Biomass-fuelled power, heating and refrigeration plant

  • 2016-12-21 15:48:10
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  • Economiecirculaire.org
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  • Main leader : Mini Green Power
  • Type of initiative :
  • France
  • 1446 Vieux Chemin de Toulon, 83400 Hyères
  • Start date : juin 2014

Mini Green Power has developed a green power plant that uses biomass to generate electricity and provide heating or cooling. Offering a genuine alternative to fossil energy, this zero-carbon green power plant operates using locally available biomass, providing municipalities and industrial facilities with an outlet for green waste, an abundant resource that is currently unused and costly to dispose of. The plant converts the biomass to energy, in the form of electricity and heat. Electric power is generally injected into the grid and heat is used to heat buildings or greenhouses, or supplied to a district heating system. 

In the export market, our pyrogasification technology, combined with solar power, offers excellent prospects for sites where access to energy is problematic but biomass is readily available.

Qualitative benefits

Innovative approach 

The gasification technology developed by Mini Green Power is highly innovative in terms of its compactness and ability to use a wide range of biomass as fuel. The two key technical features are an autonomous instrumentation and control system that provides ultra-fine control of the process parameters, and disruptive technology featuring a co-current fixed bed gasifier into which biomass is introduced from below. This technology has been audited and approved by the CEA’s LITEN laboratory in Grenoble, one of the world’s leading biomass research facilities. To protect its know-how and technology, Mini Green Power has filed three patents in France and Italy, with worldwide extensions. 

Social benefits

Mini Green Power’s driving force is its extremely capable workforce, who are united by strong, shared convictions. The company has created over 20 jobs at its production facility located in Hyères (including engineers, research doctors, an accountant, a secretary, technicians, electronics specialists, fitters, welders and quality managers).

The company aims to create three local jobs at each plant sold, to supervise the plant and supply it with biomass.

When Mini Green Power was established, in June 2014, the management team promptly produced a Code of Values that included a commitment to passing on knowledge. MGP aims to foster each employee’s development in his or her area of expertise, encouraging them to fulfil their potential. This quest for excellence is reflected in the company’s keen focus on research and innovation, its bold approach and commitment to passing on knowledge and skills to younger employees. 

Environmental benefits 

When used as an energy source, biomass (the organic matter that makes up living organisms and their residues) has two distinctive features: unlike fossil fuels, it is renewable; and it is greenhouse gas-neutral (when burned, biomass merely releases the carbon dioxide stored by photosynthesis during its life). 

Our zero-carbon solution enables industrial facilities, public authorities, foresters and farmers to replace fossil energy with a clean energy source.

To give an example, the power injected into the grid by our demonstrator since it began operating has avoided 68 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Furthermore, recovering plant waste in situ eliminates the need to transport it to processing facilities, often located more than 50 km away.

Economic benefits 

The plant generates two or three sources of savings and revenues for industrial and municipal customers, depending on the model chosen (heating-only or heat-and-power cogeneration).

In al cases, the power plant delivers savings. Firstly, by recovering biomass that would otherwise have incurred costs to remove for disposal. Substantial additional savings may be achieved, depending on the available outlets. 

The plant also creates income from the sale or onsite consumption of the generated power and the sale of residual heat.

Municipality: savings are mainly obtained by avoiding processing costs, and revenue is generated by the sale or onsite consumption of the electricity and heat produced by the plant.

Sludge drying: cutting the sludge weight and volume by a factor of three (4,000 tons of sludge entering the dryer weigh 1,000 upon exit) decreases the cost of final disposal by the same amount. 

Drying wood for fuel: savings are achieved by reducing weight (cut by half) and by increasing the heating value.

Case-by-case research studies point to a return on investment within 3 to 7 years and a plant service life of 20 years. 

Scope for replicating the initiative in other regions

The developed solutions enable multiple use cases to be addressed using standard modules. Examples include heating, district heating systems, drying processes, air conditioning, cogeneration and pellet manufacturing. 

Our solution’s compact design and intelligent instrumentation and control system facilitate installation and enable the plant to be remotely operated by our technicians anywhere in the world, including remote sites.

Stages of the initiative

Origins 

In France, numerous underused reservoirs of biomass exist, including green waste from green spaces managed by local authorities, farming by-products, co-products of the wood industry, recycled wood, forestry remnants (sections of branches and trunks left in situ after felling operations). Food processing industries also generate biomass, such as walnut and hazel nut shells or plum and olive stones. Much of these resources, estimated to represent more than 6 million annually, are not reused and costly to dispose of. Processing costs vary between regions, but the cost to industrial companies and public authorities can be as high as €60 per ton. 

Development outlook

MGP aims to grow in three areas: France, Europe and Rest of World. 

In France, “green mini plant” technology is well-suited to the needs of many businesses and public authorities:

- Industrial companies specialising in green waste collection (i.e. around a dozen multinationals and several hundred local companies)

- Industrial composting specialists, to process non-compostable rejected materials at around a hundred facilities

- Around 50 agri-businesses, including distilleries and food processing industries that generate waste such as walnut shells or plum and olive stones

- Lastly, mid-sized municipalities with populations of 20,000 to 60,000. There are 400 to 500 such municipalities in mainland and Overseas France.

An average of six million tons of plant waste is collected in France each year, costing municipalities €180 million annually. This corresponds to a potential market of 3,000 green power plants (each processing 2,000 - 2,500 tons per year). 

MGP’s target is to conquer 1% of the French market within 5 years, representing approximately 30 plants.

Elsewhere in Europe, MGP intends to focus its prospecting efforts in three priority markets: Italy is the number one international priority, largely due to the high cost of electricity (three times higher than in France), followed by Spain and England. 

The outlook for the rest of the world is bright. MGP has set up a subsidiary in Madagascar and there are also good prospects in Latin America.

MGP’s patented combination of gasification and concentrating solar power technologies opens up very significant growth opportunities on continents such as Africa and South America, where biomass is abundant and access to energy sometimes difficult.

Areas of activity

  • Agriculture
  • Energy
  • Mobility

Resources

  • Waste
  • Biowaste
  • Sobriety
  • Material efficiency
  • Energy efficiency
  • Compost

Pillar(s) of the circular economy

  • Industrial and regional ecology

Technical resources

Each year, a green mini plant is able to process between 2,000 and 5,000 of biomass from a wide range of sources: rejected materials from composting processes, wood, paper, wood chips, fruit stones from the food processing industry, etc. The plant can operate with biomass at moisture contents up to 55%, and the moisture content can fluctuate during operation with no need to adjust plant parameters.

Human resources

35 employees 

Financers

  • BPI, ADEME, Paca-Est
 Short circuits
 Sustainable procurement
 biomass
 green energy
 local
 zero carbon
 green waste

Moderator

  • Cyrielle BORDE

    Cheffe de service adjointe - Service Industrie

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