Category Archives: Gasification
Biomass gasification is quickly gaining popularity as companies like Waste to Energy Systems continue to make advancements. A recent article on Bioenergy News website discusses the benefits of this technology in their article “Global researchers give thumbs up to advanced biomass gasification.” The article discusses a recent report published by Energy & Environmental Science creating a case arguing that biomass gasification is “as a promising, viable and economically beneficial technology for fuel and energy.” It is thanks to advancements in biomass gasification such as fuel cleaning systems like the bioHearth’s gas cleaning system that now push this technology type into the viable category. The article points out that one of the major benefits of biomass gasification is the fact it does not rely on climate to function like hydro, wind and solar technologies.
Biomass can be sustainable and abundant as an energy source. If the biomass is gathered from sustainable sources, the entire cycle can be carbon neutral. According to the article, this means “these advantages make biomass energy one of the most widely explored research fields in energy and environmental science: the major driver is to exploit low-cost feedstocks, to increase process efficiency and to decrease installation and operational costs.” A renewed emphasis on the versatility of syngas is placed in this article and how it can be beneficial for creating a variety of products.
Overall, researchers find that biomass gasification will be a big player in the renewable energy market. According to one researcher, “With the right tools, approaches and advancements we can make sure that it is utilised in a cost-effective manner, with minimal social and environment impacts.”
Blogger’s Note: The Clean Power Plan was implemented on August 3, 2015 by the EPA. The Clean Power Plan finalized new rules, or standards, that will reduce carbon emissions from power plants for the first time. As a result, new focus is being placed on biomass as a fuel source for renewable energy systems like biomass gasification . Recently, the EPA addressed the potential of biomass and is planning a workshop on land and forest management for responsible biomass production. Biomass Magazine recently published an article on this attention and workshop in their article “EPA addresses biomass in Clean Power Plan, plans workshop”.
Janet McCabe, U.S. EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, has published a blog that addresses the potential role of biomass in the Clean Power Plan, and announced that the EPA will hold a workshop on the topic early next year.
Since the Clean Power Plan was issued, states and stakeholders have shown a strong interest in the role of biomass to help hit targets, McCabe said, and many states are seeking to understand how to craft plans that will be federally approvable under the final CPP guidelines. “To respond to this interest and to support state and stakeholder efforts to incorporate bioenergy in their CPP plans, we will be holding a public workshop in early 2016 for stakeholders to share their successes, experiences and approaches to deploying biomass in ways that have been, and can be, carbon beneficial,” McCabe wrote. “Biomass derived from land that is managed under programs that ensure the long-term maintenance of healthy forests can serve as an integral part of a broader forestry-based climate strategy, so the CPP expressly includes bioenergy as an option for states and utilities in CPP compliance. It reflects the fact that, in many cases, biomass and bioenergy products in the power system can be an integral part of state programs and foster responsible land management and renewable energy.”
In the blog, McCabe emphasizes state flexibility as being a key component of the CPP, and points out that many already have expertise in sound carbon- and GHG-beneficial forestry and land management practices. “The CPP’s flexibility will give states the ability to build in approaches to biomass and bioenergy unique to their forests and land management programs and policies. It recognizes the importance of forests and other lands for climate resilience—in addition to the carbon benefits of biomass—fostered by a variety of land use policies, renewable energy incentives and standards, and GHG strategies.”
The final CPP creates a pathway for states to use biomass as part of their plans to meet their emission reduction guidelines, according to McCabe. She said EPA expects many states to include biomass as a component in their state plans. “We look forward to reviewing plans that incorporate well-developed forestry and other land management programs producing biomass that can qualify under the guidelines laid out in the CPP, and we are confident that the CPP offers sufficient lead time and flexibility for states to develop approvable programs.”
Key goals of the workshop, the date of which was not announced, will be to provide an opportunity for states with well-developed forestry and land management practices to share their experiences, and to “foster a constructive dialogue about how states can best include biomass in their compliance plans if that is a path they choose to follow.”
McCabe added that the workshop will showcase the constructive compliance approaches many states are already implementing or developing, and as the first step to prepare for the event, EPA will be reaching out to key stakeholders to get ideas on the agenda.
The four hundred year old technology of Gasification is finally getting some well deserved attention in the Alternative Energy world. With companies like Waste to Energy Systems fine tuning the gasification process, biomass as a fuel source for the process will continue to grow in popularity, especially in areas where electricity costs are high and biomass is abundant. A recent article from the International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group published on www.altenergymag.com discusses the growth of this technology.
