January 13, 2007

Low heat gasification technique to convert biostock to energy

The thermal process of gasification is one way to break down the bonds of cellulosic feedstock into syngas (primarily CO and H2). Some processes, like plasma arc, uses extremely high heat to "vaporize" the biostock.

Here is an announcement from Germany about a company that has been getting very promising results from gasifying at a lower heat level. They claim, based on experiments with woody biomass, that the lower heat level enables the process to be applicable to a greater range of biostock, including wet forestry waste.

While commercial-scalability is always an issue, such advancements bring the vision of decentralized, blended feedstock, continuous flow bioconversion ever closer.

Here is a brief of the original article I found at Biopact. Thank goodness someone there can interpret German!

German consortium tests new biomass gasification technology, obtains record hydrogen yield

The 'Zentrum für Sonnenenergie- und Wasserstoff-Forschung' (ZSW) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, announces that it has developed a new gasification technology for the production of an energy rich gas from biomass that can be used for the generation of electricy and heat, but also for the production of biohydrogen, biomethane and a series of next-generation synthetic liquid biofuels.

The innovation at the ZSW concentrates on the water vapour gasification of biomass in the presence of a CO2 absorbent. The technology is based on an innovative step in a process called 'Absorption Enhanced Reforming' (AER), which was developed in cooperation with the University of Stuttgart and other European partners. During the gasification process, solid biomass is converted into a hydrogen-rich and carbon-oxide-poor fuel gas with a low tar content by means of integrated gas conditioning. Compared to other gasification processes, the AER technique yields gas with a much higher hydrogen content; pilot tests showed yields of up to 70% hydrogen, an unprecedented level.

The integrated gasification-cogeneration plant uses woody biomass as a feedstock. But, compared to conventional gasification methods, the AER technique considerably reduces the temperatures required for the gasification of biomass. This not only reduces the amount of energy needed to drive the process, it also allows for a much broader range of feedstocks to be used, including wet biomass. Large waste-streams from the agroforestry industry now become available: from grass and straw residues with low ash melting points, which weren't useable until now, to wet wood (leaves, shoots).

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