February 28, 2019
CHAR Technologies is developing both cost-effective and efficient alternative fuels that help manufacturers drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), all while adding value to otherwise wasted resources. Andrew White is CEO of CHAR Technologies Ltd., an innovative Toronto-based cleantech company specializing in biocarbon fuel development and provides custom equipment for industrial air and water treatment, environmental management services, site investigation and remediation and resource efficiency.
White began developing their first product, SulfaCHAR, while he was a grad student at the University of Toronto (U of T). SulfaCHAR is a patented form of activated biochar that removes hydrogen sulfide from renewable natural gas the same way a Brita® water filter removes contaminants from tap water, leaving behind a clean biogas that can be used for multiple energy applications.
CHAR Technologies' next challenge is to develop a product it calls CleanFyre, a solid biofuel intended to replace traditional coal. On a fundamental level, CleanFyre is produced through pyrolysis, the same process that has been used to turn wood into charcoal since ancient times. "In pyrolysis, you have a bio-based material that you heat up in the absence of oxygen," explains Devon Barry, Char Technologies' Biocarbon Manager. "Since there is no oxygen, the organic material does not combust but instead the chemical compounds that make up the material decompose into combustible gases and charcoal."
As we all know, burning coal proliferates GHGs, and unfortunately, a commercially viable solution that produces high enough energy levels to replace coal in many manufacturing processes, such as iron making, doesn't exist yet. However, CHAR Technologies believes it can offer a solution to address the need for a high carbon, low ash coal replacement as an energy and reactant source.
ArcelorMittal Dofasco is Canada's largest flat roll steel producer based in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2017, the steelmaker approached one of Ontario's regional innovation centres, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), looking for a cost-effective alternative fuel for their blast furnaces that would reduce GHGs.
"There was nothing that could generate the high levels of carbon and energy needed for steel production," says White, who has now been meeting with ArcelorMittal Dofasco for 18 months. CHAR Technologies is piloting their CleanFyre energy fuel product through this Ontario-based collaboration, with an eye on opening up a market estimated at $340 million in Ontario alone.
ArcelorMittal Dofasco has active plans towards an initial 20 tonne trial of CleanFyre in their blast furnaces, with the potential to scale-up once they confirm the fuel's effectiveness. The major advantage of CHAR Technologies' solution is 'simplicity,' says White. "There are no major modifications required for the iron making process; we're striving towards a ‘drop-in' solid biofuel."
Ongoing research at the University of Toronto will be key to CleanFyre's success. "We are working with researchers at the University of Toronto on some very innovative ways to drastically reduce the ash content, which will allow us to expand our feed stocks to low value 'wastes' that have valuable low GHG carbon that's otherwise inaccessible."
Companies like CHAR Technologies are essential to the province's plan to balance a healthy environment with a healthy economy, by encouraging the adoption of innovative energy solutions in this time of unprecedented technological change.
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