Hydrochar trials soon to begin in Senegal

Quality and safety assurance is the final task before the new HTC reactor can go into operation

Preparations for hydrochar trials are close to completion in Senegal, where the hydrothermal carbonisation (HTC) reactor is now in place in a Dakar workshop. Once the reactor is certified as safe, the team from University Assane Seck of Ziguinchor (UASZ) will get to work, using local biomasses as feedstock.

IHE Delft researcher Mostafa Ahmed travelled to Senegal to help supervise the construction of the reactor and support technology transfer. Prior to the trip, he and his colleagues had evaluated the suitability of Typha for hydrochar production and optimised the HTC process.

“HTC is a promising thermochemical conversion process that subjects high-moisture biomass to temperatures of 180°C to 250°C under pressure. Hydrochar is the product of that process – a sustainable alternative to charcoal and firewood which can also be used for soil amendment,” Mostafa says.

An invasive plant that grows in abundance along the banks of lakes and rivers, Typha is one of several biomass sources that could be of interest for hydrochar production in Senegal. Cashew apples are currently being tested by the Pollution and Resource Recovery Research Group at IHE Delft. At UASZ, studies have already documented the combined potential of cashew apples and cow manure in biogas production.

Waste conversion synergy
Although HTC shows great promise, Mostafa believes there is even more to be gained from using waste conversion technologies in synergy.

“In this context, anaerobic digestion (AD) is of great interest,” he explains. “While high-moisture biomasses with low biodegradable fractions can be converted into hydrochar by HTC, AD can use highly biodegradable fractions along with the water side stream of HTC to produce biogas.”


Hear Professor Lat Grand Ndiaye talk about HTC trials and the technology's potential in West Africa.


Next steps
During his visit to Senegal, Mostafa worked with UASZ professor Lat Grand Ndiaye to identify additional equipment required to operate the HTC reactor, set up the biofermenter in the UASZ laboratories and agree next steps for the pilot trials.

Before trials can begin, the reactor must be certified to confirm it meets quality and safety requirements. The certification process is expected to be complete by the end of February. Mostafa, Lat Grand and the team have their fingers crossed for a smooth start to the pilot hydrochar production in March.

Read more about Typha here.