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What is biomass?

Biomass is anything that is alive. It is also anything that was alive a short
time ago. Trees, crops, garbage, and animal waste are all biomass. Most
of the biomass we use for energy today is wood. We burn wood to make
heat.

BI O M A S S
Biomass is any organic matter that is renewable over time. More simply, biomass is
stored energy. During photosynthesis, plants use light from the sun’s energy (light
energy) to convert carbon dioxide and water into simple sugars and oxygen.
Fossil fuels are hydrocarbon deposits, such as petroleum, coal, or natural gas, derived
from organic matter from a previous geologic time. They are essentially fossilized
biomass and differ from present-day biomass in that they come from organic matter
created millions of years ago, which has been stored below ground. In other words, the
key difference between biomass and fossil fuels is age!
Fossil fuels contain carbon that was removed from the atmosphere, under different
environmental conditions, millions of years ago. When burned, this carbon is released
back into the atmosphere. Since the carbon being released is from ancient deposits,
and new fossil fuels take millions of years to form, burning fossil fuels adds more carbon
to the atmosphere than is being removed.
Biomass, on the other hand, absorbs atmospheric carbon while it grows and returns
it into the atmosphere when it is consumed, all in a relatively short amount of time.
Because of this, biomass utilization creates a closed-loop carbon cycle. For example,
you can grow a tree over the course of ten or twenty years, cut it down, burn it, release
its carbon back into the atmosphere and immediately start growing another tree in its
place. With certain fast-growing biomass crops such as switchgrass, this process can
occur even faster.
WO O D Y BI O M A S S
Woody biomass is the accumulated mass, above and below ground, of the roots,
wood, bark, and leaves of living and dead woody shrubs and trees. Woody biomass
can be used for heat, power, and electricity generation; biofuels production; and
biochemicals production (e.g., adhesives, solvents, plastics, inks, and lubricants). Wood;
wood residue and byproducts; and bushes, shrubs, and fast-growing trees, grown
specifi cally for energy, are all considered woody biomass. The principle sources for
woody biomass in the United States are harvest residues; mill residues; small diameter
trees; cull trees; trees damaged by or at risk of wildfi re, insects, and disease; urban
wood waste, short rotation woody crops, and fuelwood, Handout 2: Woody Biomass
Basics, found in the back of this chapter, provides a condensed overview of woody
biomass and may be a useful handout for your audience or clientele.
Harvesting and Other Residues
Residues from forest harvesting operations include logging residues (i.e. branches,
tops, and stumps) left on-site, low-quality commercially grown trees, dead wood, and
other noncommercial tree species. Other residues include wood that has been cut and
burned during land conversion, precommerical thinnings, and other management
techniques such as a crop tree release and timber stand improvement (TSI). Harvesting
residues and other removals are routinely left behind at the harvest site because
they are expensive to transport and there are few markets for the material. However,
harvesting residues and other removals amount to approximately 67 million dry tons
annually, and of this, approximately 41 million dry tons are economically and physically
available for recovery and use, according to the United States Department of
Agriculture Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) programs’ Timber Product Output
(TPO) Database Retrieval System, (U.S.DOE and USDA, 2005).
The possibility of using woody biomass for energy production and other products has
the potential to create markets for these harvesting residues. As a feedstock source,
harvesting residues are generally delivered in one of the following three forms:
unconsolidated material, comminuted material, and bundled material. It can also be
converted, in-woods, to a higher value product.

Biomass is any organic matter—wood, crops, seaweed, animal wastes—


that can be used as an energy source. Biomass is probably our oldest
source of energy after the sun. For thousands of years, people have
burned wood to heat their homes and cook their food.
Biomass gets its energy from the sun. All organic matter contains
stored energy from the sun. During a process called photosynthesis,
sunlight gives plants the energy they need to convert water and carbon
dioxide into oxygen and sugars. These sugars, called carbohydrates,
supply plants and the animals that eat plants with energy. Foods rich in
carbohydrates are a good source of energy for the human body!
Wood and Agricultural Biomass
Most biomass used today is home grown energy. Wood—logs, chips,
bark, and sawdust—accounts for about 53 percent of biomass energy.
But any organic matter can produce biomass energy. Other biomass
sources include agricultural waste products like fruit pits and corncobs.
Wood and wood waste, along with agricultural waste, are used to
generate electricity. Much of the electricity is used by the industries
making the waste; it is not distributed by utilities, it is co-generated.
Paper mills and saw mills use much of their waste products to generate
steam and electricity for their use. However, since they use so much
energy, they need to buy additional electricity from utilities.
Increasingly, timber companies and companies involved with wood
products are seeing the benefits of using their lumber scrap and sawdust
for power generation. This saves disposal costs and, in some areas, may
reduce the companies’ utility bills. In fact, the pulp and paper industries
rely on biomass to meet half of their energy needs. Other industries
that use biomass include lumber producers, furniture manufacturers,
agricultural businesses like nut and rice growers, and liquor producer

