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New biomass pellet binder from Nu Materials

By Lisa Gibson | March 09, 2011

A new organic binder by Indiana-based engineered fuels company Nu Materials makes biomass fuel pellets resistant to moisture, resulting in savings in transportation, handling and operations, according to the company.

Thermolar resin is made from proteins and carbohydrates of renewable biomass, and allows the blending of coal and biomass materials into one pellet product, according to Nu Materials partner Bob McElwee. Its composition also means only heat is required to solidify the resin.

While the company is not currently producing pellets with Thermolar on a commercial scale, it has run a number of tests on 60 to 40 percent biomass coal blend fuel with more in the works, mainly for coal-fired power stations. “The big thing power companies look at from our test results is that the emissions are drastically reduced,” McElwee said.

Nu Materials has assessed blended pellets made with crop residue, peanut shells, sawdust, switchgrass and paper products, and is also in discussions with a landfill in Indiana for a supply of wood and paper wastes, according to McElwee. In addition, Indiana allows the harvesting of grass on state lands for bioenergy and Nu Materials hopes to use that resource, as well. “Our goal is to create jobs for farmers,” McElwee said.

Thermolar’s water resistant property makes transporting the pellets overseas simpler and the company calls it a “game changer” in exporting, but is looking initially at domestic pellet markets in the biomass and coal industries. “We are very patriotic and we want to create jobs in the U.S.,” he said.

While Nu Materials has only tested its coal and biomass blended fuels, the company hopes to eventually focus on 100 percent biomass pellets. The company has produced smaller pellets with 100 percent biomass, as well as large briquettes, McElwee said. It is exploring sites in Indiana for its first large production facility and has several letters of intent from prospective customers.

Nu Materials will be an exhibitor at Biomass Power & Thermal’s International Biomass Conference & Expo May 2-5 in St. Louis. For more information on the conference, speakers and exhibitors, visit www.biomassconference.com.