River Basin Energy plans commercial biocoal plants

By Matt Soberg | September 14, 2011

River Basin Energy, with an existing biocoal demonstration facility in Laramie, Wyo., hopes to redefine the renewable energy industry by building commercial-scale torrefaction plants in the U.S. and Europe. The company, founded in 2008, specializes in advanced fuel technology for coal power operations. 

With the increasing demand for renewable fuels, River Basin Energy can provide low-cost alternative fuel that can be utilized in existing coal-fired power plants. The company intends to become a leading supplier of enhanced fuels where environment and carbon neutral initiatives exist worldwide. 

The company’s torrefaction technology transforms the burning properties of biomass so they are similar to that of coal. Unprocessed biomass can contain high moisture levels, variations in physical characteristics and low burning properties in comparison to coal, according to River Basin Energy CEO Andy Piers. The torrefaction process results in a product with a higher energy density, improved grindability and burning consistency.

Torrefaction is becoming more competitive worldwide with numerous companies seeking to become commercial suppliers of biocoal. Not all technologies are the same, however, and River Basin Energy believes its system design sets it apart from the others.

Most torrefaction technology developers spend too much time and effort on keeping air out of the process, which causes inefficiency at many levels, Piers said. River Basin Energy has developed and patented a continuous process that operates at atmospheric conditions resulting in a simple and efficient torrefied product. The process is self-sustaining and produces biomass fuels with 100 percent renewable contact, according to the company.

According to Piers, River Basin Energy has substantial amounts of feedstock secured at various development sites, an experienced management group and technology that is simple, efficient and competitive. Along with Piers, Heimen Perdijk, chief operating officer, Maarten van Rossum, chief financial officer, and Dianne Wyss, vice president of North America, make up the executive team.

River Basin Energy is developing its production base and expects to commence construction of its first commercial-scale plant in 2011, producing more than 100,000 metric tons of biocoal per year. The company is actively developing biocoal sites in various locations on both sides of the Atlantic, and expects commercial production to be operational by the end of 2012. The specific locations and details about River Basin Energy’s plans were not made available.

The Laramie facility is a semi-commercial-scale plant and technical center utilized for the discovery of coal energy technology and can produce up to 300 kilograms per hour of product, according to River Basin Energy. The site has been used extensively to produce demonstration quantities of biocoal to aid in the design of the company’s full-scale production capabilities.