New method for using brown coal and biomass

The first meeting of the participants of the international project titled HyCon – “Catalytic Direct Hydrothermal Conversion of Biomass and Lignites to Liquid Fuels and Value-added Chemicals” took place online from the 22nd to the 23rd of September this year. The project's purpose is to develop the basis for an industrial process involving the hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of low-grade brown coal and biomass materials for the production of liquid fuels and value-added chemicals.

Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) entails the thermochemical conversion of carbon-containing resources into liquid fuels in the presence of water. The process makes use of the specific properties of water at high temperature and pressure. “Under conditions close to the critical point, that is at a temperature of 374°C and pressure of 22.1 MPa, water assumes the properties of an organic solvent capable of dissolving complex carbon structures and stabilising the obtained products,” explains prof. Krzysztof Stańczyk, the project manager. The project is an excellent example of an innovative use for coal as a resource, whereas the hydrothermal liquefaction process of brown coal exhibits potential advantages over other methods of liquefaction.

Work on the project is conducted by a consortium composed of the following partners: Imperial College in the United Kingdom, the Freiberg University of Mining and Technology in Germany, the Institute of Research on Catalysis and the Environment and the University of Lyon in France, and the Research Centre for Energy, Environment and Technology in Spain. Apart from the scientific partners, two industrial partners are also involved in the project: PGE Górnictwo i Energetyka Konwencjonalna in Poland, which represents the supplier of the resources for the process, and Hellenic Petroleum S.A. in Greece, which represents the end product user (the petrochemical industry). The Central Mining Institute is the project coordinator, and it is also responsible for three work packages encompassing the majority of the experimental work. The project is financed by the Research Fund for Coal and Steel.

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