Aberystwyth University

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Pilot Plant Facility at IBERS Gogerddan, Aberystwyth University

The BEACON biorefining facility built on the Gogerddan campus at Aberystwyth University (AU) features flexible plug and play, multi-feedstock pilot processing plant. The unit houses a range of key equipment, facilities and associated expertise to enable academic and industrial partners to develop and demonstrate scale-up processes, taking laboratory research to economically viable industrial applications.

The facility includes a primary processing area and a secondary processing pilot laboratory situated within the IBERS AU Gogerddan campus within a short walk of the new IBERS Phenomics centre and main laboratory and feedstock breeding research facilities.


  • Provide a fl exible environment where plant biomass can be taken from mechanical and thermochemical processing through bioconversion to products such as transport fuels, platform chemicals and fi ne chemicals.
  • Bridge the gap between laboratory and demonstration research and deliver an impact to the commercial sector with collaborative research and development.
  • Develop processes, technologies and products from plant biomass that provide alternatives to products made from oil, delivering a positive impact on climate change.
  • Develop a growing network of industrial collaborators and encourage academia to business and business to business research and technical development.
  • Generate and exploit intellectual property in collaboration with our partners.
  • Provide life cycle assessment support to better understand the most economic routes to new and existing products

Expertise / Strengths

  • Basic and strategic research in plant biology.
  • Microbiology and biotechnology.
  • Chemical analysis of biomass.
  • Primary processing of biomass such as ryegrass, miscanthus, clover and oats.
  • Bio-conversion of ryegrass into transport fuels and platform chemicals.
  • Conversion of biomass into biochar.
  • Economic modelling and process evaluation.


Primary Processing unit

The Primary Processing unit has 252m2 of floor space comprising an integrated 1 tonne/hour wet feedstock processing line together with a 400kg/hour pellet press production line for dry feedstock densification.

The integrated wet feedstock processing line consists of:

  • 15kW hammer mill
  • 10 inch interrupted flight screw press (7.5kW) capable of pressing 1 tonne fresh material per hour
  • A single phase, skid mounted 4 inch Vincent interrupted flight screw press for small scale trials of 50-200kg of material.
  • The press liquor is collected into two 750 litre (dairy) cooled holding tanks.

The pellet press line consists of:

  • Tote hopper into a vibratory feed to a 30kW hammer mill (3mm mesh)
  • 42kW pellet mill with a production capacity of up to 400kg/ hour for woody biomass
  • 3, 5 and 6 mm animal feed and biomass dies.
  • A wheeled (freestanding) vibratory feed hopper can be used to deliver premixed material directly to the front of the pellet mill for experimental batch production runs of 10 to 50kgs.

Secondary processing pilot laboratory

The pilot laboratory is an insulated mezzanine structure covering 168m2. The pilot laboratory comprises a variety of stand-alone and plug-and-play integrated equipment including:

Pre-treatment equipment:

  • A steam explosion rig for lignocellulosic pre-treatment. It is fitted with a 25kW integral steam boiler, capable of high temperature and pressure pre-treatment (>10 bar/180C) of lignocellulosic feedstocks.
  • Skid mounted dual duty pasteurizer capable of rapidly heating liquid feedstock from 4°C to 90°C running at a rate of either 50 or 500 litres/ hour

Bioconversion / Fermentation:

  • Three Applikon steam-in-place bacterial fermenters, two skid mounted 70 litre units and one bench mounted 30 litre unit.

Separation systems:

  • Two CEPA Z41 floor standing continuous (batch) solid/liquid clarifying centrifuges suitable for harvesting fermentation biomass.
  • Horizontal decanter centrifuge capable of >1000 litres/hour for continuous centrifugation of liquid feedstocks where the solids content is >3% w/v.
  • Mobile skid mounted ultra/ micro cross-flow filtration pilot plant.
  • Mobile skid mounted nano filtration/ reverse osmosis system.

The system is rated to 40 bar and fitted with in-line digital temperature, pressure and flow sensors Bench-top cross flow filtration system.

Preparative and analytical capabilities:

  • Hiden Analytical HPR20 QIC R&D mass spectrometer for specialist gas analysis research.
  • Varian 3400 FID GC with autosampler.
  • Dionex/Shodex HPLC system with refractive index detector for carbohydrate analysis.
  • Large-scale six channel preparative flash chromatography system.
  • One large (20 litre) and several small-scale rotary evaporators.
  • Additional laboratory equipment including: floor standing and bench-top shaking incubators, Hot Box oven, autoclave, bench top centrifuges, balances, freeze drying facilities.


A variety of opportunities are available to develop commercial activities. These include:

  • Analysis of plant biomass for e.g. bioactive compounds or other molecules of interest
  • Processing and isolation of bioactives and natural products from plant biomass
  • Conversion of woody plant biomass into pellets
  • Production of transport fuels from plant biomass
  • Production and isolation of fine chemicals from plant biomass
  • Production of biochar, activated charcoal and bio-oil from biomass
  • Production of precursors for bio-packaging
  • Life cycle assessment, economic analysis and system optimization associated with biorefining and the production of bio-products.

Aberystwyth Capabilities

Preparative and analytical capabilities

Pre-treatment equipment

Secondary separation systems

The integrated wet biomass processing line

Dual Duty Pasteuriser

Biotage Flash 75 Radial Compression

Nano Filtration/Reverse Osmosis Pilot Plant

Secondary separation systems

Sharples P600 Decanter Centrifuge

Novel Batch Slow Pyrolysis Bio-Char Production Plant

Steam in Place Fermenters

Static Forage Chopper

Ultra/Micro Filtration Pilot Plant

Life Cycle Assessment, Economic Analysis and System Optimisation