People have burnt logs for heat since the dawn of time but new techniques mean that the humble tree is now being transformed into far more diverse forms of energy.
Says Christian Keglovits, the project manager at the European Centre for Renewable Energy, “We produce heat, electricity and liquefied fuel from wood. “It is inefficient if you just burn wood, it is more efficient if you gasify wood with a special technology in order to create more energy carriers from this, because then you are using the resource really well.”
This pioneering plant provides all the residents and businesses in the Austrian town of Güssing with carbon-neutral energy. It’s carbon-neutral because the CO2 emitted is re-absorbed by the trees.
The wood chips are shovelled into the plant and heated with steam to 850 degrees. Inside this maze of pipes the fuel turns to gas, which then powers an engine to generate electricity. Excess heat is used to produce hot water for the entire town. Follow the pipeline into the warehouse next door and the wood gas is being refined into liquid fuel.
Engineer Angela Potetz is building a prototype device. She says, “Behind me, we see the heart of the machine, the Fischer-Tropsch-reactor. Here we can produce wax, diesel, and petrol. We’ve known about this technology for a long time. The only new thing we do is to produce these fuels from renewable resources, namely biomass.”
To avoid competing with other industries, this factory only uses waste wood that is of no use to timber companies.
Says Christian Keglovits, “We are convinced that this is a vision for the future because from the wood you can make heat, electricity, biogas and liquefied fuel, and this all in a single processing plant.”
Wood, man’s oldest fuel, is offering this town at least, a carbon-neutral future.
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