The Netherland’s Organisation of Applied Scientific Research
TNO, The Netherland’s Organisation of Applied Scientific Research, is an independent not-for-profit research organization in the Netherlands. Its expertise and research make an important contribution to the competitiveness of companies and organisations as well as the economy and the quality of society as a whole. TNO has about 3500 employees working in major applied research areas, of which energy is a leading theme. TNO’s mission is to support industry and society in general by transforming (scientific) know-how into commercially and sustainable products and processes.
The TNO Bioenergy and Efficiency (BEE) unit develops advanced uses of biomass, advanced processing and consults on policy development and technical applications. The R&D programme of the unit is divided into four areas: biorefinery (lignocellulosic biomass and seaweed), bioenergy (combustion, gasification, gas cleaning, SNG), sustainable process technology and thermal systems.
Within this unit, about fifty highly qualified professionals work on physico-chemical conversion (combustion, gasification, pyrolysis, pretreatment/fractionation, catalysis) of biomass and residues in national and international projects with government and industry. A range of experimental and analytical facilities (combustion, gasification, pyrolysis, gas cleaning, gas engine, catalytic synthesis, separations) are available for lab and pilot-scale research and development. Substantial experience also exists in process modelling and integral plant design including economics evaluation, application of mineral residues, emission control and Lifecycle Assessment. The Upgrading program focuses on upcycling bio-residues to energy and products. One of the main lines of research is the co-production of bio-energy and biochar with the associated technology and market development for the Biochar.
Rianne Visser (F) has 25 years of experience in bio-energy from biomass and residues and the production of biochar. The early experience was on the inorganic problems that arise in thermal installations such as condensation of salts, formation of melts and fouling in general which lead to corrosion, downtime and failure in thermal installations. From this knowledge and a decade of experience came the realization that the elements causing the problems in energy generation would be valuable fertilizing elements in agriculture. This then led to the concept of co-production of bio-energy and biochar at a much lower temperature than regular energy generation (typically < 700 C). In this way the nutrients are kept in the solid biochar and the burnable gas from which energy can be made is relatively free from inorganic elements. In the last 12 years the conceptual idea was brought to practice in dedicated installations, realized first in several lab-scale- and recently also on pilot-scale installations. Within the RUSTICA project we can optimize smaller batches of biochar to both a high quality and optimized functionality, depending on the aimed use and we also provide larger quantities of biochar for the pilot work. The use of biochar in agriculture serves more functions than that of a slow-release fertilizer. When optimized, it can partially replace the role of soil organic matter in water holding capacity and adsorbing nutrients to prevent them from leaching to the groundwater.