Integrated Biomass Gasification with Catalytic Partial Oxidation for Selective Tar Conversion

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Biomass gasification is a flexible and efficient way of utilizing widely available domestic renewable resources. Syngas from biomass has the potential for biofuels production, which will enhance energy security and environmental benefits. Additionally, with the successful development of low Btu fuel engines (e.g. GE Jenbacher engines), syngas from biomass can be efficiently used for power/heat co-generation. However, biomass gasification has not been widely commercialized because of a number of technical/economic issues related to gasifier design and syngas cleanup. Biomass gasification, due to its scale limitation, cannot afford to use pure oxygen as the gasification agent that used in coal gasification. ... continued below

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Zhang, Lingzhi; Wei, Wei; Manke, Jeff; Vazquez, Arturo; Thompson, Jeff & Thompson, Mark May 28, 2011.

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Biomass gasification is a flexible and efficient way of utilizing widely available domestic renewable resources. Syngas from biomass has the potential for biofuels production, which will enhance energy security and environmental benefits. Additionally, with the successful development of low Btu fuel engines (e.g. GE Jenbacher engines), syngas from biomass can be efficiently used for power/heat co-generation. However, biomass gasification has not been widely commercialized because of a number of technical/economic issues related to gasifier design and syngas cleanup. Biomass gasification, due to its scale limitation, cannot afford to use pure oxygen as the gasification agent that used in coal gasification. Because, it uses air instead of oxygen, the biomass gasification temperature is much lower than well-understood coal gasification. The low temperature leads to a lot of tar formation and the tar can gum up the downstream equipment. Thus, the biomass gasification tar removal is a critical technology challenge for all types of biomass gasifiers. This USDA/DOE funded program (award number: DE-FG36-O8GO18085) aims to develop an advanced catalytic tar conversion system that can economically and efficiently convert tar into useful light gases (such as syngas) for downstream fuel synthesis or power generation. This program has been executed by GE Global Research in Irvine, CA, in collaboration with Professor Lanny Schmidt's group at the University of Minnesota (UoMn). Biomass gasification produces a raw syngas stream containing H2, CO, CO2, H2O, CH4 and other hydrocarbons, tars, char, and ash. Tars are defined as organic compounds that are condensable at room temperature and are assumed to be largely aromatic. Downstream units in biomass gasification such as gas engine, turbine or fuel synthesis reactors require stringent control in syngas quality, especially tar content to avoid plugging (gum) of downstream equipment. Tar- and ash-free syngas streams are a critical requirement for commercial deployment of biomass-based power/heat co-generation and biofuels production. There are several commonly used syngas clean-up technologies: (1) Syngas cooling and water scrubbing has been commercially proven but efficiency is low and it is only effective at small scales. This route is accompanied with troublesome wastewater treatment. (2) The tar filtration method requires frequent filter replacement and solid residue treatment, leading to high operation and capital costs. (3) Thermal destruction typically operates at temperatures higher than 1000oC. It has slow kinetics and potential soot formation issues. The system is expensive and materials are not reliable at high temperatures. (4) In-bed cracking catalysts show rapid deactivation, with durability to be demonstrated. (5) External catalytic cracking or steam reforming has low thermal efficiency and is faced with problematic catalyst coking. Under this program, catalytic partial oxidation (CPO) is being evaluated for syngas tar clean-up in biomass gasification. The CPO reaction is exothermic, implying that no external heat is needed and the system is of high thermal efficiency. CPO is capable of processing large gas volume, indicating a very compact catalyst bed and a low reactor cost. Instead of traditional physical removal of tar, the CPO concept converts tar into useful light gases (eg. CO, H2, CH4). This eliminates waste treatment and disposal requirements. All those advantages make the CPO catalytic tar conversion system a viable solution for biomass gasification downstream gas clean-up. This program was conducted from October 1 2008 to February 28 2011 and divided into five major tasks. - Task A: Perform conceptual design and conduct preliminary system and economic analysis (Q1 2009 ~ Q2 2009) - Task B: Biomass gasification tests, product characterization, and CPO tar conversion catalyst preparation. This task will be conducted after completing process design and system economics analysis. Major milestones include identification of syngas cleaning requirements for proposed system design, identification and selection of tar compounds and 2 mixtures for use in CPO tests, and preparation of CPO catalysts for validation. (Q3 2009 ~ Q4 2009) - Task C: Test CPO with biomass gasification product gas. Optimize CPO performance with selected tar compounds. Optimize CPO performance with multi-component mixtures. Milestones include optimizing CPO catalysts design, collecting CPO experimental data for next stage kinetic modeling and understanding the effect of relative reactivities on ultimate tar conversion and syngas yields. (Q1 2010 ~ Q3 2010) - Task D: Develop tar CPO kinetic model with CPO kinetic model and modeling results as deliverables. (Q3 2010 ~ Q2 2011) - Task E: Project management and reporting. Milestone: Quarterly reports and presentations, final report, work presented at national technical conferences (Q1 2009 ~ Q2 2011) At the beginning of the program, IP landscaping was conducted to understand the operation of various types of biomass gasifiers, their unique syngas/tar compositions and potential tar mitigation options using the catalytic partial oxidation technology. A process simulation model was developed to quantify the system performance and economics impact of CPO tar removal technology. Biomass gasification product compositions used for performance evaluation tests were identified after literature review and system modeling. A reaction system for tar conversion tests was designed, constructed, with each individual component shaken-down in 2009. In parallel, University of Minnesota built a lab-scale unit and evaluated the tar removal performance using catalytic reforming. Benzene was used as the surrogate compound. The biomass gasification raw syngas composition was provided by GE through system studies. In 2010, GE selected different tar compounds and evaluated the tar removal effectiveness of the CPO catalyst. The catalytic performance was evaluated under different operating conditions, including catalyst geometry, S/C ratio, O/C ratio, GHSV, and N2 dilution. An understanding of how to optimize catalytic tar removal efficiency by varying operating conditions has been developed. GE collaborated with UoMn in examining inorganic impurities effects. Catalysts were pre-impregnated with inorganic impurities commonly present in biomass gasification syngas, including Si, Ca, Mg, Na, K, P and S. UoMn performed catalyst characterization and has acquired fundamental understandings of impurities effect on catalytic tar removal. Based on experimental data and the proposed reaction pathway, GE constructed a model to predict kinetic performance for biomass gasification tar cleanup process. Experimental data (eg. tar conversion, reactor inlet and outlet temperatures, product distribution) at different operating conditions were used to validate the model. A good fit between model predictions and experimental data was found. This model will be a valuable tool in designing the tar removal reactor and identifying appropriate operating conditions. We attended the 2011 DOE Biomass Program Thermochemical Platform Review held in Denver, CO from February 16 to 18 and received very positive comments from the review panel. Further, syngas utility and biomass to power/fuel companies expressed strong interest in our tar removal technology.

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  • Report No.: DOE/FG/18085-1
  • Grant Number: FG36-08GO18085
  • DOI: 10.2172/1059700 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1059700
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc830725

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  • May 28, 2011

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  • May 19, 2016, 9:45 a.m.

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  • Dec. 7, 2016, 3:45 p.m.

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Zhang, Lingzhi; Wei, Wei; Manke, Jeff; Vazquez, Arturo; Thompson, Jeff & Thompson, Mark. Integrated Biomass Gasification with Catalytic Partial Oxidation for Selective Tar Conversion, report, May 28, 2011; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc830725/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.