Coal made from plant waste could help cut CO2 emissions

Jan 8 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 1/8/2020 1:31:41 PM IST

 Coal made from plant waste could help cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 730 million tons by 2030, according to a new study from China.

Researchers at the University of Science and Technology in China say bio-coal could also help improve food supplies by replacing bio-fuels made from grain. The team say that if coal was replaced with their plant based alternative, made from forest and agricultural waste, then millions of tons of carbon wouldn't be released.

The bio-coal they produced is an 'energy efficient' solid by-product of distilling bio-oil - an existing 'plant product' which they say is 'highly corrosive and inefficient'. 

The team estimate that by 2030 about 400 million tons of 'bio-coal' could be produced every year, all of which could directly replace the fossil fuel.

Bio-coal could 'help fast-track climate change mitigation efforts by providing an accessible opportunity for developing countries to switch out conventional fossil fuels for renewable energy', say the team.

The researchers say other options such as bio-gas involve 'dipping into the food supply', something many developing nations don't have the resources to do.  

Bio-oil synthesized from the thermal decomposition of plant waste has been identified as an alternative to grain-based biofuels for some time, the team say.

The China team decided to try and produce a form of fuel with more desirable properties - including better heat generation during combustion.

Lead researcher Bin-Hai Cheng and colleagues used conventional, scalable chemical engineering processes to distill bio-oil made from five common plant wastes.

They found the most efficient plant material to use in generation bio-coal were rice husks, which they say are abundant worldwide

Their process involved turning rice husk into bio-oil which was then distilled and turned into the solid 'bio-coal' which has similar properties to fossil fuel coal without the polluting elements such as copper and nickel

They used products commonly found around the world including rice husk, saw dust, wheat straw, bagasse, and soybean straw and distilled them to approximately 464 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in a glossy black solid - coal. The team studied the new bio-coal created from rice husk and found it was thermally stable and had an energy possibility equal to commercial fossil based coals.

(Ryan Morrison for mailonline)

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