Friday, January 09, 2009

Bio-Syntrolysis BTL from Idaho National Labs

Researchers at Idaho National Lab are claiming revolutionary biomass carbon to biofuels efficiencies from a new process they call "bio-syntrolysis."
Bio-Syntrolysis would thus convert about 90% of the carbon in biomass to liquid synthetic fuel, INL says. By comparison, INL notes, conventional biomass or coal gasification to liquid fuels converts only ~35% of the carbon to liquid fuel. Likewise, conventional biological routes for ethanol production convert only ~35% of biomass carbon to liquid fuel.

In Bio-Syntrolysis, process heat from the biomass gasifier produces the steam to improve the hydrogen production efficiency of the HTSE process, while the biomass itself is the source of the carbon. Hydrogen from HTSE allows a high utilization of the biomass carbon for syngas production, while the oxygen resulting from water splitting is used to control the gasification process. The new process is an evolution of INL’s earlier work on co-electrolysis (Syntrolysis).

... INL is proposing locating Bio-Syntrolysis plants regionally, close to where the biomass is grown. A 25,000 barrel (1.05 million gallon US, 3.974 million liter) per day plant for full biomass to liquid fuels would entail a capital cost of around $2 billion and an annual operating cost of $1 billion per year.

The plant, according to INL analysis, would have a production cost of around $2.80 per gallon, and use 1,000 MW of electricity. Biomass would be gathered from an area 40-50 miles in diameter. _GCC

So INL researchers claim that their new process increases BTL conversion efficiencies by a factor of 2 to 3? Impressive if true. The new process attempts to achieve maximal chemical work from the process heat created by the gasification step. Each bio-syntrolysis plant may require a nearby biomass to electricity to supply the necessary electric power used by the process.

Production costs of $2.80 per gallon would not be profitable for producing fuel compared with today's US fuel costs. Such plants are not being researched, tested, and designed for today, however.

Biomass cannot compete with coal or gas in terms of energy per kg or cubic foot. But biomass can be produced into the indefinite future, whereas it is possible to foresee the end of cheap oil, coal, and gas. Wise species plan for contingencies.

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