Project leader Ib Johannsen being photographed by the media in front of HTL-plant

New Innovative HTL-plant on Foulum

Friday the 22nd of May well over a hundred people from science, the industry and politicians joined in the celebration of the inauguration of a new HTL-Plant on AU-Foulum. The plant enables the production of oil made from grass and other biomaterials.

“A new Columbus egg”

“This is nothing less than a Columbus egg”, rector at University of Aarhus, Brian Bech Nielsen said in his opening speech to describe the new HTL-Plant. The first of its kind, the new plant will be used to convert biomass into crude oil and other important materials that can be used for food and feed. This will be done by mimicking the process found in nature with already existing fossil fuels. Brian Nielsen continued:

“If this system works as it is supposed to, we can transform grass into oil and mimic nature’s own process, and the amazing thing is that here it does not take millions of years, but can be done in half an hour.”

As well as the short time it takes to produce the oil, Lector and project-leader on the new HTL-Plant Ib Johannsen also emphasized that the plant allows for the adjustment and control of the conversion process, as well as conditions and decompositions to help ensure the best possible product outcome.

This will reinvent the cultivation systems for both conventional and ecological farmers in the future, as there will be a bigger demand for grass and other biomaterials. Farmers will therefore have a bigger incitement to plant grass and other green plants, which does not need nitrogen fertilizer or pesticides, and produces material for a far greater part of the year. Overall this means that farmers can double their yield per hectare as well as eliminate some of the environmental problems which are connected conventional farming and our traditional crop rotations.

Innovative construction

Using existing knowledge of bioconversion, the plant is the first of its kind in several ways. It is built solely by members of AU in collaboration between scientists in every field related to the process. Engineers, biologists, agro-scientists etc. have all shared knowledge to create an innovative process from beginning to end. To ensure easier remodeling and improvement as the plant is used in different sectors, the construction allows easy access to repair and changes.

The plant is also built with scalability in mind. At the current state the plant will be used primarily for research and exploration, but in the future is will be possible to upscale this production to be used by the industry. Furthermore the plant uses breakthrough technology in both heat recycling during the conversion process and the Inconel materials used to build the plant, can withstand almost any substance, temperature and pressure which allows exploration and a multifaceted use in both science and industrial tasks.

Collaboration and innovation is key

With speeches from both researchers, politicians and members of the industry, one of the main takeaways from the day, was the importance of innovation through collaboration and integration.

Both in a technical matter as the plant is set to be paired with another plant which extracts the protein in the grass, thus letting the existing pulp be used by the HTL-plant for oil production. But also in a broader perspective across universities and industries. Ib Johannsen stressed the importance of collaboration between research and industry, hereunder some of the BioValue partners – Rockwool and Borregaard.

The idea is to use the plant as much as possible, by letting both researchers and industries use it in an effort to uncover where the HTL-plant is most effective and how it can be scaled in the future. For Rockwool it would mean that they have an opportunity to receive functional binders for their products, converted from lignin residues, in a scale far beyond the grams produced in lab experiments.

With the integration of the pilot plant on protein the material and data delivered are highly interesting for building business cases and optimizing the integration of various biorefinery processes in a more industrial relevant scale.

The facilities will therefore have a direct impact on both project 2 (green biomass) and 6 (lignin conversion) of the BioValue projects.

For a video which gives insight on the reasoning for new grass based crop systems as well as footage from the HTL-inauguration follow this link: (in danish, featuring BioValue people Uffe Jørgensen, Søren Krogh Jensen and Ib Johannsen).

Below are some pictures of the event: