Most biomass (forest/agricultural residues) is located in small pockets in remote areas. Transporting/collecting loose, wet, bulky biomass is expensive, and significantly limits the amount of biomass that can be economically harnessed as renewable energy. As such, a significant portion of biomass in rural areas is burned in the open air today, which contributes to up to global anthropogenic CO2 emissions as well as local urban smog surrounding major cities.
Most biomass processing technologies (torrefaction, gasification, composting, etc.) today are too large-scale (100+ tons/day), centralized, and capital-intensive (>$500k), and therefore incompatible with the decentralized, small-scale nature of biomass residues. By exploring a novel chemical variant called oxygen-lean torrefaction, we demonstrated that we can greatly simplify the biomass processing equipment and eliminate many costly subcomponents.
This new approach allows us to imagine small-scale, low-cost, portable equipment that can be latched onto tractors or shipping containers and be brought to rural areas to locally upgrade biomass before transportation/processing while requiring no external energy input. This reduces the handling cost by ~50% and opens up an additional $1 trillion/year of biomass can be harnessed at competitive cost to other renewables. At full scale, we can sequester ~100 million tons/year of CO2 equivalent, which is equal to a mid-sized country such as Indonesia/Brazil.