X-ray technology revolutionizes biofuel quality management

The new real-time measurement system brings extensive savings. Groundwork was laid in CLEEN and FIBIC’s joint BEST program.

Inray Ltd, specializing in X-ray technology measurement systems, has developed a new measurement method for continuous analysis of the quality of biofuels. It measures fuel moisture, density, volume and the amount of contaminants from each fuel load and analyzes the results immediately.

”The energy content between loads varies, and you never know beforehand how moist the fuel will be or how much contaminants it will contain,” describes CEO Janne Kovanen of Inray Ltd. the challenging starting point.

Fuel quality problems can increase the price by 5 – 10 %. “The energy content in a ton of wood fuel can vary between 1 to 4 megawatt hours,” reminds Kovanen. In the conventional analysis method samples from different fuel loads are mixed and then analyzed to define the moisture and energy content. The procedure takes so much time that the loads are already in the boiler before the results are available. “The new system provides information of the energy content of each load at the power plant gate immediately after the truck has been unloaded,” Kovanen explains.

Improvements in fuel quality and extensive savings

Inray and UPM have tested the new system in early 2015 at UPM’s Kaipola power plant. The tests have shown that the real-time load-based measurement enables better optimization of fuel mixes and also giving feedback to the fuel supplier. The new technology is estimated to create 200 000 – 300 000 € of annual savings at a 50 MW power plant and its payback time is 1-2 years. ”On top of this, being able to optimize the fuel logistics and procurement will create additional savings”, Kovanen remarks.

”The measurement data provided by the new system and the possibility to give immediate feedback to the biofuel supply chain opens a whole new possibility to control fuel quality and multiply the energy content. This can even be described as a radical change – it enables holistic improvement of the supply chains as well as significant cost reductions,” highlights development manager Tero Anttila from UPM. UPM has concluded that by developing the measurements further and working in collaboration with the supply chain entrepreneurs, it is possible to get 30% more energy out of the fuel amounts used currently.

Support from the BEST program

Inray and UPM are participants in the Sustainable Bioenergy Solutions for Tomorrow (BEST) research program, which was launched by CLEEN Ltd. and FIBIC Ltd. The conceptualization of the measurement system was done in the program, which provided an excellent network for doing research on biofuel quality issues. The more practical development of the system including the testing period was carried out as spin-off company projects outside the program.

”The test period demonstrated that the measurements and the whole system work well. Their deployment is now in the hands of the companies,” comments CTO Markku Leskelä from FIBIC Ltd. The BEST program continues to study how to exploit the measurement data in a new way. The goal is to make fuel procurement and power plant management smarter by e.g. the use of modeling.

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