ƒ Solid Waste
Burning trash turns waste into a usable form of energy. One ton (2,000
pounds) of garbage contains about as much heat energy as 500 pounds
of coal. Garbage is not all biomass; perhaps half of its energy content
comes from plastics, which are made from petroleum and natural gas.
Power plants that burn garbage for energy are called waste-to-energy
plants. These plants generate electricity much as coal-fired plants do,
except that combustible garbage—not coal—is the fuel used to fire
their boilers. Making electricity from garbage costs more than making
it from coal and other energy sources. The main advantage of burning
solid waste is that it reduces the amount of garbage dumped in landfills
by 60 to 90 percent, which in turn reduces the cost of landfill disposal. It
also makes use of the energy in the garbage, rather than burying it in a
landfill, where it remains unused.
Unconsolidated
Unconsolidated material, or woody biomass in its raw form, is
what remains after the trunk of the tree has been harvested. This
may include stumps, bark, leaves, needles, branches, and even
the trunk itself. Historically, this material was considered unmerchantable (unsellable)
and in most harvest operations was left
in place on the logging site or piled up at the landing—the place
where wood is delimbed, sorted, and loaded onto trucks for transport. However, advances
in biomass utilization promise new opportunities for the utilization of unconsolidated
woody biomass
feedstock. In many cases, unconsolidated harvesting residue is
used as hog fuel at wood manufacturing facilities. (Hog fuel is a
combination of ground wood and wood waste used to generate
power or produce on-site heat and power.) For more information
on conversion to heat and power, please see chapter 3, “Products
and Possibilities.”
One obstacle that remains in the broader use of unconsolidated material is the cost of
transportation. Bulky by nature, this material has a low bulk density, in other words, a
high volume-to-mass ratio (Figure 1). Compressing the material, although not widely
performed, helps increase bulk density. A more conventional method of increasing the
bulk density of woody biomass is to reduce its size signifi cantly, either by chipping,
grinding, or shredding.

Comminuted
Comminution is the process of making woody material smaller. Reducing the size of
logging residue usually occurs in the woods or at the landing but is sometimes delayed
until the feedstock reaches the processing facility. Of the three types of reduction
(chipping, grinding, and shredding) chipping is the most common.This is because
chippers are well integrated into conventional harvesting systems. Chippers have high
output, high-speed cutting knives,
and in most cases the ability to throw chipped material into truck
vans for hauling
Bundled
One recent innovation involves the compaction of logging residues
into cylindrical bales called composite residue logs (CRL) or biomass bundles (Figure 3).
Typically, these bundles have a diameter
of about 2.0 to 2.5 feet and are about 10 feet long. One of the most
appealing aspects is that they can be handled similarly to round
logs; however, production of the logs requires specialized machinery. Unlike
comminuted material, these bundles can be stored for
longer periods of time without decomposing.
Although technically feasible, the current market price for woodbased fuel in the U.S.
does not support the cost of bundling. And
at the other end, the current price of wood-based fuel does not
support the transport of unconsolidated material, especially with
the fl uctuation of prices for petroleum-based fuels. At this time,
comminuted biomass is the most economically feasible form
In-woods Conversion
In areas where the cost of transporting wood remains a challenge,
portable wood-to-energy conversion units may be an option.
Small-scale, portable pyrolysis (a system that turns wood directly
into an oil and char) and gasifi cation (a system that turns wood
directly into a gas) units can be towed to a harvesting site and utilized to produce fuel on-
site. It is important to note, however, this
technology is still largely in its experimental stages. See chapter 3,
“Products and Possibilities” for more details on biomass conversion processes.

