With the Thermo-Catalytic Reforming (TCR®) process, a wide variety of biomass or organic residues can be recycled sustainably. All waste and residues are converted in a flexible process into three high-quality raw materials (synthesis gas, bio-crude oil and biochar). This offers a variety of solutions for municipalities, waste disposal companies, agriculture and industry.
Municipal and commercial residues such as sewage sludge, biowaste and municipal waste, market and food residues, fermentation residues from biogas plants and landscape care materials can be optimally converted into electricity and heat on site. Modern combined heat and power plants use the fuels extremely efficiently and supply not only electricity, but also heat for household, commercial and industrial use. The synthesis gas with its high hydrogen content is free of tar, dust and aromatics and can be used without further processing in gas and dual fuel combustion engines, as well as in turbines.
In Germany alone, about 1.85 million tonnes of sewage sludge (based on dry matter) left the water treatment plants in 2012. Due to its high content of organic matter and inorganic plant nutrients, such as phosphates, sewage sludge can be used both energetically and agriculturally. In 2012, about 1 million tonnes of sewage sludge were burned. The rest was used as fertilizer, was composted or used in landscaping. An interesting alternative to thermal utilization and direct use as fertilizer is the TCR® process we have developed. On the one hand, the high-calorific portion of sewage sludge can be converted into synthesis gas and bio-oil, thus becoming transportable and storable then it can either serve as an energy source or as a feedstock for the chemical industry. On the other hand, the important agricultural ingredients remain in the biochar and can be returned to the soil either directly or after extraction.
Organic municipal waste includes not only separately collected market and food waste from households, trade and small businesses, but also plant remains from the yard, garden or communal green spaces. The organic share of municipal waste depends very much on culture, climate and economic development. In 2012, for example, it was between 67% in the Asia-Pacific region and 27% in the OECD countries. However, the absolute amount of organic waste is still highest in advanced countries. And also the handling of the waste is very different. Whether they are used thermally in waste incineration plants, processed into compost or stored in a landfill depends not only on the waste itself, but also on the country and region. Wild, open or poorly managed landfills represent a considerable environmental and health problem, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The TCR® process offers a highly efficient solution for the energetic use of these residues.
Of the fossil fuels, the burning of natural gas contributes least to CO₂ pollution. Here, valuable hydrocarbons are not only dormant in the soil, but also in organic residues. This is where the TCR® process comes in and produces high-quality synthesis gas: free of tar, dust and aromatics. It can be used as an energy source in gas and ignition jet engines as well as in turbines without regeneration. A hydrogen content of up to 50 percent by volume also allows TCR® synthesis gas to flow back into the economic cycle as a valuable chemical raw material.
As a source of energy and raw material for the chemical industry, oil is one of the cornerstones of the industrial age. But because of its impact on the environment promotion and consumption are at the same time highly controversial. Oils from renewable raw materials are an alternative. But catchwords such as monocultures, over-fertilization or tank versus plate also point to conflict potential. The TCR® process offers another way: organic agricultural, municipal and industrial residues can be converted into high-quality bio-crude in a short process time. Free of tar and waxes, with a low acid content and a high calorific value, it is already engine-friendly with low admixture of conventional fuels on normal CHPs. And to obtain road fuels in standard quality, already sufficient for an industry-standard refining process.
Carbonization is the process by which volatiles and water are forced out of dead plant matter, thereby increasing the carbon content. In this way, the primeval forests of bygone eras have been transformed over millions of years into peat, then into brown coal and finally into hard coal. The TCR® process speeds up this process. Organic residues become dry, storable and transportable biochar and leave the reactor after just a few hours in hard coal quality (in the solid carbon content). Another advantage of the TCR® process: Organic compounds such as residues of antibiotics, furans or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons disintegrate during the process. For organic pollutants, biochars from the TCR® reactor are therefore far below the legal limits. TCR® biochar is an ideal raw material for applications in agriculture, metallurgy, filter technology or as an energy carrier.
Modern combined heat and power plants use fuels extremely efficiently and supply not only electricity, but also heat for household, commercial and industrial use. Sustainable energy carriers for their operation are provided by the TCR® process. Because the synthesis gas is characterized not only by its high hydrogen content with a volume fraction of up to 50 percent, but is also free of tar, dust and aromatics. Since it is motor-capable without further processing, it can be used in gas and ignition jet engines as well as in turbines. The bio-crude also leaves the TCR® reactor free of tar. A low acid content and the lack of waxing conserve the combined heat and power plant while the high calorific value increases the economy. An optionally available gasification module also makes TCR® biochars fit for conventional combined heat and power plants. This allows the energy of organic waste to be used particularly well.
Whether for the synthesis of ammonia, methanol or higher alcohols, for hydrogenation in mineral oil processing or in metallurgical processes - hydrogen is an essential industrial raw material. The TCR® process provides an alternative to fossil fuels. The hydrogen-rich synthesis gas can be split by established methods.
In 2015, around 17 million tonnes of gasoline and more than 34 million tonnes of diesel were consumed in Germany. TCR® bio-crude already has the best conditions for the refinement of road fuels: a high calorific value and a low acid content. It can be refined directly like normal crude oil. Using the green hydrogen from the TCR® process not only increases efficiency, but also further lowers the carbon footprint. Extensive tests have shown that diesel and petrol based on TCR® bio-oil, unlike other biofuels, can directly meet the corresponding fuel standards.
The petroleum fraction naphtha is just as important as hard coal, lignite or wood tar. Because it can be used to produce a wide variety of aromatic compounds, which in turn have a permanent place in the chemical industry as precursors - naphthalene, benzene, toluene. What nature has produced in millions of years is achieved by the TCR® reactor in just a few hours. Organic material is inactivated and split. The plant leaves hydrogen-rich synthesis gas, high-calorie bio-crude and valuable biochar. The extraction of chemical precursors from these sustainable raw materials is currently an important development channel.
In intensive stable farming, feces and urine give a problematic mixture. You can meet these challenges with biochar. Thanks to its high porosity it regulates the moisture in the house. When mixed into litter, 1 liter of coal absorbs up to 5 liters of urine. This not only reduces the ammonia load. It also cuts off the bacteria in the feces from growth-promoting nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, which have collected in the urine. The rot in the barn is thus removed from the soil and the germ pressure on the farm animals decreases. If biochar is added to the animal feed, it is proven to contribute to the stabilization of the intestinal environment and thus to the health of livestock.
Thanks to the high surface area and slow decomposition of biochar, it remains stable for more than 1000 years and it can significantly improve nutrient-poor soils. The TCR® process uses organic residues to extract biochar in addition to synthesis gas and bio-oil. An area competition for food does not exist and the carbon cycle is closed permanently.