We are pleased to present the second edition of our BTG-BTL newsletter. Here you will find an interview with Mr. Johan ter Harmsel, managing director of pilot plant specialist Zeton. Next an update is given on the progress of the construction of the Empyro pyrolysis plant. We also introduce Empyro's newly contracted plant manager Martin Risseeuw.

This and future newsletters will also be available in Dutch through our website. We hope you will enjoy reading this issue.

Kind regards,

The BTG-BTL team

May 2014

Brief introduction to …. Johan ter Harmsel

Johan ter Harmsel is the managing director of Zeton BV in Enschede, The Netherlands. Zeton delivers the skid mounted pyrolysis plant that forms the heart of Empyro.

What is your role at Zeton?

Since 2006 I am managing director of the Dutch branch of Zeton and member of the board of directors of the Canadian holding company. I joined Zeton 22 years ago, working in Marketing & Sales. Before that I worked at Bayer, in The Netherlands as well as in Germany. I studied Chemical Engineering at the polytechnical university in Enschede.

Can you tell us some more about Zeton?

For the past 28 years Zeton has been designing and building pilot plants and small scale production plants for customers all over the world. The Zeton holding operates from companies in Burlington, Canada and Enschede, The Netherlands. We are an employee-owned company meaning the employees jointly own the majority of the shares in the holding. We currently employ 80 people on a permanent basis here in Enschede. But at busy times we call upon external specialists from local installation companies and detachment agencies and our workforce grows, up to 150 people. What is unique about Zeton is the fact that we not only have an experienced team of engineers and designers, but also have our in-house workshop where we can closely manage the whole construction and assembly process of our plants.

What is the role of Zeton within the Empyro project?

In my view Zeton plays a pivotal role in the project. Based on the technology and know-how of BTG-BTL we deliver the heart of the Empyro pyrolysis oil production facility. Zeton applies its expertise in designing and constructing chemical plants to the Empyro facility to ensure this installation is realized in the optimal way. One example is that we assemble and mechanically test the main processes of the complete Empyro plant at our in-house workshop, before partially dismantling the installation into skid mounted modules and shipping these to the construction site somewhere in the world. The possibility to conduct such prior testing  is a major advantage of skid mounted constructions. At the final destination the modules are quickly reassembled into a functioning installation.

What is the strength of this cooperation between Zeton and BTG-BTL?

The expertise and experience of our two companies is quite complementary. Zeton has a great deal of experience with the design and modular construction of installations. BTG-BTL contributes pyrolysis process expertise and experience. In an earlier collaborative project uniting our forces has proven to be a successful approach. I also quite like the fact that we are almost neighbours. This makes our daily collaboration even more practical. When we want to meet we simply take the bicycle to ride to each other’s offices!

The concept of modular construction suits both Zeton and BTG-BTL. And we are convinced that the provision of energy is, and will remain, a very important topic. Only when access to energy is secured an industrialised society can play a role of importance. Finally it is becoming ever more important to reduce our dependence on traditional energy sources that originate from a limited number of countries and that are getting ever scarcer to come by.

What issues are key to the future of BTG-BTL?

Energy, modular construction, fast pyrolysis of biomass and the promising research and development that mother company BTG is doing into pyrolysis oil upgrading. I feel confident that the future is looking bright for BTG-BTL.


"The challenge for Zeton is to incorporate all the know-how of BTG-BTL and the other project partners into the design of this installation." 

The next issue of this newsletter will feature a short interview with Saskia Strating. As process engineer at HoSt she contributes her expertise to the design of the Empyro plant.

Latest tweets

Did you know...?

  • Zeton has successfully completed more than 700 projects in over 35 countries across six continents?
  • The steel framework used in the Empyro plant weighs over 225 tons?
  • The largest single component of the Empyro plant weighs over 52 tons?
  • A cartoon has been made of the members of the Empyro engineering team?

Empyro progress

Last year the engineers of BTG-BTL, Zeton, HoSt, Stork and our other partners have put a lot of hard work into the engineering of the Empyro installation. Now, in 2014, the time has come to built the first commercial-scale biomass pyrolysis oil production facility. Because Zeton not only designs but also builds installations they take account of almost all imaginable construction issues already in the design phase. That is an important factor why today the construction of the Empyro plant is still running on schedule. In the image above we see how the supporting beams are welded in the workshop of steel specialist Broeze in Nijverdal.

Next the steel beams are transported to Zeton, where they are assembled into skids.

This is the control room which is currently being equipped at Zeton wih desks, chairs, a small kitchen, and even a shower! 

Around 150 suppliers will deliver materials and products to Zeton’s workshop over the course of the project. This air blower, one of several units required for the pyrolysis process, is about to be assembled into its skid.

Last week the first floor (see picture above) of the Empyro plant was finished. Currently several modules are being contructed on top of it.  In the meantime the metalwork on the Empyro’s giant combustor was finished. It was delivered to the Zeton workhop in three sections and arrived just in time to be mounted into its skid. When you drive passed the Empyro site you can see that the sitework has now really picked up speed. Building contractor Jorritsma from Bolsward has started laying the foundations for the skids. On May 21 the start of construction on site will be formally celebrated, and the Empyro construction billboard unvieled. The next issue of this newsletter will be released just before our summer holidays in July. By that time most skids will have been completed and we will get a better appreciation of the scale of the Empyro plant.


Martin Risseeuw plant manager Empyro

It is our great pleasure to announce that Mr. Martin Risseeuw will join us to become the plant manager of Empyro. In the last 15 years Martin worked for the Dutch multinational company AkzoNobel in various capacities and at different locations but always his job related to energy production. His previous achievements include managing production and maintenance of the Delesto plant in Delfzijl. At 550 MW this is the largest cogeneration plant in The Netherlands. Martin Risseeuw: “When I came across Empyro I was immediately fascinated by this project. When I worked at the Salinco plant in Hengelo I saw the potential of the pyrolysis technology BTG has developed. As the first plant manager of Empyro a particular challenge for me is to build a small team of people with the right hands-on mentality to make this first commercial pyrolysis plant a success. I am very happy that the construction has now started, BTG-BTL and their partners have done a tremendous job realizing this”. 

In the meantime I am already promoting our pyrolysis technology. I was wearing a BTG-BTL shirt when my wife and I cycled to Prague and Denmark. Perhaps it will help BTG-BTL find more customers for this technology. You never know!



Financial support


To demonstrate pyrolysis technology on a commercial scale the Empyro project is financially supported by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission (Grant number 239357), by the Dutch government via the topsector Energy: TKI-BBE and by the province of Overijssel via the Energy Fund Overijssel.