Japanese companies turn to biomass to clean up coal power

Japanese companies are developing biofuels that can be burned alongside coal to cut carbon dioxide emissions at power plants without investment in pricey new equipment.

Oil distributor Idemitsu Kosan has developed a new type of pellet fuel made from compressed wood waste carbonized at a low temperature that can be burned in coal-fired plants. Plant-based biomass can be considered a carbon-neutral fuel, since burning it just releases the CO2 previously absorbed by the plants.

Though biomass is already used in some coal-fired power plants, it can generally make up only about 5% of the fuel burned, since wood fibers put extra stress on boilers. Idemitsu’s new fuel alleviates this problem by reducing the amount of fiber, letting it comprise as much as 30% of the fuel mix.

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