Torrefied biomass is a green alternative to coal, and thus the interest in the torrefaction process is rising fast. Different manufacturers are offering different patented designs of torrefier with data on varying operating and process conditions each claiming their superiority over others. The choice of torrefaction technology has become exceptionally difficult because of a near absence of a comparative assessment of different types of reactors on a common base. This work attempts to fill this important knowledge gap in torrefaction technology by reviewing available types of reactors, and comparing their torrefaction performance common basis and examining the commercial implication of reactor choice. After reviewing available patent and technologies offered, torrefiers are classified broadly under two generic groups: indirectly heated and directly heated. Four generic types of reactors, convective heating, fluidized bed, rotating drum and microwave reactor were studied in this research. Convective and fluidized beds have direct heating, rotating reactors has indirect heating while microwave involves a volumetric heating (a subgroup of direct heating) mechanism. A standard sample of biomass (25 mm diameter × 64 mm long poplar wood) was torrefied in each of these types of reactors under identical conditions. The mass yield, energy density and energy yield of the wood after torrefaction were measured and compared. Rotating drum achieved lowest mass yield but highest energy density. The difference between two direct heating, convective heating and fluidized beds was small. Microwave provided only localized torrefaction in this series of tests. Indirectly heated reactors might be suitable for a plant near the biomass source while directly heated plant would give better value at the user end.

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