In this paper, a hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) process is designed and modeled on the basis of experimental data previously obtained for two representative organic waste materials: off-specification compost and grape marc. The process accounts for all the steps and equipment necessary to convert raw moist biomass into dry and pelletized hydrochar. By means of mass and thermal balances and based on common equations specific to the various equipment, thermal energy and power consumption were calculated at variable process conditions: HTC reactor temperature T: 180, 220, 250 °C; reaction time θ: 1, 3, 8 h. When operating the HTC plant with grape marc (65% moisture content) at optimized process conditions (T = 220 °C; θ = 1 h; dry biomass to water ratio = 0.19), thermal energy and power consumption were equal to 1170 kWh and 160 kWh per ton of hydrochar produced, respectively. Correspondingly, plant efficiency was 78%. In addition, the techno-economical aspects of the HTC process were analyzed in detail, considering both investment and production costs. The production cost of pelletized hydrochar and its break-even point were determined to be 157 €/ton and 200 €/ton, respectively. Such values make the use of hydrochar as a CO2
neutral biofuel attractive.
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