Gasification is one of the promising and new technologies for generating electricity from solid fuels or biomass such as wood, organic-waste and agricultural residues. The biomass gasification process uses heat, pressure and partial combustion which occurs when the air supply (O2) is less than adequate for the combustion to be completed. The utilisation of biomass energy can provide dual benefits: reduces carbon dioxide (CO2) emission and increases fuel security, as it is usually produced locally. There are several other advantages of generating electricity through biomass gasification.
Some of the advantages are:
Available everywhere: Biomass based power can be made available anywhere and is quite promising for remote villages which have no access to grid but have large amounts of biomass
Rural economic upliftment: There is a growing trend in which companies are exploring the use of dedicated energy crops for biomass power production, which ensures a reliable biomass supply chain and provides employment for the rural masses
• Carbon neutral: Unlike coal and other forms of fossil fuels, which add carbon in the atmosphere when burnt, biomass energy generation results in no new carbon emission or pollution
• Efficient utilisation of renewable biological sources: Biomass power generation is a efficient process to utilise animal and agriculture wastes
• Large variety of feedstock: A large variety of feedstock such as wood pellets, rice husk, bagasse, etc. can be used to generate biomass energy
• Reduces methane: Using biomass for generating energy reduces the level of methane in the atmosphere. Methane is responsible for the greenhouse effect and with the production of biomass energy, the gas levels are lowered.
• Low cost resource: Biomass power can be produced economically compared to the costs of grid power if there is a good availability of feedstock
• Advantages over other renewable energy sources: Unlike wind or solar power generation which depend upon the amount of sunlight or wind available, energy from biomass is not intermittent.
The recent focus on renewable energy resources and environmental concerns is driving the market for biomass electricity. Although there are several challenges, this market has grown at a CAGR of around 8.4% during the last 5 years. Recognising the prospects of exploiting the market for generating electricity through the process of biomass gasification, IMARC Group has released a new report titled, “Biomass Gasification Plant Project Report: Industry Trends, Gasification Process, Machinery, Raw Materials, Cost and Revenue”. The report states that currently Europe represents the biggest market for biomass electricity production, followed by North America. Analysts predict that China, Brazil and India also have huge potentials for this market.
This report provides a comprehensive understanding of the biomass gasification market and gives an insight into the factors that need to be analysed while setting up a biomass gasification plant. These factors include:
• Market trends
• Key players
• Key risk and success factors
• Process flow
• Various types of unit operations involved
• Land, location and site development requirements
• Plant layout
• Plant machinery requirements
• Raw materials, utilities and manpower requirements
• Capital investments
• Operating costs
• Incomes and expenditures of the plant
• Cash flows
As a testament to the growing popularity of biomass and bioenergy, October 21st marked the 3rd annual National Bioenergy Day. Over 60 organizations across 24 states, spanning from the west coast to east coast all the way up to Canada, held events focused on environmental and economic benefits of bioenergy on the local, state and national level. The WES team attended the National Bioenergy Day conference in Baton Rouge, LA at Louisiana State University’s Agricultural Center
The top keynote speakers, Dr. Charles Reith, Professor of Natural and Environmental Sciences and Sustainability Director at the American University of Nigeria and Dr. Dan Len, Regional Biomass Coordinator for the Southern Region Forest Service, left the attendees with a positive message on the endless possibilities that biomass and bioenergy present. Their message was supported by other industry speakers such as pellet companies, area business development leaders and local energy companies.
Events like National Bioenergy Day will continue to increase awareness among the general population of the alternative energy applications that are available, including processes like downdraft gasification systems, and build confidence in biomass as a fuel source.
Our CEO, Richard Woods was featured in the Entrepreneurship Issue of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report Magazine. The article highlights his R&D efforts for our system and his future goals for both of his companies, Albany Woodworks and Waste to Energy Systems. The complete article is found below.
Louisiana entrepreneur: Richard Woods
(Photography by Collin Richie: Richard Woods)
Position: Owner and CEO
Companies: Albany Woodworks and Waste to Energy Systems
What they do: Convert waste from communities, businesses, farms or resorts into energy
Address: 30380 Payne Alley, Suite 2 in Tickfaw
Next goals: Use the success of the gasification system to propel oil reclaiming from plastics
A WELL-BUILT BASE
When Richard Woods noticed a barn being torn down in his Louisiana hometown of Albany 40 years ago, he had no idea the event would inspire him to open not just one, but eventually two unique businesses. He constructed his entire home with antique heart pine and cypress that he carefully salvaged from 100-year-old buildings like the barn, along with as much recyclable material as possible. “I’ve been an environmentalist my whole life,” Woods says. He found the reclaimed wood to be much better than anything people could buy new. “It naturally grew from that desire to use waste in a positive way for a business,” he explains. The home he built for his family is where Albany Woodworks got its start. Today the family business works to reclaim original well-seasoned beams, using state-of-the-art machinery, to be used in new construction or remodeling projects.
TRASH TO TREASURE
In the process of growing his lumber company, Woods had to find ways to deal with the waste his operations produced. In search of a sustainable use for byproducts like wood chips, sawdust and shavings, he began researching methods of converting these into a viable energy source in 2009. After five years of intense research and development, he invented the bioHearth, which uses gasification, a method of converting any kind of carbon-based waste into hydrogen and carbon monoxide. These combustible fuels can then run a generator, kiln or any other energy consumption system. “So it is not a limited market,” Woods explains. “It can go anywhere.” Now successfully running the Albany Woodworks generator from the plant’s waste, Woods is ready to take his bioHearth technology to market as part of his second startup, Waste to Energy Systems.
While gasification is being exploited in Europe and India to turn industrial waste into usable energy, Woods explains what makes his system more practical and more energy efficient is its ability to be installed on-site rather than the company having to haul its waste to a gigantic plant. “So you build a system that would fit right into their system; that is our unique concept,” he says. It might be surprising to discover Woods has no formal degree. “What I do is I know how to learn and I know who to apply what I’ve learned, and that is how I’ve built two businesses,” he says. “I think that is the key ingredient to entrepreneurship.” He is now using that same process to pursue patents for his technology. At age 65, Woods says he wanted to dedicate his last efforts to something that would make a difference in the world.
GREEN FOR GREEN
Juggling two businesses is no easy task for Woods, who will often pull an 18-hour day working to bring his bioHearth to market. Five months ago he put up a webpage to start marketing it and has since been inundated with contact from people wanting to know how it can help their industry. “People just started showing up, just like they showed up wanting my wood,” Woods say. He sees the bioHearth as a viable tool for emerging markets and counties—particularly in the Caribbean and anywhere with an electricity shortage, as well as anyone who is paying money to haul away waste. Woods has funded 75% of the venture himself, with aid from angel investors along the way. While his invention undoubtedly has many environmental benefits, the real key is economic viability, which he has achieved, calculating a return on investment on the system in just under five years.
Article written by Gabrielle Braud and published on October 14, 2015
As the population grows, so will our need for waste management. The current situation in the US alone may be surprising to most people. Americans generate 250 million tons of garbage a year, and some reports show over 400 million tons and only about 1/10th of all solid garbage in the U.S. gets recycled. These numbers combined with agricultural waste and other industry waste leaves the U.S. with a staggering number. This data lead many companies, including Waste to Energy Systems, to develop alternative energy systems to begin chipping away at the world’s environmental issues. A recent online article discusses how gasification can play a role in turning around these issues.
From “Gasification of MSW may save Mother Earth” published on www.wastedive.com
(Above Image): Gasification can greatly reduce landfill capacities.
To keep up with the amount of trash, hundreds of municipalities request permits to expand their landfill capacities. Geologist Walter Leise recently described expansion initiatives as building a mountain of trash on top of another mountain of trash, offering a vivid description of the concept. As landfills get bigger and expansions become more controversial, do officials have a better option for the disposal of municipal solid waste?
WSI Management seems to think so. The Plant City, FL-based waste management company focuses on two objectives: the need for environmentally safe and economically sound management of municipal solid waste, and the quest for clean, renewable energy. WSI Management’s Vice President Matt Linda explained to Waste Dive that the company does not look to dispose of solid waste through plasma technology, or anaerobic digestion, or incineration. Instead, the company has mapped an “intellectual blueprint” to turn MSW into fuel cubes and bioplanks through gasification.
According to a report published by the Gasification Technologies Council (GTC), gasification combines carbon-based materials in MSW (known as feedstocks) with oxygen to break them down into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, while removing pollutants. This process leaves clean, “synthesis gas” that can be converted into usable energy or products.
