EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in
Carbon Capture and Storage and Cleaner Fossil Energy
University of Nottingham

User Case Study: Biomass and Fossil Fuel Research Alliance (BF2RA)

The Biomass and Fossil Fuel Research Alliance (BF2RA) is a grouping of major industrial companies including equipment suppliers, the electricity supply industry (ESI), energy users and research organisations that part-funds research in the areas of fossil fuels and biomass.  To date BF2RA has supported some 13 EngDs within the earlier EFET DTC and the current CCSCFE CDT. BF2RA typically selects research for funding via open calls for proposals.

The success that EFET and CCSCFE have achieved in this competitive environment has been due to the high technical quality of their proposals, coupled with a clear understanding of industrial need.  Working together across companies allows generic problems to be investigated that would not necessarily be investigated by individual companies. 

carbon capture in laboratory
Peter Sage,
BF2RA Technical Officer
The CDT offers a diverse research base that complements BF2RA’s wide research interests and its sustained success is testament to the high quality proposals, awareness of industry needs and accomplished project delivery
Peter Sage, BF2RA Technical Officer
Peter Sage,
BF2RA Technical Officer

The projects typically at the ‘pre-competitive stage’ are undertaken to provide underpinning technical information across a range of coal/biomass power generation related topics.  This has allowed significant international reach through EPRI involvement in the programme and also, for example, through GE’s advanced coal/biomass boiler and gas cleaning interests reside in Germany, France, Switzerland and Sweden.

BF2RA appoints an Industrial Supervisor for each EngD study who liaises closely with the academic team. Project review meetings are held at least every six months and these meetings are open to all BF2RA members and typically two or three member companies participate in each meeting. BF2RA EngD studies are university-based, but that said, students do have the opportunity to undertake short placements within BF2RA member companies during the course of their research. This affords the students a breadth of industrial exposure and experience that they may not achieve from single-company sponsorship.  Multi-company involvement, as offered by BF2RA, is also of benefit to the current CCSCFE students who undertake an ‘Industrial Mini-Project’ at the start of their studies, so students have the early opportunity to interact with several industries. 

Research undertaken for BF2RA
The research undertaken for BF2RA by EFET and CCSCFE has included studies related to fuel characterisation and testing, studies that have focused on biomass, a study relating to sintering within fluidised beds and several studies that have a focus on materials.  One such project (Thomas Hoey) is included here as one of the student case studies where a new Co-Cr-C coated P92 steel has been found to perform better than existing aluminide type coatings. Highlights from other projects include:
  • Gaining a fundamental understanding of the factors that controlling agglomeration between ash constituents and the sand used in fluidised bed combustors for drying by British Sugar.  A simple ashing procedure with sand and coal produces agglomerated material closely resembling that formed in the fluidised-beds (Daniel Afilaka).
  • Demonstrating that when biomass pellets milled with different feedstocks, milling has little impact on particle size and shape (Orla Williams).  
  • Developing correlations to accurately predict char yields and char reactivities for all types of biomass based on their alkali and alkaline metal contents and the amounts of aromatic carbon present, being a proxy for lignin (Philip Jenkinson). 
  • Modelling the changes that occur during the service life of dissimilar alloy interfaces in power plant materials. Research focused on three dissimilar metal weld systems and has identified systems that can withstand higher temperatures and increased cycling operations (John Clark). 
  • Investigating the kinetics of oxide growth in an austenitic stainless steel in steam both before and after the initial spallation has taken place.  This study focuses on the additional oxidation induced by biomass firing (Rebecca-Louise Mobbs). 
  • Modelling biomass milling by using data generated by the Orla Williams research (see earlier) to understand the implications of biomass choices on milling (Gary Newbolt). 
  • Developing an advanced ash fusion test to enable slagging and fouling prediction and identifying links between ash characteristics and slagging and fouling.  Also, software is being developed to improve existing ash fusion test procedures (Patrick Daley)
  • Establishing a framework for the implementation of the results of small specimen creep testing for assisting in long-term power plant material performance assessment of component life management (Charles Dyson). 
  • Providing a fundamental framework for understanding how torrefaction of biomass impacts on both volatile matter yield and char reactivates in PF combustion (Umair Hussain).
  • Identifying how biomass can improve the characteristic of unreactive coals in pulverised fuel combustion, both in terms of increasing volatile matter and significantly increasing char reactivity through catalytic effects of alkali and alkaline metals (Chris Bridge). 
  • Investigating the performance of high chromium creep strength enhanced ferritic steels to understand the effect of processing and composition on the long-term performance under service conditions of 11-12wt% CSEF steels (Robert Byrne). 
  • The development of an image analysis method that can rapidly characterise fuel to predict boiler performance (Joseph Perkins). 


Six of the BF2RA-supported EFET EngDs have now been successfully completed, with all of the students moving on to employment either in industry or in academe.  EngD theses arising from the completed studies have been of a high quality with a strong industry focus.  Additionally each study has generated a wealth of conference presentations and publications in respected scientific journals.  Over the years BF2RA and EFET/CCSCFE have developed a strong working relationship and understanding that has benefitted all parties.  This has enabled successes to be capitalised on and any arising issues to be resolved quickly and effectively.  Lessons learned have been deployed on successive research projects.



EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Carbon Capture and Storage and Cleaner Fossil Energy

Email: ccscfe@nottingham.ac.uk