MILENA goes to India

For more than ten years, ECN worked on a brand new technology to produce gas from solid biomass, such as vegetable waste. This technology, which is named MILENA, is now market-ready. In collaboration with HVC, Gasunie, Taqua, the municipality of Alkmaar and the Province of North Holland, the Netherlands is exploring the feasibility of an expertise centre and a demo plant on wood waste with a capacity of about 11 Megawatt. Outside the Netherlands, there is also much interest in this technology. For example, ECN is working together with Thermax, an Indian manufacturer of incineration plants. The company has the ambition to supply all of India with green energy, but also has plans for other parts of Asia. ECN technology is thus reaching an enormous growth market!

High ash coal

The collaboration between ECN and Thermax comprises two projects at the moment. In the first project (Optimash), Thermax and ECN are partners, working on optimising the gasification technology for a certain type of coal. This coal is the so-called high ash coal that can be found in massive quantities in the Indian soil, but also in Turkey and Poland. This type of coal contains a relatively high share of ash, which makes it difficult to deploy it efficiently as fuel. The aim of the project is to boost the conversion efficiency of high ash coal to electricity from the current 20 to 25 percent to 30 to 35 percent in four years. Coal continues to be a ‘dirty’ fuel that emits CO2. However, if less fuel is needed to produce the same amount of energy, this is an environmental gain.


Optimash is financed by the FP7 framework Programme of the European Union. It stimulates the export of European technology to rapidly growing economies such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. Next to Thermax and ECN, an Indian and a French research institute also participate in this project, next to a Turkish coal mine and a Turkish university.

Soya beans

A second project in which ECN collaborates with the Indian company Thermax aims to set up a pilot plant that uses MILENA technology to convert vegetable waste from agriculture into electricity. The first small-scale gasifier with a capacity of 1 Megawatt electricity will be built near a large soya plantation. The company will convert the waste of the soya harvest into energy, which is then used to process the soya beans.

Thousands of gasifiers

For the longer term, Thermax and the Indian government have ambitious plans with the MILENA technology. They plan on installing thousands of small-scale gasifiers throughout India. Due to the high efficiency, this will deliver low-cost and cleaner energy to the Indian population. Moreover, such a small-scale network will give more backbone to the unstable electricity supply in India.


Will ECN be able to recover its investments in the MILENA technology, now that it is being exported successfully? This should indeed be the case. MILENA is the intellectual property of ECN, which means that ECN will receive payment for every installation in which the technology is used. The developments in India will also be beneficial to the Dutch or foreign companies that obtain a license for this technology. Negotiations in this area are still ongoing.

Read the project description of Optimash here.