where the total area includes
over a million km2 of desert). The trees in Israel are able to take up only of the order of
5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, by calculation like that for Cuba previously
equivalent to emissions from about a million cars. With neither trees nor peatlands as major
natural sequestrators Israel is at an advantage23.

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In Mongolia (following row) there is the anomaly that the peatlands release nearly three
times as much carbon dioxide as the usual anthropogenic sources such as industry and
motor vehicles combined. Reconditioning of the peatlands is seen as a priority undertaking
in Mongolia. At the Melaleuca forest in southern Vietnam (next row) the terrain is very
varied, and it includes extensive areas containing both peat and clay having a carbon stock
of 544 tonnes per hectare [36]. This can be compared with values given for Peruvian and
for English peatlands earlier in this section. Pakistan (next row) is another example of a
country where damaged peatlands have become major emitters of carbon dioxide. Factors
having led to the poor condition of the peatlands in Pakistan include animal grazing and
drainage to make land available. Moving our discussion from Asia to western Europe, the
drainage referred to in Spain was largely to clear land not to grow crops on but to build
on, so the scenes of former peatlands are now urban. There has been some restoration
of damaged moss peatlands with encouraging results, indicating that a return to original
condition is possible. There has been significant fuel use of peat in France (next row) in
earlier times and this and other human activity have caused the peatlands there to be in
less than pristine condition.


Some reiteration on the role of peatlands in carbon sequestration will be helpful here.
Cellulose in vegetation originates with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere so if it is burnt
the carbon dioxide is put back where it came from. That is why wood and other plant-
derived fuels are carbon neutral. Their carbon dioxide on burning does not raise the carbon
dioxide level of the atmosphere as does carbon dioxide from coal, gas or oil but maintains.
How much better if the carbon was not even put back but remained in the ground. That
is not neutral in carbon dioxide terms but positively sequestrating and it is of course what
happens when dead vegetation goes to peat. That is why the peatlands of the world are seen
as being so important in carbon control.

The table above and comments thereon have however shown that good stewardship of a
peatland is necessary for it to fulfil its carbon sequestration otherwise it might become
ineffective or (more probably) become a releaser of carbon dioxide as shown in a previous
section of this book. That is why carbon credits can be generated by keeping a peatland
in good order by avoidance of such things as peat cutting and animal occupancy. Similarly
restoration of damaged peatlands by flooding with water generates credits, although that
such flooding will not fully repair a damaged ecosystem in clear. From the examples in the
above table it is clear that if the peatlands are to contribute to carbon dioxide reduction
and attainment of Kyoto targets attention to peatland condition and an awareness of its
vulnerability will have to be high on the agenda.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Carbon sequestration

[4] Englands peatlands: carbon storage and greenhouse gases British Geological Survey
[7] ASEAN Peatland News, June 2014.

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[13] Gusmayanti E., Anshari G. Afifudin M. Natural Properties of Carbon Stock in
Customary Peat Forest at Danau Sentarum National Park, West Kalimantan,
Indonesia Universitas Tanjungpura (2012).
[14] Setyawati, Damanhuri E., Lestari P. Dewi K. Correlation equation to predict HHV
of tropical peat based on its ultimate analyses Procedia Engineering 125 298303
[15] Agus F, Hairiah K, Mulyani A. Measuring carbon stock in peat soils: practical
guidelines Bogor, Indonesia World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) Southeast Asia
Regional Program, Indonesian Centre for Agricultural Land Resources Research
and Development (2011), accessible on:
[20] Parvage M.M., Uln B., Kirchmann H. Nutrient leaching from manure-amended
topsoils (Cambisols and Histosols) in Sweden Geoderma Regional 5 209214 (2015)
[21] Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, accessible on http://
[23] Rydin H., Jeglum J.K. The Biology of Peatlands Oxford University Press (2013)
accessible online as an e-book.
[27] Brouns K., Verhoeven J.T.A., Hefting M.M. The effects of salinization on aerobic
and anaerobic decomposition and mineralization in peat meadows: The roles of
peat type and land use Journal of Environmental Management 143 4453 (2014).

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat


Fuel use of peat took place in prehistoric times. Consistently with the title of the book
however this chapter will deal only with usage in industrial times even though down the
pre-industrial centuries there was such use on a significant scale.


