Novel Batch Slow-Pyrolysis Biochar Production Plant

Aberystwyth University’s thermochemical, biochar facility includes a bench-scale tube furnace, a pilot-scale batch slow pyrolysis plant and post-process analytical capabilities, designed to provide a wide-ranging biochar research facility to academic and industry clients.

The plant’s purpose is for collaborative projects and for the bespoke production of the full range of biomass chars in quantities up to the capacity of the unit (1.2m3), for research, and practical application in soil and water remediation, nutrient retention etc.  We welcome interest from any institutions or companies interested in biochar production and use.

The tube furnace has a temperature range of 200 – 10000C, with a choice of reaction gases and a capacity of 10g – 1 kg depending on material.

The pilot-scale slow-pyrolysis plant can carbonise a wide range of types and sizes of lignocellulosic biomass material. The plant optimises the production of solid char yield, and the capturing of condensable-volatile liquids, and facilitates a wide range of Highest Treatment Temperatures (HTT) and residence times.  It was designed and installed by Sustainable Energy Ltd.

Projects undertaken include:

  • Collaboration in the Pan-European ReDirect project on utilisation of multiple types of biomass waste (2017–present)
  • Bulk production of grass chars for a DEFRA-funded Metal Mine Remediation report, using char as a treatment medium, for contaminated mine water in the Mid-Wales Ore Field region
  • Trial charring of Juncus effusus rushes from Mid-Wales uplands, and phragmities reeds from the National Coal Authority water remediation site at Merthyr Taf in South Wales for mine water remediation


Combustion gases are drawn into the feedstock carboniser to initiate endothermic reaction.  Decomposition of the feedstock releases hot-gas volatiles which supplement the combustor and reduce fuel oil requirement.  Maximum temperature and residence time are automatically controlled.  Charred material can be naturally cooled or rapid-quenched with N2 or CO2 on completion.

Diagram of plant operation

Char production

The heating process uses a simple static heating vessel, which means that a wide variety of feedstocks can be processed in the unit in terms of both biomass type and particle size, ranging from fine-pressed grass, through pelleted material to larger, unprocessed material. The plant can also be utilised for the production of more bulky, torrified biomass for use as charcoal fuel.

50kg of feedstock will yield ~ 20kg of char and ~20kg of water/bio oil mix.


Loading of the plant for heating run and unloading char



Fine-pressed grass feedstock and the char produced from it


Related analytical capabilities

•   Thermogravimetric Analysis
•   Pyrolysis Fourier transform infra-red radioscopy (FTIR)
•   Differential Scanning Calorimetry TGA/FTIR
•   Gas Calorimetry mass spectrometry  (GC-MS)
•   Pyrolysis GC MS
•   Ramen Microscopy


For further information about this facility please contact:

Mike Morris – Business Development Manager: 01970 823079, email
Damon Hammond – Process engineer, pyrolysis: 01970 823089, email
Sian Thomas Jones – Senior research technician: 01970 823132, email