German and Canadian researchers team up to launch a new Technology Platform partnership to investigate the potential of a Biobattery project to convert residual biowastes into heat and power.
Through its $75 million Future Energy Systems research initiative University of Alberta researchers will have the chance to put cutting-edge equipment to the test. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europe’s largest organisation of its type, specialises in technologies for real-world applications.
The new platform will support joint projects that develop new energy technologies including biofuels, storage batteries, and alternative uses for CO2.
“These are new technologies that can directly benefit Alberta communities, and need to be assessed in the real-world,” explains Dr. Amit Kumar, deputy director with Future Energy Systems and principal investigator on the joint Biobattery project, “Our expertise in life-cycle assessments and the unique testing opportunities with Alberta feedstock make us natural partners with Fraunhofer.”
Energy from waste
The Technology Platform’s first joint project is Biobattery, which will bring thermo-catalytic reforming (TCR®) technology developed by Fraunhofer’s Prof. Dr. Andreas Hornung to Edmonton. The TCR is a shipping-container sized pilot plant that can process a variety of wastes into three valuable products (bio-oil, char, and gases) at a rate of 30kg/hour.
“Depending on the situation, the TCR® unit could power itself with one of those products, while we utilise the others. With the correct feed stock, it could even produce viable jet fuel,” explains Hornung.
The Biobattery project will test a variety of Alberta feed stocks such as municipal, agricultural, and forestry waste. The Government of Alberta’s ministry of Economic Development of Trade, Alberta Innovates, Susteen Technologies Canada and WestJet have joined Future Energy Systems and the University of Alberta as partners on the project.
Fraunhofer has already begun testing the technology in Birmingham, UK. However, in Alberta there are hopes that the TCR could allow decentralised communities to turn local waste products into energy, although its practicality will vary across the province.
“The business case for a TCR unit is highly dependent on what waste products are readily available in a given area,” Kumar says. “Our research will assess Alberta waste products to see which ones produce viable fuels, so we can understand what characteristics a community would need for this technology to make economic and environmental sense.”
The TCR test unit is expected to arrive in Edmonton in 2018. One week prior to the signing of the contract in Munich, together with Prof. Dr. Andreas Hornung the Canadians visited the Energy Institute at the University of Birmingham in England. Prof.
According to the University of Alberta, plans are developing for another project bringing Fraunhofer-developed Vanadium Redox-Flow battery technology to Alberta for testing.
Redox-Flow batteries are intended to support renewable power installations, allowing intermittent energy from sources like solar and wind to be temporarily held for later use.
“We have been exchanging knowledge and ideas for several years, and through the signing of the contract, we can further expand our strategic partnership with Canada,” concludes Hornung.