Good news from Germany!
Markus Antonietti from Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces has devised a chemical process that converts biomass like leaves, pine cones and other plant residue into wet coal (coal + water). Biomass goes into the autoclave, a kind of pressure cooker, water goes in, too, along with a citric acid catalyst. A chemical reaction takes place and coal is produced.
The single major by-product of the reaction is water, which can be filtered off. In contrast to other biomass techniques this reaction does not generate carbon dioxide. It also gives a higher energy product, which even smells acceptable.
We underestimated this when we started. We could calculate how much energy was stored in the sugar – in the leaf material. But the first time – as you see – we had a runaway reaction, which is obviously dangerous, so we need to carry it out under safe conditions.