Torrefied biomass pellets: Product of the future, logistics of today?


Coal has been used for many years as the most abundant solid source of energy and provides around one-third of the current worldwide energy. However, the environmental impact of fossil fuel consumption stresses the importance of the transition to clean, more environmentally friendly energy sources which simultaneously can meet the markets quality requirements and demands. Meanwhile, densified torrefied biomass (also known as biocoal) has attracted attentions because it is as a renewable source of fuel and demonstrate higher energy and bulk densities than untreated biomass.

Solid forms of energy are mostly shipped intercontinental over oceans, followed by loading in terminals for further storage and transportation. Since most of the terminals are designed for transportation and storage of coal, there is a concern in using them for storage and transportation of densified torrefied biomass. Currently, torrefied biomass is not commercially produced, however, a few pilot scale plants are running on that. Consequently, the material characteristics for logistics, handling, and storage are mostly not taken into consideration and make it difficult to assess the suitability of current coal handling and storage infrastructure to use for densified torrefied biomass.

Research Goal

The current PhD project aims to accelerate the conversion of coal power to renewables by assessing the suitability of the coal infrastructure to use for densified torrefied biomass. The main research question is: to what extent densified torrefied biomass can be used interchangeably to coal, using the existing infrastructure (handling, transportation, and storage) from feedstock to the furnace. The goal will be achieved by conducting research on both mechanical and chemical aspects of the materials. 


The research will be carried out as a joint project between the section of Transport Engineering and Logistics and section of Large-Scale Energy Storage in the faculty of Mechanical, Maritime and Materials Engineering at TU Delft.

The main focus is on the behaviour of densified torrefied biomass during transportation and handling in the supply chain. Here, the emphasis will be on material-material and material-geometry interactions, dust generation, and degradability of the product in relation to its form, shape, and handling and storage conditions. To reach the goal, an extensive analysis and a series of laboratory tests have to be designed and executed. Moreover, the breakage behaviour of densified torrefied biomass of different origin and shape will be assessed numerically with the use of Discrete Element Method (DEM). DEM is a numerical technique which simulates the individual particles resulting in a simulation of a bulk material. The results of the research will be used to set the standards for large-scale biomass logistic solutions using existing assets and to reach optimal handling characteristics of densified torrefied biomass.


This research is carried out within the larger scope of "BioForce" project with the support of KIC Innoenergy. 


PhD Candidate:
M.Sc. Hamid Gilvari
Tel: +31 (0)15 27 86573 

Assoc. Prof. Dr. ir. D.L. Schott

Prof. dr. ir. Wiebren de Jong