“LIFE EUCALYPTUS ENERGY” PROJECT IS FINISHED
The present project, under its condition of LIFE + project, was born with the demonstrative and innovative object of designing and building a pilot plant that had the necessary technology for the energy recovery of forest biomass from forest cuttings of Eucalyptus globulus.
Thanks to this initiative, by pyrolysis process, it would be obtained electrical energy, as well as a byproduct of high fertilizing power and fixation of atmospheric CO2 such as biochar.
«Eucalyptus Integrated Wood Processing Project», commonly known as «Life Eucalyptus Energy» has been a research and development project that was started in September 2013 by the following partners: CPL (Coal Products Limited), Asmadera (Association Asturiana de Empresarios Forestales, de la Madera y el Mueble), Cartif Foundation and Ingemas. The ending was expected for September 2016, but it was not until September 2018 when project was concluded.
This 2-year delay was mainly due to some problems among consortium’s partners (in fact, CPL left the project shortly after and its position was covered with Energy. This change was not coming out well enough and finally at the head of the project was composed by three partners: Asmadera, Ingenas and Cartif) and all the technical problems arising during the commissioning of the plant in question.
Once all these setbacks have been solved and thanks to the amount of the grant awarded (a maximum of 845.098 €), the pilot plant is now a reality for all.
The scope of action was located from the first moment in Tineo (Asturias), specifically in its industrial area. The location of the plant has been in the Biogas Fuel Cell company industrial land in Tineo. This company was a precursor of the project, although not a member of the consortium.
The present project focused exclusively on the biomass of eucalyptus, (Eucalyptus globulus) with the aim of improving the sustainability of the abundant masses existing in the environment in which the initiative was developed. However, once the plant is finished and aware of the possibilities offered by it, any waste or agricultural or forest byproduct can be used for this purpose. Likewise, the concept of the process could be extrapolated even to the waste generated during the maintenance work of municipal parks and gardens.
This would be a way to reach the local administrations since the results of the project could inspire these organisms in the development of local management policies or in the production and application of biochar as an amendment in landscaped areas and carbon fixation tool in the ground. Other sectors in which Life Eucalyptus Energy aims to be echoed are the sector’s producers and forest owners; the industrial sector in general (the results referring to the production of electricity could inspire the industrial sectors for the use of forest waste for electricity production at a small or medium scale); the academic and research sector (the potential implementation of biorefineries could redirect research on the chemical extraction of liquid products from pyrolysis after project completion), as well as environmental organizations (the implementation of the project will help forest management sustainable use of eucalyptus masses, contributing to the reduction of soil desertification and environmental impacts derived from the eucalyptus industry).
From the execution of the project, technical and economic analyzes of the production of biochar * have been obtained, as a material resulting from the pyrolysis process (transformation of the material under anoxic conditions at a temperature between 450 and 800ºC). It should be noted that the advantage of pyrolysis against combustion process is that emissions of NOx, SO2 and CO are avoided.
Taking into account the range of biochar production of this project, (27 kg / h), it would be equivalent to the extraction of 100 kg of carbon dioxide per hour, resulting the carbon balance of the project in negative value.
With the production of 105 kW of renewable electricity, emissions of 36 kg of CO2 per hour are avoided (2006 Guidelines for Natural Green House Inventories).
For all the above, Life Eucalyptus Energy has been an initiative that will actively contribute to the fight against climate change and has been integrated into the European Union’s policies on renewable energy, rural development, climate change and waste management.
And given the completion of the project and the interest aroused by all sectors towards this plant, on October 30 the inauguration took place, in which there were great personalities.
Minister of Rural Development and Natural Resources of Asturias, Mª Jesús Álvarez, was present with Tineo´s Mayor (José Ramón Feito) and the President of the Asturian Federation of Businessmen (Belarmino Feito), as well as with the representatives of the three partners.
On behalf of Asmadera was present the President (Pedro Suárez), who was in charge of making the opening of the day. Gregorio Antolin was also on behalf of Cartif, who gave a keynote speech on «the use of bio-chemical waste for the production of biochar and electricity». Finaly, José María González, President of Ingemas, was who explained to those present the operation of the plant.
After all these presentations, those attending the inauguration were able to visit the plant and at its completion, they could have a moment of networking while enjoying a spanish wine.
Biochar presents a micro porous structure with a large surface area of around 400m2 / g, which gives it a series of properties, among which its capacity to store almost half of the CO2 of the transformed organic matter stands out. In addition, thanks to this porosity, it improves the mechanical properties of the soil, considerably increasing nutrient retention, as it increases its availability for vegetables.
At the same time, it serves as a refuge for nitrogen-fixing microorganisms in the soil, in the same way that coral reefs do in the sea.
The benefits of applying biochar on the soil are divided into benefits over the atmosphere and above ground. At atmospheric level, the emissions of N2O and CH4 are reduced, (we must remember that of the nitrogen that is applied as an organic amendment to the soil, only a small part of it is fixed, assuming the rest losses, either by washing or emission) .
At soil level, in addition to avoiding the washing of nutrients by increasing the water holding capacity of the soil, it also involves the storage of carbon for long periods (estimated between hundreds and thousands of years). The combination of nitrogen fixing organisms and a larger amount of water and nutrients means an increase in the productive capacity of the same. As an example of the capacity of biochar to make the soil a carbon sink, we can mention the soils «Terra preta» found in the Amazon basin. «Terra preta» or black earth of the Amazon is a type of dark and very fertile soil, of great difference with respect to the yellowish soils that surround it. The first allusions to the term came from the hands of western researchers between the years 1870-1879, citing «dark and very fertile Amazonian lands with ceramic fragments». This type of soil is, therefore, an edaphological, chemical and mineral modification of previous soils by anthropogenic effect and is estimated to occupy between 6,000 and 60,000Km2 in the Amazon basin. Its carbon content is 9%, compared to 0.5% in conventional soils.
An improvement in the permeability of soils reduces its erosion and its susceptibility to desertification. In the specific case of the place of development of the project, it is not necessary to fight against desertification, since it is a Eurosiberian region with abundant rainfall and temperate climate. However, it can be decisive in dry and arid areas.
On the other hand and indirectly, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation compared to other techniques based on fossil fuels, is remarkable.