With autumn just beginning and a profound energy crisis that has already forced institutions to make a move, one of the great challenges families face is how to stay warm when temperatures drop. Over the last few months, the fear of the electricity bill has already triggered the sale of pellets, firewood, stoves and fireplaces. In France or Canada, however, there are those who have decided to bet on an ally that is as unexpected as it is traditional and well-known: linen.
Who said that the key could not be made from a material that we have used for centuries?
Pellets with flax? That is the proposal that Soels Electrotech, a company from Comines, in northern France, has been working on for years. His idea, Neozone collects, consists of taking advantage of the waste for the manufacture of pellets, cylinders of pressed materials. The firm wants to go a step further in the use of a material whose chips are already used in company boilers.
To form the pellets, they remove the dust and pass the material through a system that compresses it until obtaining a pressed granule. Neozone assures that there is already at least one boiler manufacturer that has adapted its machines and that flax pellets would be cheaper than wood pellets.
In the right moment. In the midst of the energy crisis, the idea has not taken long to capture the interest of the media and even authorities. In May, the gala deputy Brigitte Liso posted on his Twitter profile images with those responsible for the firm: “After six years of work, they have developed a flax biofuel pellet for private stoves and boilers and biomass units!”
Beyond France. Soels is not alone in pointing out the benefits of flax pellets. In Canada there is another company, Prairie Clean Energy, that has the same idea. “750,000 tons of flax straw are burned on the Canadian prairies each year, 1.1 million if those from the US are added. This straw has no other purposes. With our patent-pending process, we convert what used to be wasted flax straw into biomass pellets that are ISO compliant.”
Take advantage of waste with less impact. Those are the two great keys in which Prairie Clean Energy has an impact. The company argues that each year Canada generates more than 48 million tons of agricultural waste that it does not give an outlet for and “can be transformed into clean and renewable biomass pellets.” Praire assures that this type of fuel is equivalent in caloric properties to wood pellets, with an extra advantage: lower ash content.
“Flax straw pellets come from flaxseed. Flax straw is a waste by-product of the flax seed harvest. It has no nutrients, cannot be tilled into the ground, and has no market value. Farmers have no choice but to burn it in the field. However, flax straw is an excellent source of fuel: it burns cleanly, generating a very low ash content and a high net calorific value”, adds the Canadian company.
Meeting with Olivier Soels, manager of the company « SOELS Electrotech » hier à #Comines🧑🏻🏭
Après 6 ans à y travailler, Olivier et ses équipes ont mis au point un granulé de #lin biofuel à destination des poêles et chaudières des particuliers et des unités de biomasse ! pic.twitter.com/bCGZbu9k3Q
– Brigitte Liso (@brigitte_liso) May 12, 2022
Announced at @canadasfarmshow today: here is the exclusive look at the future space for the world’s first flax straw processing plant for biomass fuel located right here in Regina, Saskatchewan. #Bioenergy #CanadasFarmShow #CFS22 #SaskAg #CdnAg pic.twitter.com/b3KQ2QdQip
— Prairie Clean Energy (@PrairieCleanEn) June 21, 2022
Exciting day! Have a look at these beauties! The world’s first ever flax straw pellets for industrial biomass power purposes. #SkFlax #flax2fuel pic.twitter.com/VASAYOdBn3
— Prairie Clean Energy (@PrairieCleanEn) March 30, 2021
The when and where, keys. To understand the importance of the Soels or Prairie proposals, it is important to understand the context and, above all, where and when they are proposed. As the Canadian company points out, every year their country generates a large amount of flax waste that could be disposed of. Soels is not aiming blindly either: flax production has a prominent weight in France. The Figaro points out that the country is a reference thanks to 11,000 hectares dedicated to the valuable material.
The when is also crucial. Although Soels has been working on his proposal for years, the news of recent months has emerged in a context marked by the energy crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine. Another factor is the rise in the price of the pellets themselves due to the fear of electricity and gas bills. Within a year, he notes The Independent, a 15 kg bag of biomass made up of pressed sawdust has gone from costing 4.5 to 7.5 euros. And its demand continues to rise.
The calculations of the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU) indicate that pellets are today 67% more expensive than in 2021 and their price has skyrocketed by 96% compared to 2017. However, the group stresses that biomass “it is still an economical option” for heating the house.
Cover Image | Prairie Clean Energy
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism