Poland: Sweden’s NextFuel AB has launched NextFuel, a briquette fuel made from elephant grass, at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) which took place in Katowice.
The company says that its product is cheaper than and oil and coal in most markets and could be used to replace some or all of the coal normally used by a cement plant, coal plant or a steel plant. Its first operational plant is based in Austria.
The first NextFuel project is expected to reduce the CO2footprint of a cement factory in East Africa by 105% compared to the coal it is using at present.
The cement plant also expects to cut its energy costs in half by using NextFuel instead of coal imported from South Africa.
It will be able to grow Elephant Grass, the source of the fuel, next to the plant to reduce its fuel transportation costs.
Elephant Grass is a perennial tropical plant that can produce several crops in a year.
Once the grass has been harvested, NextFuel says its technology requires ‘very little’ energy to produce a briquette.
The company asserts that due to a quick carbon cycle and the storage of carbon, less CO2 is released into the atmosphere when the fuel is burned than was captured from the atmosphere a few months earlier when the grass was growing. NextFuel says that annually the carbon cycle becomes negative.
After the grass is harvested, it is dried and fed into a patented reactor. This is a rotary drum, indirectly heated and operated with a low oxygen atmosphere. While inside that drum, volatile elements are separated from the grass, and the physical properties together with the energy content are transformed in less than 30 minutes.
The reactor also drives out the off-gases from the grass. They are used as surplus energy to produce heat or electricity to power the facility. After the reactor is finished, the fuel is densified and turned into briquettes that are cooled. These briquettes are ready to use directly as a CO2 negative fossil fuel substitute both in industrial and electricity production.
NextFuel plans to scale by licensing its technology to companies all around the world.