A Technically Viable Pathway to Decarbonization
The current global pellet production capacity has been built around the use of forest biomass resources, mainly sawmill residues. Forest and agricultural biomass resources have different physical, chemical and thermal properties, calling for the modification of the existing biomass processing equipment such as shredding, grinding, drying and pelletization. In the last three years, PCE in collaboration with its university partners has been conducting lab experiments to deeply understand these property differences and develop a technically viable pathway for flax straw as its main feedstock for pellet production. Development of a technically viable pathway for the production of dense and durable feedstocks from flax straw and other crop residues.
With the financial support from Innovation Saskatchewan, under a Saskatchewan Advantage Innovation Fund (SAIF) project, PCE in collaboration with its academic and industrial partners, was able to successfully develop a proprietary flax straw pellet production process and filed a preliminary patent application in 2022.
Having a technically viable production pathway for flax straw and other underutilized crop residues that is replicable to various locations in the Canadian and US prairies is a critical step to encourage the use of crop residues for bioenergy, biofuels and other bioproduct markets in commercial quantities.
Flax straw pellets come from the flax (or linseed) plant. Flax straw is a waste by-product of harvesting flax seed. The straw has no nutrients, cannot be tilled into the soil, and has no market value. Farmers have almost no choice but to burn the straw in field. However, flax straw is an excellent fuel source. It burns cleanly and hotly, generating very low ash content and a high net calorific value. PCE has developed a patent-pending process to transform this straw into pellets for the biomass industry. More than 1.5 million tonnes of flax straw are produced on the Canadian and US prairies every year.
Benefits of Flax Straw
Flax straw is abundant, renewable, and a low-carbon solution:
Canada produces 40% of all global flax, and the amount of flax straw produced annually on the Canadian prairies is well over 750,000 tonnes.
As a staple of Canadian agriculture, flax is already part of farmers’ annual crop rotations. The straw is a residue after the flax has been harvested. It has no nutrient value and must be removed from the field. With no market for this waste, most of the straw is burned in the field.
As tested, flax straw can meet ISO standards. Flax straw has a very low ash content and low moisture levels. The chemical composition of flax straw is appropriate for power and heat generation, with mineral content far below typical agricultural fuel sources. Most importantly, flax straw has high net calorific value equivalent to wood.
Prairie Clean’s products are all independently tested and verified. Testing labs include Econotech (from Delta, British Columbia, Canada) and the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (from the University of British Columbia).
The flax plant
Flax is a slender plant with pale blue flowers grown as an annual crop for its seeds and fibre. It is used in industrial applications, food production, textiles manufacturing, and as animal fodder. In Canada, the vast majority of flax is harvested for its seeds and the straw fibre is discarded as waste.
Future PCE Product: AG RESIDUE PELLETS
Saskatchewan is Canada’s “ breadbasket,” with agricultural production representing more than 40% of Canada’s total. You can see crops like barley, canola, canary, hemp, wheat and many more growing in its vast fields. All of these crops result in an abundance of un-utilized agricultural residue – waste that has no other purpose. PCE is uniquely positioned to bring this residue, all 48 million tonnes of it, to the biomass pellet market. We’re offering a clean, renewable, abundant, and secure fuel source.