New technology turns straw into Golden Coal

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GLOBE-Net, November 20, 2014 – One of the unwritten rules of family farming is that nothing is wasted. Old equipment is seldom thrown away and anything that can serve another purpose is accordingly reused.

Perhaps that is why farmers world-wide have been leaders in recycling, reusing and re-purposing agricultural wastes.

For Barbara Pokrzywa, making use of agricultural waste on her family farm has special significance. Located close to Poznan in Western Poland, since 2004 on her family farm straw is being collected and converted into eco-efficient bio-mass briquettes for heating. The briquettes are made using BIOMASSER® technology  where straw is cut, heated, compressed and finally converted into a high quality heating product.

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Barbara Pokrzywa, Export Manager for ASKET, the company that manufactures the BIOMASSER® Presser

What makes this family-run enterprise significant is that Barbara is the Export Manager for ASKET, the company that manufactures the BIOMASSER® Presser.

Notes Barbara “we invite potential customers to the farm to show them the whole briquetting process, from storing bales in the field to making briquettes. For many years we have been using straw briquettes to heat the buildings on the farm and also the production hall where we produce the machines.”

When ASKET started the straw briquette business in Poland in 2005, the processing of straw was not widely known and not popular in Poland or in many other countries. Now the ASKET technology is known world-wide, notes Barbara.

“We keep promoting it in other places as the machine that should be present on every agro-farm to make it independent from other fuels,” said Barbara. “Processing local non-wood biomass into briquettes takes place for example in the Northern part of Sweden and in Tanzania where the local community makes briquettes from grasses growing near Kilimanjaro, she adds.

Straw Briquettes – Golden Coal

The ASKET BIOMASSER® technology produces briquettes that are 100% natural products. Only compressed straw is used. There are no chemical additives. And the low moisture content guarantees the high caloric value (15.5 to 17.5 MJ/kg) and correct combustion. Ash which results from the burning process can be used as a fertilizer.

DUO_DSCN4107d (2)Many believe that the combustion of straw comes with problems of slagging which can block the hearth, notes Barbara. Burning any fuel has its determinants and effects, she says. For example, coal after combustion leaves relatively large amounts of ash (20% – 45%), and depending on its quality and the process of combustion, this can lead to the formation of slag of ash (at furnace temperatures of 900 to 1000 degrees C), resulting in flooding of the grid and a cutting the air flow needed for efficient combustion.

When burning briquettes from straw, however the amount of ash is only 2 – 4%, which is significantly less than the conventional combustion of coal. There are no problems from the formation of slag because of the content of chlorine in the feedstock.

The point is to burn specific fuel properly. What is also important is the amount of air available, and the temperature in the furnace. The melting point of ash from the combustion of straw briquettes is around 800 – 950 degrees C. But because the temperature in the furnace is at 800 degrees C, the point where the melting of ash is never reached.  This is achieved by controlling the supply of air.compounds in the cereal straw.

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Also, the briquettes produced by the ASKET BIOMASSER® briquetting presses have a characteristic hole inside to secure the ready supply of combustion air from outside and inside.  Moreover, in the case of automatic feeding the feeder can easily crush the briquettes (generally 80mm in diameter) in order not to block the mechanisms of the furnace.

“On our farm in Gniewkowo since 2004 we have burned briquettes from straw with manual loading of fuel and we have no problems with the boiler. In our factory in Poznan, since 2005 we have used a boiler with automatic briquettes feeding. Also no problems,” notes Barbara.

Winner of the Agriculture Machine of the Year in 2010, the ASKET BIOMASSER® technology’s success is based on its simplicity. No hydraulic or pneumatic devices are required or complex electronic processors. The BIOMASSER® pressers can work alone or connected to the shredder, which makes it easy for a small farm to have a complete production line that can produce a high grade biomass fuel for local use.

High productivity straw briquette lines dedicated for professional producers can supply fuel for use in warehouses, power plants or factories.  The BIOMASSER® product lines range from SOLO machine that can produce up to 80 kg/h of briquettes to the Maxi-Multi model that can produce up to 1280 kg/h of high quality briquettes.

There is even a BIOMASSER® Mobile factory on wheels, a transportable machine built on its own chassis which comes as a complete unit suitable for hay or straw briquetting either in an open field or directly at the stack or warehouse.

The shredders also supplied by ASKET are electrically driven and are designed for chopping straw into pieces. The chopping rotor is equipped with a series of fixed and swinging blades and a screen that ensures proper cutting of the material and the selection of different chop lengths. These also come in varying sizes.

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There is one other factor that sets the ASKET BIOMASSER® technology apart from other biomass fuel producers on the market.

The ASKET BIOMASSER® technology has been verified by the Institute of Technology and Life Sciences (ITP) established by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. ITP is the first Environmental Technology Verification body established in Poland operating under the ISO standard 17020 and the EU-ETV Pilot Programme.

This is an initiative under the Eco-Innovation Action Plan of the European Commission designed to establish the foundations for supporting and promoting eco-innovation, mainly in the highly dynamic and innovative Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SME)  sector.

Headquartered in Falenty, Poland, with branches in Warsaw and Poznan, ITP conducts scientific research and development in a wide array of natural sciences and technologies.

Its role with respect to technology verification is to conduct activities involving the evaluation of innovative environmental technologies that can contribute to the efficient use of natural resources and a high level of environmental protection in the a number of areas including the use of waste materials and resources or products made from biomass. It also includes energy technologies that produce electricity and heat from renewable energy sources such as from agricultural biomass.

The ITP-JWTS Environmental Technology Verification body cooperates with a team of highly qualified experts, including the polish Society of Energy and a network of Polish testing bodies. As noted, these activities are carried out under very strict European Union guidelines.

The ASKET BIOMASSER® technology was the first candidate to complete the entire EU ETV Pilot Programme process and has been verified by ITP as a technology that meets all of its stated performance specifications. The ASKET BIOMASSER® technology was issued Certificate Number: VN20140001 under the European Union program. The formal presentation of the Certificate will take place in December.

The Verification Statement it received is worth its weight in gold given that it is recognized throughout the European Union and sends a clear signal to potential buyers that this technology has been verified to deliver the performance benefits stated by the manufacturer.

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Agnieszka Wawrzyniak, head ITP-JWTS Environmental Technology Verification Body

Says Agnieszka Wawrzyniak, head of the ITP-JWTS Environmental Technology Verification Body, the entire verification process can take up to 18 months to complete, but once certified, the technology can be promoted at home, in Europe and internationally.

As part of a GreenEvo project ASKET officials visited Kazakhstan and a briquetting line BIOMASSER® Maxi-Multi was installed at the beginning of October 2012 for a community heating project. In May 2013 the first line of ASKET briquetting BIOMASSER® Maxi-Multi units were sold in Russia utilizing cereal straw to produce “golden coal” briquettes also for community heating purposes. A BIOMASSER® Solo is being used for briquetting grass in Tanzania as fuel for local communities to prepare meals in a project led by the Tanzanian Swedish organization Glommers Miljoenergi AB.

For Barbara Pokrzywa, the BIOMASSER® technology provides a valuable resource for the family farm, and highly valued, fully certified biomass heating product that her company ASKET can market throughout the world.

Preliminary discussions are underway between Globe Performance Solutions and ITP-Poznan regarding co-verification of technologies such as the ASKET BIOMASSER®. This could open the door for sales of the BIOMASSER® technology and other technologies in Canada and North America. Globe Performance Solutions  delivers the Canadian ETV Program on behalf of Environment Canada.

More information on the ASKET BIOMASSER® technology is available at www.asket.pl.

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