Friday, January 29, 2010

Gasification Opens Many Doors to New Energy

Using a gasifier, you can turn biomass, coal, or any carbonaceous material into syngas -- a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and traces of methane etc. This gas can be burned as a fuel similar to natural gas. Or it can be fermented into alcohols. Or it can be used in a synthesis process such as Fischer Tropsch to produce diesel, gasoline, jet fuel, plastics, or high value chemicals. Let's look at a company that gasifies biomass and uses the syngas to produce electricity:
By properly controlling the air injection arrangement the feedstock pile temperature is kept below the sublimation, vaporizing or melting temperatures of the noncombustible solids, and at the same time vaporizes the volatiles using the energy from partial combustion of the wastes. The resulting syngas is sent to a chamber, or “low NOx (nitrogen oxide) oxidizer,” where it is combusted much like natural gas or propane and is then used to make heat, which can be converted into steam, power or hot water.

Prouty says the key benefit of the SALT system is that a hot air turbine is used instead of water for power generation. The company has a partnership with Walled Lake, Mich.-based turbine manufacturer Williams International, and has spent the past three years working with Williams to optimize a biomass turbine. The companies’ collaborative work was showcased in the fall of 2009 with the commissioning of a project at Sietsema Farm Feeds in Howard City, Mich., which now hosts the state’s first gasification plant and the world’s first hot air turbine powered by biomass.

...For further testing, HTI is constructing a $3.5 million biomass development center, which Prouty says will house four different styles of gasifiers and different forms of power generation. The machines will be larger than pilot scale—big enough to prove formulas for a smooth transition to full-sized machines. “What we want to be able to do is, when a customer brings in a material, we can prove out exactly what the right recipe of waste should be, and determine which full-scale gasifier will work best with it,” Prouty says. “We’ll prove the process and the air emissions, so that as they move into their permitting and design phases they know exactly how the material will perform in the gasifier.”

HTI has offered the center to Michigan State University, which will provide researchers to work on new gasification concepts and prove out any operational characteristics HTI may encounter. While the center is being built, Prouty says, interest in gasification projects continues to mount. _Biomass

Biomass to electricity is a good way of dealing with various types of waste materials.   As more companies take the route of providing their own process power and heat using waste materials, we may see the mining of landfills as an amazing source of economic vitality in this brave new world of Obama - Pelosi GUCs.



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