Biomass Torrefaction

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Biomass torrefaction is a thermochemical process that involves heating biomass in the absence of oxygen at temperatures typically between 200-300°C. This process improves the properties of biomass, making it more suitable for use as a fuel or feedstock for various applications.

Impact on climate action

Biomass Torrefaction in Biomass for Heating & Power enhances climate action by improving the efficiency and reducing emissions of biomass energy production. By converting biomass into a more energy-dense and stable form, torrefaction lowers carbon emissions, mitigates reliance on fossil fuels, and promotes sustainable energy utilization, combating climate change.


  • Torrefaction Process: Biomass is heated in a controlled environment without oxygen. This process removes moisture and volatile compounds from the biomass, resulting in a solid product with improved properties.
  • Torrefaction Reactors: Different types of torrefaction reactors exist, including rotary kilns, screw conveyors, and fluidized bed reactors. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of efficiency, feedstock flexibility, and product quality.
  • Process Optimization: The torrefaction process needs to be optimized for different types of biomass and desired end products. This involves controlling parameters such as temperature, residence time, and particle size.

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Torrefaction Reactors: Researchers and startups are developing advanced torrefaction reactors that offer higher efficiency, improved feedstock flexibility, and better control over process parameters.
  • Catalytic Torrefaction: Using catalysts in the torrefaction process can improve the quality of the torrefied biomass and increase the yield of desired products.
  • Integrated Torrefaction Systems: Integrating torrefaction with other processes, such as pelletization or gasification, can create more efficient and cost-effective systems for biomass utilization.
  • Torrefaction for Biomaterials: Torrefied biomass can be used as a feedstock for bio-based materials, such as bioplastics and biocomposites, offering a sustainable alternative to fossil-based materials.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Cutting-Edge Torrefaction Reactor Designs
  • Catalytic Enhancement in Biomass Torrefaction
  • Integrated Systems for Biomass Valorization
  • Advancements in Torrefaction Process Optimization
  • Next-Gen Torrefaction Reactors: Efficiency & Flexibility
  • Catalyst-driven Biomass Torrefaction Technologies
  • Biomass Torrefaction for Renewable Energy
  • Sustainable Biomass Valorization through Torrefaction

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • BioTorr:
    • Technology Enhancement: BioTorr specializes in biomass torrefaction technology, which involves heating biomass in the absence of oxygen to produce a dry, energy-dense material called torrefied biomass. This process improves the properties of biomass, making it more suitable for use in energy production, particularly in biomass-fired power plants and bioenergy projects.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: BioTorr stands out for its focus on developing scalable and efficient biomass torrefaction solutions. Their technology enhances the energy density, grindability, and storability of biomass, resulting in improved combustion performance and reduced emissions in biomass energy systems.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: BioTorr serves biomass power producers, pellet manufacturers, and bioenergy developers seeking to optimize biomass utilization and improve the performance of biomass energy systems. Their torrefaction technology enables the conversion of low-quality biomass feedstocks into high-quality biofuels and renewable energy products.
  • Torrefaction Technologies International (TTI):
    • Technology Enhancement: Torrefaction Technologies International (TTI) specializes in advanced torrefaction systems for biomass upgrading and energy production. Their proprietary torrefaction technology enhances the energy content and handling characteristics of biomass, making it suitable for various applications, including solid biofuels, biocoal production, and renewable energy generation.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: TTI stands out for its innovative approach to biomass torrefaction and its focus on delivering customized solutions for biomass valorization. Their torrefaction systems offer high efficiency, flexibility, and reliability, enabling the conversion of diverse biomass feedstocks into high-quality bioenergy products.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: TTI serves biomass energy producers, industrial manufacturers, and renewable energy developers seeking to capitalize on the potential of biomass resources. Their torrefaction technology enables the utilization of biomass waste streams, forestry residues, and agricultural residues for sustainable energy production and carbon mitigation.
  • Anellotech:
    • Technology Enhancement: Anellotech is a biotechnology company focused on developing biomass conversion technologies, including biomass torrefaction for bioenergy and biochemical production. Their proprietary Bio-TCat™ process converts biomass feedstocks into valuable bioproducts, including biofuels, renewable chemicals, and bio-based materials, using catalytic fast pyrolysis technology.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Anellotech stands out for its integrated approach to biomass conversion and its focus on producing sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels and petrochemicals. Their Bio-TCat™ process offers high yields and selectivity for targeted bioproducts, enabling the efficient utilization of biomass resources for a wide range of applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Anellotech serves biofuel producers, chemical manufacturers, and renewable energy companies seeking to diversify their feedstock sources and reduce their carbon footprint. Their biomass conversion technology enables the production of drop-in biofuels, specialty chemicals, and bioplastics from renewable biomass feedstocks.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of Twente (Netherlands):
    • Research Focus: The University of Twente is a leading institution in Biomass Torrefaction research, focusing on developing novel torrefaction processes, reactor designs, and biomass feedstock pretreatment techniques to improve the quality, energy density, and handling characteristics of torrefied biomass.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses experimental studies, computational modeling, and techno-economic analysis to optimize torrefaction conditions, temperature profiles, and residence times for different biomass types, including wood chips, agricultural residues, and energy crops. They also investigate the integration of torrefaction with other thermochemical conversion technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis, to enhance overall process efficiency and product value.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in district heating systems, combined heat and power (CHP) plants, and biomass co-firing facilities. By producing torrefied biomass with improved fuel properties, University of Twente’s research contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing energy security, and promoting the sustainable use of biomass resources for heat and power generation.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL conducts cutting-edge research on Biomass Torrefaction, leveraging its expertise in thermochemical conversion, biomass characterization, and renewable energy technology development to advance torrefaction as a biomass pretreatment option for bioenergy production.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves investigating the fundamental mechanisms of torrefaction, including biomass decomposition, volatile release, and physical-chemical transformations, using advanced analytical techniques such as pyrolysis-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (Py-GC/MS) and thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA). They also develop process models, reactor prototypes, and techno-economic tools to assess the feasibility, scalability, and environmental impact of torrefaction-based biomass valorization pathways.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in biofuel production, biorefinery operations, and renewable heat generation. By advancing torrefaction technology, NREL’s research supports the development of sustainable biomass supply chains, bioenergy markets, and renewable energy integration strategies, contributing to decarbonizing the power and heating sectors.
  • University of British Columbia (Canada):
    • Research Focus: The University of British Columbia conducts innovative research on Biomass Torrefaction, leveraging its expertise in biomass processing, chemical engineering, and sustainable energy systems to develop scalable and cost-effective torrefaction solutions for biomass upgrading.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses experimental studies, pilot-scale demonstrations, and life cycle assessments to evaluate the technical, economic, and environmental performance of torrefaction processes under different operating conditions and biomass feedstocks. They also explore co-product utilization, waste valorization, and carbon capture technologies to enhance the overall sustainability and circularity of torrefaction-based bioenergy systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in bioenergy production, industrial heat applications, and carbon-negative energy systems. By advancing Biomass Torrefaction technology, University of British Columbia’s research contributes to mitigating climate change, promoting rural development, and fostering bio-based economies through the utilization of renewable biomass resources for heating and power generation.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biomass torrefaction is being implemented in commercial-scale projects around the world. For example, BioTorr has supplied torrefaction systems to biomass power plants and biomaterial producers.