Plate 7.1 below shows an open peat fire at a cottage. At least as recently as the early 20th
Century such an arrangement was used in places including Ireland and Scotland, and the
fire would be kept alight all the time.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat

Plate 7.1. Open peat fire in a cottage. Image taken from:

Charles Dickens journal for 184124 records a visit to Glencoe, Scotland [1] and he has this
to say: Now and then we passed a hut or two, with neither window nor chimney, and the
smoke of the peat fire rolling out at the door. This is clearly an example of such use of peat
fuel. Similarly, the statement which follows was published in 1843 [2]: in some parts of
England they consume peat or turf, the use of which is common among the poor Irish.
It would appear that peat was not restricted to poorer households. In Charlotte Brontes
Jane Eyre, published in 1847, there is record of the radiance of a glowing peat fire in a
household which, though not opulent, was in different social category from the cottages and
huts previously referred to. It is interesting, although not all that surprising, that peat was
burnt with coal and wood in those times in what wed now call co-firing. In Anne Brontes
Wuthering Heights, also first published in 1847, there is a description of the radiance of
an immense fire, compounded of coal, peat, and wood. One can legitimately infer more
from this. Given the location of Wuthering Heights25 it can be concluded that the coal
was from one of the coalfields around Leeds. This coal is bituminous and in a domestic fire
grate needs kindling. This is where the high-volatile peat would have served its turn. When
the organic chemistry came into being, largely in Germany, a few decades later this role was
taken by proprietary firelighters. Fairly obviously it is to peat so used that the following
lines from Vita Sackville-Wests poem The Garden, first published in 1946, relate:

My mood is like a fire that will not heat;

Theres touchwood, and a chequer-board of peat;

The sturdy logs laid ready, sere and dry;

The match-box, and the chimney swept and high;

Theres all the setting for a roar of flame

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat

Chequerboard refers to the appearance of the peat itself. The term is frequently applied to
peat. Plate 7.2 below shows a horse-drawn conveyance delivering peat fuel to rural Yorkshire
homes. The peat has been cut in fairly regular pieces but is not moulded.

Plate 7.2. Peat being delivered to country homes in Yorkshire. Image taken from:

Plate 7.3 shows a peat bucket from the 18th Century when obviously it would have belonged
to a privileged residence. The mahogany structure of the bucket has a brass liner, and the
circular supports are also brass.

Plate 7.3 Eighteenth century peat bucket.

Image taken from:

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat


A fireplace is open to the room in which it is installed whereas a stove, though drawing air
from the room, is enclosed.26 A Scottish manufacturer of wood stoves [3] declares that its
stoves are, without modification, suitable for peat alone or blended27 with wood. Stoves in
this range have ventilators which can be adjusted from fully open to fully closed (in which
case air is supplied solely by natural leakage via the door and other fittings) and release heat
in the range 5 to >10 kW depending on size. A simple calculation follows.28

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat

Section 2.3 gives a generic value of the calorific value of pelletised peat of 1721 MJ kg-1. Using
the middle-of-the range value of 19 MJ kg-1, the rate of peat fuel supply for 10 kW of heat is:

(10 kJ s-1/19000 kJ kg-1) 3600 s hour-1 2 kg hour-1

The stoves in [3] are for room heating. Even so it is of interest to estimate at what rate the stove
if set up to do so would supply hot water. Imagine that it was heating water from 20 to 80C.
The rate of supply of water m is calculable from:

m kg s-1 (80 20)C 4180 J kg-1C-1 = 10000 J s-1

m = 140 kg hour-1 (30 Imperial gallons per hour).

Up-to-date information from a supplier of Scottish peat in processed form [4] gives 225.75 GBP
as the price of a 1050 kg package. 1050 kg of the briquettes will, retaining the calorific value
above, release on burning:

1050 kg 19 106 J kg-1 = 20 GJ

So the cost per GJ is (225.75/20) GBP = 11.3 GBP ($US15 at the current exchange rate).

Now a barrel of oil is capable of releasing on burning 6 GJ. The current OPEC price of oil is
$US41 per barrel so the cost of 1 GJ is just under $US7.

The discussion continues in the main text.

No more can be claimed than that the figures for peat and oil hang together. Peat unlike
oil is subject to no benchmark price, and the price used in the calculation is one example
of a wide range which will apply. Crude oil will not be burnt as such, and distillates from
it (kerosene, diesel) will attract much higher prices than residue (heavy fuel oil). One point
can however confidently be made. Throughout the history of oil and gas unit heat from
natural gas has been cheaper than unit heat from unit heat from oil by a factor of five or
more. So the calculations in the boxed area can be extended to a price of around $US1.50
per GJ or less from natural gas, an order of magnitude lower than the corresponding figure
for peat, and this cannot be disregarded. One might want to have a peat fire in a private
residence for its intrinsic appeal, but if peat is being purchased at the market price it is
disadvantageous in comparison with natural gas. To heat a room of a house with peat
makes sense as the aesthetic delight is being paid for but it would not but not be feasible
to heat (for example) a school or a hospital with peat from the market. In the pre-oil era
there was integrated peat production and use in nearby enterprises such as brewing and
evaporation of seawater to make table salt, [5] but even then it was not always an attractive
alternative to coal.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat


