Middlesbrough centre will aid work in thermal technologies

A newly opened National Thermal Technologies Innovation Centre will allow businesses to develop advanced waste-energy and reclamation strategies and integrate them into their day-to-day operations.

The Middlesbrough-based centre is a collaboration between the existing Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and Tata Steel.

Ultimately it will be equipped to deal with a variety of feedstocks to produce a range of different fuels and products, as well as reclaiming metals and materials.

‘The first point is we cover five main sectors — process industries, construction and materials, metals, energy, and waste and reclamation,’ said Dr Keith Robson, commercial manager at the new centre.

‘By essentially having pilot equipment available on a rent basis it means people can de-risk their process and product development and, in many cases, save capital expenditure on a pilot plant.’

Currently, the centre houses, among other things, a 3.6m-high, 2,000ºC gasifier, which can take up to 500kg/hr of biomass, as well as end-of-life plastics, and unusable oils to create low-carbon fuels. It also has a smaller-scale laboratory and analytical facilities.

‘Let’s say that somebody has developed a new process or product and they have done that at an academic lab at maybe with 500g, we can take that to a kilo with both gasification and pyrolyssis, then we can take that to the demo scale which is on the Tata site,’ Dr Robson said.

Since the centre is part public funded it will operate on an open-access basis in that any business can use the facilities provided they pay the rent. After 18 months, the goal is for the centre to be financially self-sufficient and eventually invest money for further updated technologies.