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Black coal will turn green

Published: 8 December 2017

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology and Umeå University, together with a metallurgical research institute and small enterprises among others biocoal producers in Norrbotten and Västerbotten, are collaborating to develop knowledge about how biomass can be converted into biocoal, to make the Swedish metal industry more environmentally friendly

The purpose of the project Bio4Metals is to reduce the metal industry's use of fossil coal, which produces very high carbon emissions when used in the blast furnace.

– The primary target group in the project is small- and medium-sized forestry companies, that have forests and who can process the biomass on site themselves. We already know that raw biomass can’t be used directly in e.g. the blast furnace, it must be torrefied or pyrolyzed and become, so called biocoal. It is mainly about developing methods and techniques to enable companies to produce biocoal product with the required properties, in order to substitute fossile coal in the process of metal manufacturing, "says Lena Sundqvist, Associate Professor in Process Metallurgy at Luleå University of Technology.

The Bio4Metals project, which lasts for three years until 2019, is led by Swerea MEFOS and has six partners in Norrbotten and Västerbotten. Three different methods of producing biocoals at different test facilities (pilot and demo) are included in the project. The material will then be tested and evaluated based on cost and efficiency. The work is done in dialogue with LKAB, SSAB and Boliden.

When fossil coal is used in metal manufacturing for the production of steel and base metals and in the mining industry, it causes high carbon dioxide emissions. However, more knowledge about how to design biocoals is needed to avoid negatively affects in the manufacturing processes. This is where the researchers in the project have the biggest challenge. Different types of biocoals are needed in different metal production processes. The starting point for the design of the biocoal, is therefore exactly what industry needs in each process. Forestry companies will make the whole chain from forest to green metal practical - and profitable.

– It could be more profitable for forest owners to produce biocoal themselves or in the nearby area and to produce designed biocoals to the metal industry in the north. The vision is that manufacturing of biocoals becomes a new emerging industry, says Dr. Maria Lundgren, researcher at Swerea MEFOS.

The project with a total budget of 10 million is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Region Norrbotten, Region Västerbotten and the companies themselves.

Forestry companies positive to the research project

One of the forest companies involved in the research project, by locally producing biodiversity of forest residues, is Arctic Heat in Harads. Managing Director Niclas Norberg has always been fascinated by research and development in energy and environmental issues, both during his studies in civil engineering in applied mechanics at Luleå University of Technology and in his current companies.

– It's great for us to get involved in the Bio4Metals project. The researchers will be able to analyze our tests and we will simultaneously raise our development in the area, says Niclas Norberg.