In a commercial scale bed of solid fuel, or in testing on the scale of a pot furnace, air is
supplied at a controlled rate. This is necessary so as to avoid too much air, jeopardising the
combustion temperature, or too little causing incomplete combustion. Excess air to a degree
of 20% is common is power generation from solid fuels. In stoves and fireplaces all air is
taken from the room and there is very limited control by means of the ventilation devices
referred to above. Below is a calculation of the air requirement of a fireplace or stove using
peat. Analysis data are for a Rwandan peat [6].


Percentage weight
51.4 5 41
dry basis.

Moles per kg peat. 42.8 25 (as H2) 12.8 (as O2)

Oxidation process. C + O2 CO2 H2 + O2 H2O -

Oxygen requirement
21.4 12.5 - 12.8
per kg peat/mol.

The sulphur and nitrogen in the peat are too small to have significant effect on the air
requirement. These will however be considered from the environmental point of view later
in this discussion.

From the working in the table above, the oxygen requirement per kg coal is:

(21.4 + 12.5 12.8) = 21.1 mol.

Accompanying nitrogen = (21.1 3.76) mol = 79.4 mol.

Volume of air measured at 1 bar 298K = [(79.4 + 21.1) mol /40 mol m-3] = 2.5 m3

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat

A word of explanation of the figures in the working will be helpful. The negative oxygen
requirement arises from the fact that part of the coal is already oxidised, otherwise it would
not have an oxygen content. An amount of oxygen equivalent to this has to be deducted
from the oxygen requirement. The factor of 3.76 arises from the 79:21 proportion of nitrogen
to oxygen in air. A volume of 1 m3 of any gas or gas mixture under the temperature/
pressure conditions given contains 40 mol (as can easily be deduced from the ideal gas
equation). Earlier in this section of the book a fuel supply rate of 2 kg hour1 was estimated
for a 10 kW supply, so for this 5 m3 of air is required. Of course, the figures used in the
calculation of air requirement are for dry peat. Any moisture present can be allowed for
by adjustment of the elemental analysis figures. Water vapour in the hot post-combustion
gas just acts as a diluent.

The nitrogen content of the peat in the above calculations is 1.2%. On combustion most
of this will become elemental nitrogen N2 although, depending on the conditions, some
will go to nitric oxide NO. Such NO, derived from the nitrogen content of the fuel, is
called fuel NO. With such fuels as natural gas and petroleum distillates there can also be
thermal NO, derived from the nitrogen content of the air. This occurs only at temperatures
above 1200oC, much higher than those in stoves and fireplaces burning peat. (See also
section 1.4.1.)

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Domestic heating with peat

The sulphur content of the peat is 0.4% [6]. Calculations follow in the boxed area below.

The sulphur content of any fuel on combustion goes quantitatively to sulphur dioxide SO2.29

I kg of the peat contains 4 g of sulphur which becomes on combustion 8 g of SO2 or 0.125 mol.

Inventory of total dry gas resulting when 1 kg of the peat is burnt under stoichiometric conditions:

Nitrogen 79.4 mol.

Carbon dioxide 42.8 mol.

Sulphur dioxide 0.125 mol.


Total 122.325 mol.

parts per million of sulphur dioxide = (0.125/122.325) 106 = 1020

and three further points will be made. First, the post-combustion gas if instead of being directed
away was released into the room would be intolerably high. Secondly, use of this fuel on a higher
scale than domestic, for example in power generation, would require scrubbing of the flue gases
to remove sulphur dioxide. Thirdly, in the smoke plume from the stove or fireplace the sulphur
dioxide will dilute by two to three orders of magnitude. These relate to emission standards: the
ambient standard will be parts per hundred million.

[1] Forster J. The Life of Charles Dickens, Volume 1 18121842 Cambridge University
Press (2011) accessible online as an e-book.
[2] Harpers Novels, Volume 14 Harper and Brothers, New York (1843).
[5] Greefs H. Water Management, Communities, and Environment: The Low Countries
in Comparative Perspective, c.1000c.1800 Academia Press (2006) accessible online
as an e-book.
[6] Hakizimana J. de D.K., Kim H-T. Peat briquette as an alternative to cooking fuel:
A techno-economic viability assessment in Rwanda Energy 102 453464 (2016).