Despite common belief, the process of gasification is not the same as incineration. GTC defines incineration as using MSW as a fuel, “burning it with high volumes of air to form carbon dioxide and heat.” Gasification uses the MSW as a feedstock to create syngas, which is then turned into “higher valuable commercial products” instead of just heat and electricity.
“Instead of paying to dispose of and manage waste for years in a landfill, using it as a feedstock for gasification reduces disposal costs and landfill space, and converts those wastes to electricity and fuels,” the report states. Linda notes that the use of such gasification systems can solve disputes over landfill expansions and how to properly dispose of waste.
“Keystone Landfill in Pennsylvania is permitted for 7,200 tons [of MSW] a day. 7,200 tons a day that’s going into Mother Earth,” Linda says. “And now because of the expansion permits, the residents don’t want the permit and they’re up in arms. There’s another landfill expansion in Ontario, NY. You’ve got Saugus, MA; Suacon Township in PA … Prehistoric landfills don’t exist anymore and incineration just spews material into the atmosphere, which is not good for anyone. There are technologies out there that could fix all of these boo-boos, and WSI [technology] just happens to be one of many.”
Gasification will continue to be a growing source of responsible waste disposal for both waste management companies and municipalities to consider. “It’s good for the industry, good for taxpayers, and supports this Government’s long-term plan for a stronger economy,” said Maude.
So you may be asking yourself, what is syn-gas? No it is not a bad pun on a 90’s comedian. It is short for Synthesis Gas (also known as Producer Gas) and it is the end product of a gasification system. It has similar properties to natural gas and the key combustible gasses it contains are hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The beauty of syn-gas is it is very versatile and can be used for a multitude of applications. Lets take a look at a few applications you can use with this renewable fuel.
1. Power an internal combustion engine to create electricity: Syn-gas can fuel a modified natural gas or a specialized syn-gas internal combustion engine generator. This creates electricity which can be fed back into the grid or power your business. Another key element to this application is heat capture. Heat can be captured off the generator and/or the gasification system to heat water, dry feedstock or any other heat use a company may have.
2. Processed further to create various fuels: By further processing syn-gas through a method called the Fischer-Tropsch process, syn-gas can be turned into diesel, methane, methanol, and dimethyl ether which all can fuel vehicles.
3. Power a turbine for electricity: If you want a more simplistic application, syn-gas can power a turbine for electricity. The key for a turbine is the gas does not have to be cleaned or cooled. As hot syn-gas expands through the turbine, it spins the rotating blades. The rotating blades perform a dual function: they drive the compressor to draw more pressurized air into the combustion section, and they spin a generator to produce electricity. Heat capture can be added to the system just like an internal combustion system.
4. Power a boiler and/or kiln: In certain circumstances, pre-existing boilers, kilns, dryers and furnaces can be retrofitted to use renewable syngas in place of fossil fuels. Boilers and kilns are often used in everyday industrial applications.
The versatility of syn-gas is one of the reasons Richard Woods, found of Waste to Energy Systems, opted to develop a downdraft gasification system as one of our first products. To learn more about our gasification system, bioHearth®, click here.
The concept of converting waste to energy to help us heat and power our daily lives is pretty amazing. If we think back 50 years ago, the environmental movement was barely a blip on the radar. Now being environmentally friendly is not just a trend but an expectation. Technology has come a long way in the past 50 years and thanks to those advances we have systems that can take the wind, the sun or our daily garbage and convert it to electricity, heat, and steam to power the world. So just how does a waste to energy technology like downdraft gasification work? What goes on inside the gasification reactor to turn our banana peels and lawn clippings into a gas (known as syngas) that runs a generator?
As our CEO at Waste to Energy Systems likes to describe it, it is like the oxygen two-step; there are only a few oxygens at the party and everyone wants to dance. This is due to the fact that the partial combustion of the fuel for the gasification process takes place in an oxygen deprived environment. For this discussion, we will use wood chips as our fuel. When the wood chips drop in the reactor, it enters the first stage, the drying stage.The wood chips enter an area of 200 F, where any moisture left in the wood chips is driven off and turned into steam.
After the moisture is successfully removed, it enters the pyrolysis stage. Here the fuel is exposed to higher heat levels and no air is available. The heat and lack of oxygen causes the fuel to begin breaking down. What is left from this stage is charcoal, gas, a sticky substance called tar, and some liquids.
