Sustainable energy solution developed by Aston University

As fuel prices continue to increase, researchers from the European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) at Aston University in Birmingham, have developed an innovative bioenergy solution that uses waste products to generate cost-effective heat and power and that could reduce the world’s reliance on fossil fuels.

The market opportunities of the equipment – a Pyroformer, developed by Professor Andreas Hornung, of EBRI – also offer business benefits to the West Midlands region. It is anticipated that 35 jobs will be directly safeguarded or created and over 1,000 indirect jobs created in the West Midlands by 2022 as a result. This would see an increase in the turnover of the West Midlands’ regional bioenergy industry and will result in an increase in Net Regional GVA of £105 million by the same date.

The Pyroformer overcomes many of the problems other renewable energy solutions have generated. Tests have shown that unlike other bioenergy plants, the Pyroformer has no negative environmental or food security impacts. It can use multiple waste sources and therefore does not require the destruction of rainforests or the use of agricultural land for the growth of specialist bioenergy crops. In fact biochar – one of its by-products – can even be used as a fertiliser to increase crop yields.
As well as generating heat and power, the Pyroformer also dramatically reduces the amount of material sent to landfill.

Professor Andreas Hornung, Head of the European Bioenergy Research Institute at Aston University, said: “This Pyroformer is the first of its kind in the UK and the first industrial scale plant is now up and running at Harper Adams University College before it is permanently installed on the Aston campus later this year. We are delighted with the tests taking place at Harper Adams which are demonstrating that this really is a low carbon, renewable and sustainable energy source.

“However, this is about more than just energy provision. We believe this bioenergy technology could be a key stimulator of growth and jobs in the region and the reaction of the business community so far has been very enthusiastic. If you are looking for a clean energy source that ensures energy security without damaging people or planet, we already have the solution.”

The Pyroformer is capable of processing up to 100 kg/h of biomass feed and when coupled with a gasifier it will have an output of 400 kWeI – this is the equivalent to providing power for 800 homes[1]. It is currently being tested at Harper Adams University College in Shropshire before moving to its permanent home at EBRI’s new £16.5m ERDF funded laboratories later this year. This facility will showcase the Pyroformer to industry and demonstrate how real-life solutions for tackling biomass based residues and waste can be achieved, with both environmental and financial benefits for households, businesses and local authorities.

Companies wishing to find out more about EBRI’s work and how they could benefit from bioenergy should Contact EBRI