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Hazards with peat


The propensity to spontaneous heating of peat was examined according to the principles
of ignition theory by the present author in the 1980s and the 1990s [1, 2]. Propagation of
combustion in peat once ignited was also considered [3].


Table 8.1 below gives details of some studies of dust explosions with peat.

Reference Details

Finnish peat/air mixture examined in a 20 litre vessel. Ignition energies of

[4] 5 kJ supplied. A range of particle sizes. Subsonic propagation for times of
the order of 10 ms.

Tests on peat and wood dusts.

See comments in the main text.

Finnish peat. KST values (see definition in the main text) across a range of

Values for air-dried peat across a range of particle sizes/ bar m s-1: 94154.

Values for air-dried peat across a range of moisture contents and particle
[6] sizes/ bar m s-1:

165 for zero water

42 for 33.8% water

Further analysis in the main text.

Peat dust at particle sizes up to 200 m exploded in an atmosphere of

[7] flammable gas. Minimum ignition energy 47 mJ in the absence of a flammable
gas, dropping to < 10 mJ in atmospheres of 2% propane or 4% methane.

Table 8.1. Studies of peat dust explosions.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Hazards with peat

Two general points will be made in relation to the first row in the table. One is use of the
word powder in its title: it has long been held that powder explosion is at least as satisfactory
a term as dust explosion, perhaps a better term. The distinction is in the particle size and
is quite arbitrary. Secondly, it is emphasised in the table that the behaviour is subsonic.
Dust explosions cause major overpressures for short times but are not detonations in which,
of course, propagation is supersonic. The high ignition energy for dust explosions when
compared with those for gaseous explosions is also general. In the work in the next row
of the table, the pre-ignition pressure of a dispersion of dust particles was found to have
a strong effect on the severity of any consequential explosion as determined by maximum
pressure and maximum rate of pressure rise.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Hazards with peat

Moving on to the next row, the definition:

KST = maximum rate of pressure rise (vessel volume)1/3, units bar m s-1 as in the table
or N m-1s-1 in SI.

applies. From the figures in the table the strong effect of water is evident, and the authors
of [6] fitted their data to:

KST = 341 2.58W 42.0 lnm

where W is the percent water content and m is the mean particle size in microns.

The particle size dependence in the above equation is such that to double the particle size other
things being equal will reduce KST by 42ln2 = 29. The largest particle sizes used were 500 m.
Putting this into the above and setting KST at zero signifying no explosion:

2.58W = 341 42ln500 = 80

W = 31%.

The equation in [6] has probably been extended in the above working beyond the scope
envisaged by its developers. Correspondence between the moisture content for the lowest
value of KSTobserved (Table 8.1) and that calculated as just high enough to preclude explosion
(above) is quite encouraging. Letting the particle size be 100 m gives a water content of 57%
for zero KST.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Hazards with peat

With reference to the work in the next row one might wonder about the reason for testing
peat for dust explosion propensity in an atmosphere containing introduced flammable
gas. There is the obvious point that peat beds do release methane (see Section 2.2). Low-
temperature devolatilisation of peat will release such gases, so the methane and propane can
be seen as simulated volatiles in the work in [6].

There have been dust explosions with peat in Finland. They include a fatal one [8] in
which the ignition source was provided by a lump of peat having undergone spontaneous
heating. This arose from deposition of peat particles of millimetre size on their way from
silo to mill. Having regard to the fact that post-combustion gas is used at the mill to dry
the particles, the sequential operations of movement of the bulky peat with its resistance
to flow and milling of it at a higher temperature than ambient make for a milieu where a
dust explosion can occur. One of avoidance measure is design of the silo exit in such a way
that deposition (arching) does not occur. The work in [8] also contains some test results,
in which KST values up to 183 bar m s-1 were reported and this can be compared with the
values given above.


In section 6.1 of this book the carbon stock held by peatlands at various parts of the globe
were given, and in section 4.2 it is emphasised that peat is not carbon neutral. The carbon
stock on burning therefore enters the atmosphere as fossil fuel derived carbon dioxide and
adds to the carbon dioxide level. This is in contrast to a forest fire, where the carbon dioxide
is non fossil fuel derived simply being put back where it came from. Fires in peat lands
therefore negate their carbon sequestration role. Once peat is ignited it tends, especially at
lower ambient temperatures or in the absence of wind, to propagate by smouldering instead
of by flaming and this is very productive of smoke.

Plate 8.1 below shows a peat fire in Sumatra. Comments follow.