As the newly formed gasses, liquids, and solids continue down the rabbit hole, they end up in the combustion stage, where things really heat up. Air is added back in at this point to create temperatures so high that they burn off any unwanted elements in the fuel stream. We are talking temperatures up to 2200 F! That is equivalent to the heat needed to forge steel.
Then its on to the reduction stage, where the oxygen do si do really begins. The combustion stage has broken everything down to the basics and it is a battle between carbon and hydrogen for the oxygen atoms attention. In the end, the oxygen is more interested in the carbon and they become the final dance partners. So, we are left with carbon monoxide and hydrogen, which are the main components of syngas (the goal of gasification). Both of these gases are highly combustible and can easily power a generator to create electricity.
Without every stage of the gasification reactor, systems like our bioHearth downdraft gasification unit would not be successful. Gasification is a simple and effective technology that will only become higher in demand as our population grows. It is a great way to create a renewable, alternative energy system!
To begin to answer this question, we first must take a look at what makes gasification and incineration different. Incineration is defined as high temperature destruction of waste (i.e. municipal solid waste) in a furnace to a non-burnable ash form that can then be disposed of in landfills. The main form of energy produced from incineration is heat. Gasification is a high temperature chemical conversion process, taking a carbon based feed and converting it to a gas called syngas. The syngas is a very flexible fuel source for generating electricity. The only byproduct of gasification is activated carbon powder which can be reintroduced into the system or used for various other applications. The video below gives a brief explanation of the two processes (sourced from The Gasification Council).
Already we can see by definition that gasification is a more efficient process than incineration. In addition to a more flexible fuel source and a usable byproduct, here are several additional aspects that make gasification come out on top.
- In the high temperature environment in gasification, larger molecules such as plastics are completely broken down into the components of syngas, which can be cleaned and processed before any further use.
- Dioxins and furans (toxins) need sufficient oxygen to form or re-form which incineration provides, and the oxygen-deficient atmosphere in a gasifier does not provide the environment needed for dioxins and furans to form or reform.
- Dioxins need fine metal particulates in the exhaust to reform; syngas from gasification is typically cleaned of particulates before being used.
- In gasification facilities that use the syngas to produce downstream products like fuels, chemicals and fertilizers, the syngas is quickly quenched, so that there is not sufficient residence time in the temperature range where dioxins or furans could re-form.
- When the syngas is primarily used as a fuel for making heat, it can be cleaned as necessary before combustion; this cannot occur in incineration (sourced from gasification.org).
These facts were presented to the EPA and in 2013, they formally passed that gasification is a separate process from incineration. Waste to Energy Systems downdraft gasification system is a true gasification process allowing users to produce a clean fuel source providing on-site clean heat and power.
Is Biomass Energy Carbon Neutral?
This is a common question in the big debate of renewable energy vs fossil fuels. Those in favor of fossil fuel usage will tell you that biomass energy is not carbon neutral. When in fact like a pet, whether it is well behaved or out of control is not determined by the dog but by the owner. Biomass energy is carbon neutral but like all scientific processes, it must be conducted properly from start to finish.
It all has to do with the carbon cycle. All living things are made of carbon. Carbon is also a part of the ocean, air, and even rocks. Carbon is released from people and animals’ breathing, plants dying, ocean water evaporating etc. The living plants and trees recapture that carbon as food through photosynthesis and release oxygen as a byproduct. So, if you take a responsibly sourced biomass fuel such as tree trimmings, landscape waste, and agricultural byproduct, the carbon released from a process like gasification is captured back by the trees and plants, continuing the cycle. The carbon is already in play in the cycle, unlike sequestered carbon in the form of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel energy adds carbon that has been stored in the earth’s crust back into the atmosphere, creating an carbon debt in the carbon cycle. The natural equilibrium of the carbon already in the atmosphere is thrown out of balance by the extra surge of carbon.
Biomass energy has the potential to fall out of carbon neutrality when the fuel is sourced irresponsibly sourced by clear-cutting forests or choosing energy crops that require a lot of land and water. By clear-cutting forests, even if the land is replanted, the trees will not mature fast enough to handle the carbon released by the burned biomass. Just like a pet, the biomass energy process is innately good and compatible with the environment when left to its own devices. In the right hands, it can provide a life time of consistent service, benefiting all. With a sustainable mind frame, biomass energy along with many other industries can be clean, safe and healthy for our world.