Project history

The EMPYRO project is the outcome of the coming-together of the long-term company strategies of the main project initiators: the pyrolysis technology developer Biomass Technology Group BV (BTG), and the chemical industry giant Akzo Nobel Industrial Chemicals B.V (AkzoNobel).

BTG Biomass Technology Group BV has a long track-record developing biomass pyrolysis technology. With RTD support of the European Commission and SenterNovem, BTG constructed a 5 tonne/day pilot pyrolysis unit in the early 2000. Shortly after, a 50 tonne/day semi-commercial plant was built in Malaysia.

BTG’s pyrolysis technology development draws a lot of attention, and interest from market parties in pyrolysis of biomass is ever increasing. Therefore, in 2007 BTG decided to set-up its daughter company BTG-BTL (shortcut for biomass-to-liquids) to implement the pyrolysis technology. A bottleneck for BTG is that the largest pyrolysis plant it constructed is based in far-away Malaysia. As a result, the availability of the plant for visits and inspection by potential BTG customers is limited, and the pyrolysis oil produced is not freely available for further research. For the technology development to continue in Europe, BTG needs to construct a reference pyrolysis plant close to its base in Enschede. And to be economic under European conditions, the plant will have a capacity of at least 100 ton/day.

AkzoNobel Industrial Chemical BV is a multi-national specialist and base chemicals industry striving to become a world leader in sustainability. The company ranks high in the Dow Jones Sustainability index. AkzoNobel has a reputation as an early adopter of innovative technologies that reduce fossil fuel use, increase energy efficiency and minimize the ecological footprint of its operations.

AkzoNobel’s chemicals largely depend on fossil fuel, both for energy and materials. For economic and sustainability considerations, AkzoNobel aims to reduce this dependency. Woody biomass can serve to substitute natural gas, both for energy and materials, provided that it is converted into and available in a convenient form. Pyrolysis can be an ideal technology for this purpose.

The implementation of this demonstration project reflects the strategic interests of BTG and AkzoNobel as sketched above. It is aimed at establishing a showcase for poly-generation at AkzoNobel’s production site in Hengelo (The Netherlands) in which biomass is converted into 4 different products: pyrolysis oil, process steam, electricity and organic acids.