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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Hazards with peat

Plate 8.1. Peat fire in Sumatra. Image taken from:


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INDUSTRIAL TIMES Hazards with peat

The illustration supports the statement in the previous paragraph that it is at places with
lower ambient temperatures that peat smoulders: Sumatra is a warm location (average
temperature 26oC with only small fluctuations [9]) and that the peat there is flaming is
very clear from the plate.

Peat fires are of major concern internationally. Indonesia is a scene of them as noted, as
are for example parts of southern Africa. The abundant emissions from them easily cross
international borders.

[1] Jones J.C. The oxidation of peat and its thermal accompaniment Journal of
Chemical Technology and Biotechnology 45 223229 (1989).
[2] Jones J.C. Self-heating tests to establish the shipping safety of solid materials: the
case for briquetted peat Journal of Fire Sciences 14 342345 (1996).
[3] Jones J.C. Deliberations on smouldering propagation of combustion in ground
layers of humic substances Northwest Science 71 6465 (1997).
[4] Kjiildman L. Numerical flow simulation of dust deflagrations Powder Technology
71 163169 (1992).
[5] Rautalin A., Wilen, C. Dust explosions of peat and biomass in pressurized lock-
hoppers: safety aspects Fuel and Energy Abstracts 38 299 (1997)
[6] Weckman H. Measurements of the explosibility of peat dust Fire Safety Journal,
12 97102 (1987).
[7] Kwasi Addai E., Gabel D., Kamal M., Krause U. Minimum ignition energy of
hybrid mixtures of combustible dusts and gases Process Safety and Environmental
Protection 102 503512 (2016).
[8] Thun R. Rautalin, A. Latest techniques in the conveying and silo storage of
milled peat International Conference on Bulk Materials Storage, Handling and
Transportation, Wollongong Institution of Engineers, Australia (1986) accessible

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Peat lacks both the carbon neutrality of wood fuels and the petrographic structure of coals.
Its properties, including its softness and the high volatiles, have determined the thermal
applications to which it can be put and which are discussed herein.

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1. This reference, whilst giving useful information on Shatura, mistakenly states that the locally sourced
fuel was lignite when in fact it was peat. This might have been a translation error.
2. This was under Vladimir Lenins Goelro Plan [4], announced in February that year. That expansion of the
countrys industry was strongly dependent on nationwide electrification was the keynote of his policies.
3. One could take a sideways view of the calculated result and conclude that the peat in the condition
in which it arrives at the power station has a calorific value of 10 MJ kg-1.
4. See Table 4.1 for more on slagging.
5. Houses of the Oireachtas.
6. A nonsensical performance in the words of the Member.
7. See also section 6.1.
8. See also Section 4.1.
9. They are also being imported into California: see
10. It is exceeded by Alaska.
11. The alternative is activation with steam: C + H2O CO + H2. Either way carbon is removed from
the structure and pores are left behind.
12. For more on Canadian peat see sections 3.2.2 and 4.1.
13. Many of the rice paddies of Japan are peaty [13].
14. For more on Tasmanian peat see section 6.1.
15. A reader wanting to satisfy him or herself of this should use a value of 2400 kJ kg-1 for the heat of
vaporisation of water and a value of 15 MJ kg-1 for the calorific value of the dried peat.
16. Early activity in the US into making fuel gas from peat is discussed in the next chapter.
17. The online version of this book consulted by the author is clearly from a much later date than this. The
section of the book on the drying of peat cites work from 18501853.
18. Reference [2] says electrical horsepower per hour which is presumably a mistake.
19. On the basis that a tree captures 40 kg per year of CO2.
20. This jeopardises peatland in ways including eating the plants and introduction of new plants by carriage
of seeds, each of which affects the ecosystem. Pressure on the peatland surface due to the weight of the
animals will also have an effect [36].
21. This is an up-to-date figure. Possibly a higher one would apply to Cuba where many cars are very elderly.
22. One of the earliest major engineering projects of the State of Israel, created 1948.
23. Israel has signed the Kyoto Protocol. No emission reduction requirements were imposed [34].
24. This is in the industrial era.
25. This has been the subject of a great deal of debate, but it has never been suggested that it was anywhere
other than West Yorkshire.
26. Great Britain Pounds.
27. August 2016.
28. ditto
29. This peat is 4.8% as-received basis in ash. As a point of detail, it is not impossible that some of the
SO2 goes on to form sulphates in the ash. That depends on amounts of sodium and calcium in the
ash-forming constituents of the peat. Any magnesium in the peat will not form a sulphate in the ash.

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