Biomass power generation, which is one of the “renewable energies” that can reduce the environmental loading, is attracting due to recent environmental problems and depletion of energy resources.
Biomass power generation is a type of thermal power generation that makes electricity using plant material as a fuel. Since the CO2 released upon burning biomass stems from CO2 that plants absorbed from the air in the process of plant growth, it does not increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere like fossil fuel (oil, coal and so forth).
Currently, the most common fuel for biomass power generation is woody pellets made from sawdust and mill ends. However, there is a severe shortage of woody pellets. The following is a quotation from Nikkei newspaper morning edition Issue 2018/04/17 (Article title: “Yellow light to Biomass Power Generation”).
“An executive of the Biomass Power Association points out, ‘To meet the power generation target of 2030, we need to import 30 million per year.’ However, the fuel imported by Japan in 2016 was only hundreds of thousands of tons.”
Responding to these social demands, we have developed ball type pellet made from sorghum, which is cheaper to produce and easier to handle compared to conventional woody pellets. Previously, plants including sorghum have been considered unsuitable as fuels for biomass power generation because they contain a significant amount of elements that damage the furnace when being burned, such as chlorine, potassium, sodium, and so forth. However, we have developed a processing technique to reduce those elements, and now our pellet can meet the material standards of Japanese thermal power plants.
Furthermore, we have been researching on lignin in collaboration with Kyoto University and learned that there is a variation in the lignin content among sorghum resources.
In order to make high-quality pellets with high calorific value, we are promoting “Genomic Breeding” targeting on the modification of the type and quantity of lignin.
Though the sorghum pellet currently shows a calorific value of about 4,000 kcal / kg at most as with the conventional wood pellets, we believe the calorific value of sorghum could increase to 5,000 kcal /kg by applying Genomic Breeding.