The main goals of this collaborative research project are multifold. It is directed to obtain both, a more detailed chemical understanding as well as to establish the necessary process technology know-how respect to hydrothermal carbonisation of biomass to coal.

The goal of the joint project (funding code: 01LS0806A) will be achieved by the following steps:


  • Detailed investigation and optimisation of the carbonisation reaction on a small scale. In laboratory experiments, the HTC process will be examined firstly by means of the carbonisation of model substances such as cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin following a design of experiments (DoE) approach. Subsequently, such experimental setup will be extended by using selected real biomass materials, e.g. wood, straw, lop, etc.
  • Constructing, launching and operating of a test facility for the carbonisation of biomass. This test plant will render a proof-of-concept for the HTC-process. It will also provide crucial and unprecedented experience with the technology and thereby enable the operators to design and construct the world's first HTC facility on an industrial scale. 
  • Examination of the multiple application options of the HTC product – SunCoal – as a substitute for fossil coal. The coal produced by the experimental facility will be fully analysed and reviewed concerning its suitability as a substitute for conventional coal. Professional combustion tests will be carried out and the relevant combustion performance properties as well as the respective emissions (gases, particulates etc.) will be determined.  
  • Procedural and operational optimisation of HTC-facilities. With the support of the simulation software, Aspen Plus, several preliminary designs for HTC-equipment will be evaluated for the subsequent optimisation of the chemical engineering. On the basis of a reasonable operator- and customer-typology, sensible facility sizes and their profitability will be determined, as well as appropriate utilisation scenarios for the manufactured coal.
  • Investigation of economic costs and benefits of the HTC- process over competing energetic applications for biomass.

The HTC-process approach will be integrated in a holistic revision of a fundamentally modified energy concept. With the goal to completely determine the effects of a prospective market penetration of SunCoal, issues such as GHG emission reductions, competition with other sectors (especially food and feed production) as well as the effects on water and nutrient balances, soil quality, biodiversity and effects regarding land use change will be elucidated.