17 Pyromaniax changing the energy landscape

bacon_sandwichAdd organic stuff, mix, add heat, add pressure.  Britain’s not been historically celebrated for its chefs, but here come the pyromaniax and their transformative pyrolysis technologies. The Digest investigates. 

In a 2012 Daily Mail (UK) poll, the British identified the “bacon sandwich” and “roast dinners” as the two things they themselves loved the most about the UK. Which tells us in a nutshell that these are a nation of pyromaniax. They’re completely in love with slow pyrolysis as a food technology.

None of this hydrolysis technology, bah! You don’t see the boiled potato in the Daily Mail’s Top 50. When pyrolized fish & chips is knocking off fermented cheese and ale and inorganic Stonehenge, you know it’s high time for pyrolysis in the UK.

Which is why this extremely handy guide to the 17 — count them, 17 — different pyrolytic technology centers in the UK comes at a perfect time.

uk-flagWe have to confess astonishment — are there really 17 of them? Why’s that’s almost as many centers of excellence and nascent companies as there are teams in the English Premier League. And look how the latter has come along.

Now, pyrotech isn’t yet giving Arsenal, Chelsea, or Liverpool competition in the public mind — the production technology for bacon butties notwithstanding. So far, it’s a little more Great Wakering Rovers and Bishop’s Cleeve than Man United. But that’s a matter of attention, not merit, and all of these technologies are ripe for promotion into the spotlight, and we don’t yet see any candidates for relegation here.

You can download the guide here, which comes from the Aston University European Bioenergy Research Institute (EBRI) under the aegis of Top 125 Bioeconomy sage Tony Bridgewater in association with Irene Watkinson. The guide checks in at a substantial 7,000 words, so we’ve provided this Digest-exclusive Cliff Notes version to give you some flavor while you mull over your bacon butty this morning.

Tyre Pyrolysis: 2G BioPOWER

2G BioPOWER is developing a UK pyrolysis project to convert used tyres into partially renewable oil, steel and carbon black, which will be re-used in rubber goods manufacture.

Producing ‘recovered’ carbon black (‘rCB’) makes the project less susceptible to variations in market factors than the production of oil alone and therefore provides a more stable long-term disposal route for tyres. It is essential to secure market outlets to rubber manufacturers. A critical requirement, therefore, has been selecting a technology that achieves a consistently high quality rCB which performs as well in rubber compounds as virgin carbon black.


Pilot-scale batch slow-pyrolysis unit designed by Sustainable Energy Ltd. and installed and operated by IBERS, Aberystwyth University. The plant optimizes the production of solid char for a variety of end uses and operates flexibly over a full range of torrefaction/slow-pyrolysis temperatures and residence times. A fraction of the pyrolysis liquids produced are also condensed and collected as part of the process.

Waste- or Biomass-to-Energy Pyrolysis: ANERGY LTD

Anergy is a new emerging technology in waste or biomass to energy pyrolysis technology. It is focused on delivering turnkey 1-10MWe scale waste projects. It is based on the indirect fired kiln technology which has been developed by its sister company Ansac in Australia. Ansac has built and delivered over 200 indirect fired kilns globally focused on pyrolysis applications in the mining industry. The Anergy process has the benefit of being highly efficient, flexible in terms of feedstocks, economical small-scale and having best practice emission levels. The Ansac kiln technology at its heart allows very high temperature pyrolysis reducing the issue of tarring and making subsequent gas clean-up and treatment comparatively simple.


The focus of BERG’s research is fast pyrolysis which converts solid biomass into a valuable liquid energy carrier or fuel known as bio-oil that can be directly used for heat, power and chemicals; and can be readily upgraded into higher value 2nd generation biofuels and chemicals. There is complementary work on biomass pre-treatment, gasification, product upgrading, characterisation and analysis, chemicals production, system design, and technical and economic evaluation.


Conversion And Resource Evaluation has been providing a wide range of services in biomass pyrolysis since 1996. Current activities in biomass pyrolysis include: Commissioning a 50 kg/h slow pyrolysis reactor for biochar production; High temperature syngas production from SRF/wood blends; Design and build of a fluidized bed fast pyrolysis rig for liquids production; High temperature pyrolysis of organic material for waste minimization and syngas combustion for heat production.

End-of-life Plastic to Transport Fuel: CYNAR PLC

Cynar’s patented process uses a combination of pyrolysis and distillation, with no catalyst and no combustion. Cynar technology involves heating non-recycled plastic (resin numbers 2, 4, 5 and 6) in the absence of oxygen to around 400 to 500ºC. The resultant gas is then distilled to produce CynFuels™, consisting of approximately 70% diesel, 20% light oil and 10% kerosene. The syngas produced in the pyrolysis process is recycled to heat the pyrolysis pots. There is a 5% residual char that can be sold on, for example, to make briquettes for kiln firing. The Cynar process is continuous with a plant capacity of 20 tonnes per day, producing around 5.4 million litres of fuel annually from each plant.


Environmental Power International has developed a unique, pure pyrolysis process suitable for a wide range of applications, across a broad range of sectors. This offers a number of unique advantages in terms of environmental impact and process flexibility. The EPi technology does not involve any combustion phases in the creation of an energy rich fuel gas, offering a highly efficient, flexible process, capable of optimisation to suit a wide variety of feedstocks. The EPi technology delivers a low profile, small footprint, modular solution with the capability of offering a commercially viable solution for the treatment of biomass or the organic fraction of a wide range of waste materials.

