Oxidative Hydrothermal Dissolution (OHD) is a method of converting any solid biomass into a liquid which then comprises a mixture of organic chemical compounds which vary in number and kind according to the kind of biomass to which it is applied. In brief, the method involves grinding the biomass to a powder, placing it in a very weak aqueous slurry, in a chamber heated to 280 degrees Celsius, and subject to 170 bars of pressure, then adding oxygen to the slurry. The reaction occurs instantly and completely, leaving no, or very little CO2, or residue. The resulting liquid, representing all the biomass, leaves the reaction chamber as a very weak solution in water. The resulting organic compounds, after the water has been removed, can be separated and each, depending upon its nature, is predicted to be useful as a platform chemical for plastics manufacture like industrial uses, transport fuels, and pharmaceutical and food industry purposes.
The process was developed in 2011 by Professor Ken Anderson at Southern Illinois University (SIU), in Carbondale, Ill., which university has applied for the patents for the process. SIU has licensed a company established by Professor Anderson named Thermaquatica Inc. to use the process exclusively, universally. In 2014, Thermaquatica built a continuous Process Demonstration Unit (PDU) to prove the process at a scale rate of about 10 kg an hour, which it did successfully (see figure 1 below).
In 2013 Greenpower entered into a Research and Option Agreement with Thermaquatica to provide $US2m to Thermaquatica over two years for research into the methods and tools to produce and refine the product, in exchange for the right to obtain an exclusive sub-license to use the process to extract products from coal in Australia and New Zealand. As a term of the Agreement and resulting sub-license, Greenpower must build a commercial scale conversion plant agreed to operate at a feed rate of 20 tonnes of ROM lignite a day.
Since 2015, Greenpower has engaged Monash University in Melbourne to conduct trials using the liquid mixture resulting from the conversion, in the emergent weak solution, without further refining or concentrating, as a plant growth bio-stimulant. Trials to date have lead Greenpower to form the intention to build the 20 tonne per day feed plant to produce the mixture in weak solution and to market the product as a plant growth bio-stimulant.
The OHD process converts carbonaceous material into organic compounds. (The scientific basis of the process is described and elaborated in USA Patent PCT/210/0233886, dated August 19, 2010). Many of these products are potentially useful for producing fine chemicals, specialty chemicals, commodity chemicals, agricultural bio stimulants and bio-diesel.
Greenpower retains the exclusive OHD rights to the Australian and New Zealand Market for the next 15 years where thus far it has spent in excess of $4.5 million developing and testing (research & extraction) the OHD project in conjunction with US-based partner Thermaquatica Inc. and Monash University.
The basic OHD reactor produces a water product that is an excellent agricultural bio-stimulant, used to enhance plant growth. Researchers at Monash University are conducting trials to determine the best way to apply the liquid to various commercial plant species.
The first phase of those trials involving tomatoes was completed by Monash University at the end of 2016. It was involving tomatoes an application of the OHD fluid causes the tomato plant to produce more flowers and [ultimately] more fruit which translates into more kg of fruit per plant. The same has now been confirmed with wheat by the second phase of trials.
Greenpower Energy in conjunction with Monash University is planning further trials with OHD bio-stimulant fertiliser to cover oil cereals with a focus on canola and at the request of international parties’ Palm Oil. Greenpower believes these trials should deliver positive results as studies have concluded that the OHD bio stimulant fertiliser enhances reproductive activity in plants that produce flowers and seeds.