EPSRC SUPERGEN Biomass Consortium

World-leading research centre for thermal conversion of waste and biomass



Academic Partners: Sheffield (SUWIC), Aston, Leeds, Cranfield, Manchester, Policy Studies Institute, Rothamsted Research Institute and Forest Research

Industrial Partners: Alstom plc, Eon plc, RWE, AMEC plc, BP plc, Coppice Resources Ltd, Bical Ltd, Biffa plc

The underlying strategy of this programme is to build on the strengths of the partners and their achievements to date particularly in the first round of SUPERGEN Bioenergy and expand the range of activities into recently emerging areas of interest in the bioenergy area to ensure that the UK maintains a competitive edge. The ovearll programme is based on six inter-linking scientific Themes. These are: Resources, Characterisation and pretreatment, Thermal conversion, Power and Heat, Transport fuels & biorefinery and System analysis.


Sheffield University (SUWIC) Contribution: Theme 4 - Heat & Power from Biomass

This Theme focuses on the technologies underpinning the practical recovery of heat & power from biomass and solid Recovered Fuels (SRF) to attain efficient utilisation at domestic, commercial and industrial scales. The major benefits resulting from this resaerch work are designed to underpin the manufacture of industrial plant and domestic equipment that utilises biomass for thermal energy production. Not only will the equipment design have a sound theoretical basis, but any emissions will satisfy current requirements. The exploitation of biomass for CHP in the UK is expected to grow significantly, and soundly based biomass combustion expertise will help to ensure reliable plant operation.

For more information, please visit the Supergen website.




Academic Partners: Sheffield (SUWIC), Aston, Leeds, Cranfield, Ulster, UMIST, Rothamsted Research Institute and the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research

Industrial Partners: PowerGen, Alstom, Rural Generation and B9 Energy

Researchers from the above organisations studied the production of several types of biomass and investigating their behaviour in thermal conversion processes. The conversion processes were studied for production of bio-fuels that can be used to generate renewable energy more efficiently. The results were used to create computer models (CFD) for designing and maximising the efficiency of the thermal processes and to identify the ideal specifications of biomass fuels for different processes. Systems studies were used to evaluate the performance, cost and socio-economic benefits of the full range of bio-energy systems considered.

Sheffield University (SUWIC) Contribution: Work package 3 - Thermal Reactor Modelling

The design of the energy recovery system can be classified into two categories. First, there is the overall system modelling study that considers the alternative stages that can be used to fulfil the overall objective. The complementary part of the study is the modelling of the individual process operations that is required for real component design. This work package addresses this key topic, which is vital for the realisation of the actual plant hardware.

The thermal processes for the recovery of energy from biomass may be based on either pyrolysis or gasification or combustion. Although the chemistry varies between these systems, the fundamental aspects of the process design features have a great deal in common. In a key part of this Consortium investigation, the characterisation of the various biomass sources available in the UK is to be studied. The results of that work will then provide the basic data required for this focussed modelling research programme. Thus for each available material, models of their reaction mechanism will be developed.


For more information, please visit the Supergen website.

SUPERGEN modelling.

The strategy of modelling for design that is to be adopted in this programme is based on the "governing equations approach. This technique is already well established for the design of advanced systems such as combustors used in the aircraft industry However, as a result of the nature of the feed material, in the case of biomass reactors, it is an intrinsic feature of the process that it includes reactions within a solid phase. Furthermore, in many cases such as moving bed and shaft reactors, the flow passages are so complex that the geometry of the intrinsic channel flow region would require many more nodes to be used in the calculation than is feasible with present computers. A code developed at Sheffield (FLIC) addresses this latter problem and it is proposed that the integration of FLIC and CFD codes (i.e. FLUENT) to be developed within this research project for particular application to the design of "energy from biomass reactors and their associated systems.

In the case of thermal processing of biomass, known problems are the formation of tars and low melting point slag due to species such as potassium and chlorine. Careful control of gas and wall temperatures through precise modelling at the plant design stage will also help to minimise such practical problems. The modelling results will then be compared and validated with the measurement data from the experiments on small and large scale combustion systems and the reaction mechanisms will be optimised. The deliverables from this work package will be in the form of validated extensions of established computer packages that can be used by industry as practical design tools.