Novel Processes for Upgraded Pyrolysis Oil: FUTURE BLENDS LTD

Future Blends Ltd. is developing low-carbon, low-cost biofuels and biochemicals technology solutions around a modified fast pyrolysis platform. The company was set up in 2010 under the auspices of the Carbon Trust’s Pyrolysis Challenge, which aimed to create and develop novel processes to produce upgraded pyrolysis oils from waste biomass (such as waste wood and municipal wastes) that could be blended into existing fossil fuels or replace fossil fuels at point of use.

Future Blends operates out of purpose-built facilities in Milton Park near Oxford. The company has two operating pyrolysis rigs, a bench scale unit and a pilot plant, each utilising novel filtration techniques to produce a more stable and cleaner pyrolysis oil.

Pyrolysis and Upgrading of Waste and Biomass: NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY

Pyrolysis and related research activities in the School of Chemical Engineering & Advanced Materials, Newcastle University focus on ag and municipal waste. These consist of: Effect of feedstock and pyrolysis conditions on properties of products; Gas-to-liquid processes; Char production from slow pyrolysis for soil amelioration, carbon sequestration and water treatment; Non-thermal plasma assisted catalytic cracking of vegetable oil/waste oil; Non-thermal plasma assisted catalytic upgrading pyrolysis liquid; Interactions of highly energetic electrons and steam for steam reforming processes; Kinetic studies on pyrolysis and upgrading in the presence of plasma.

Biochar: Phosphorus Recovery: Renewable Heat: PYREG (UK)

KPYREG (UK) is the UK base for Germany’s PYREG — aimed at marketing a reliable slow pyrolysis self-perpetuating thermal processes into the UK. Process 1 is Dry carbonisation – biomass to biochar; Process 2 is Staged combustion – recycling of municipal sewage sludge to recover phosphorus

Waste-to-Energy, Biomass Utilisation and Alternative Fuels: TORFTECH ENERGY LTD

Torftech Energy has a range of activities in waste-to-energy, biomass utilisation and alternative fuels. We are experts in gas solid processing technologies, with over 30 years of industrial experience. The plants are based on the TORBED® reactor technology, a highly efficient gas solid contactor with excellent heat and mass transfer characteristics.  This technology and the company expertise have been used to tackle problems at a range of temperatures in a variety of fields including; mineral processing; catalyst regeneration; food processing; biomass gasification.

Catalytic Pyrolysis of Plastic Waste to Fuel: UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON

The Department of Chemical Engineering at University College London (UCL) is involved in the catalytic pyrolysis of plastic waste to fuel and has a bench scale fast catalytic pyrolysis rig. Plastic waste is a cheap source of raw materials in times of accelerated depletion of natural resources to produce valuable products.  UCL is involved in studies of various catalyst systems and process conditions.  It is also currently involved in the techno-economical studies of co-processing of plastic waste.


The technologies investigated utilise the microwave absorbing properties of particulate carbon to act as an agent to transfer the microwave-generated heat within the particles to materials that would not otherwise be efficient microwave receptors. In addition, the reductive environment generated by the hot carbon beneficially influences the chemistry occurring during the pyrolytic cracking of the hydrocarbons in the feedstock to smaller, fuel-like molecules. Research on the recovery of aluminium and hydrocarbon fuels from waste laminated packaging, originally sponsored by EPSRC, has resulted in the spin out of Enval Limited, which is now operating a microwave-heated treatment process at a commercial-scale.

Biochar Research Centre: UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

The main objective of the centre is to study, assess and develop biochar as a means for climate change mitigation and adaptation (i.e. a valuable soil amendment and agricultural product). We identified early on the need for high quality (research grade) biochar in order to ensure meaningful and replicable results from biochar-soil-plant interaction studies. This was then the core idea around which pyrolysis capabilities at the UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC) have developed.  Due to the focus on biochar production, slow pyrolysis is the technology of choice.

University of Leeds: Biomass and Waste Pyrolysis and Modelling

The University of Leeds hosts the £4.2m EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Bioenergy.  Within the centre, biomass thermal treatment research includes: fundamental studies of the impact of inorganics and metals in thermal conversion of biomass; optimisation of fuel quality and yield of energy crops; alternative biomass resources including marine biomass and waste; biomass pre-treatment to improve fuel properties for various conversion processes, in particular: torrefaction; soot characterisation; the nitrogen cycle; co-firing coal and biomass; novel steam reforming; and hydrogen from biomass and wastes by pyrolysis-gasification.

Biomass Pyrolysis and Related Areas: UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD

Pyrolysis activities are related to gasification studies and modelling of industrial combustion, pyrolysis and gasification processes. The pyrolysis part of these processes is essentially a slow process. The fuels considered are pure biomass or segregated municipal wastes.  The University has a Slow pyrolysis facility, aPyrolysis tube apparatus, a Rotating kiln and a Shaft kiln.

Microwave Thermochemical Conversion: UNIVERSITY OF YORK

The Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence promotes the application of green and sustainable technologies particularly those that can be used to deliver products that meet consumer and legislation requirements. We have proven that microwave irradiation is an efficient method of biomass activation.The team has proven this technology at scales from grams to tens of kilograms. In 2011, the Biorenewables Development Centre opened an open access facility for demonstration of semi-scale equipment for microwave pyrolysis, supercritical CO2 extraction and fermentation alongside all the necessary pre-treatment and downstream processing apparatus.

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