Municipal and Construction Wastes


The two major sources of urban wood residues are the woody portion of municipal
solid waste (MSW) and construction and demolition debris. Of the 62.1 million dry
tons of urban wood residues generated annually, about 28.3 million dry tons are
economically and physically recoverable

Municipal Solid Waste


The portion of MSW that is wood includes items such as discarded furniture, pallets,
packaging materials, processed lumber, and
yard and tree trimmings. Of the 13 million dry tons of woody MSW
generated annually, approximately 8 million dry tons are available
for recovery (McKeever, 2004). This material is generally recycled
as mulch or compost; sent to a landfi ll; or burned for heat, power,
and electricity.
In recent years, small, portable wood chippers and bailing units
that press yard debris into “logs” similar in appearance to that of
traditional fi rewood have emerged. Some municipalities provide
large yard debris carts, which are collected weekly. Other areas
work with local businesses to ensure collection options such as
drop-off bins and designated collection facilities.

Landfi ll Gas
Landfi ll gas (LFG) is a natural byproduct of decomposing organic matter. It is
approximately 50 percent methane (CH4
) and 50 percent carbon dioxide (CO2
). Landfi lls can
be signifi cant sources of greenhouse gas emissions because they contain a signifi cant
amount of organic matter, and over time the organic matter breaks down and releases
its gases into the atmosphere. These emissions can be captured and used to produce
heat, power, electricity, and biofuels. Approximately 400 landfi ll gas-to-energy projects
exist in the U.S. today (Riat, et al. 2006). Fairfax County, Virginia, has been using
LFG since 1989 to power three electricity generating facilities, one pollution control
plant, and the on-site landfi ll maintenance buildings
Construction and Demolition
Residential and commercial wood frame construction and demolition generates cut-offs,
scraps, and waste that constitute a
relatively clean and homogeneous waste stream that can make an
excellent feedstock for biomass fuel and energy production. Moreover, this particular
waste is relatively easy to access. Wood waste
processors can coordinate with construction contractors to designate an area for discarded
wood waste or set up drop boxes on
site for scraps. Of the 39.3 million dry tons of construction and
demolition debris generated annually, approximately 20.3 million
dry tons are available for recovery (McKeever, 2004).
It is important to note that the end-use of the feedstock determines
how clean and consistent it is. Sometimes, urban and construction wood waste can
contain too many contaminants to be used for certain applications. For example, air
quality regulations may prevent creosote-treated telephone poles from being burned
for heat and power. Another example is wood waste from demolition activities. This
material can contain contaminants such as paints, plastics, and known carcinogens
and may not be suitable for some applications. In other cases, the wood material may
be in such poor condition that the cost of cleaning limits the economic viability of
processing and reusing the material.

Natural Disasters
Clean up operations after natural disasters, such as hurricanes
and ice storms, produce large amounts of debris that have traditionally been piled up to
burn or rot (Figures 7 and 8). Debris from
these disasters is largely underutilized, but changes have occurred
in recent years. After Hurricane Ivan blew through the Florida
panhandle in 2004, Escambia County managed 6.5 million cubic
yards of woody debris, 60 percent of which it exported to Italy for
energy generation. A company called American Biorefi ning shredded millions of tons of
tree debris the following year after Hurricane Rita affected thousands of acres of eastern
Texas forests and
destroyed a number of roofs and homes. The material was then
shipped to European countries for biomass fuel (Yepsen, 2008).
Animal Waste
Beef cattle, dairy cattle, hogs, and poultry all produce
manure, which can be used to produce energy. Manure is
typically categorized as liquid, slurry, or solid. In its solid
state, manure can be burned for heating and cooking or to
produce a gas for energy production. As a slurry, manure
releases methane (CH4
), which can be captured to produce
heat, power, electricity, and biofuels.
AG R I C U L T U R A L BI O M A S S
Agricultural biomass is a relatively broad category of biomass that includes: the
foodbased portion of crops (corn, sugarcane, soybeans, beets, etc.), the nonfood-based
portion of crops (e.g., corn stover [leaves, stalks, and cobs], orchard trimmings, rice
husks, perennial grasses, animal waste, and landfi ll gases. Traditionally, costs for
recovering most agricultural residues are high, and therefore, they have not yet been
widely used as an energy source; however, they can offer a sizeable biomass resource
if technology and infrastructure are developed to economically recover and deliver
this type of biomass to energy facilities. It is important to note that not all agricultural
biomass residuals following harvest can be utilized for energy. Some portion
(often as much as 50 percent) must be left on the ground to replace soil nutrients
and to protect from soil erosion. Handout 3: Agricultural Biomass provides an overview
of agricultural biomass you may fi nd useful as a handout when presenting this topic
to an audience.
Food-based Portion of Crops
The food-based portion of crops is the part of the plant that is
either oil or simple sugars. Rapeseed (used for canola oil), sun-
fl ower, soybeans, corn, sugarcane, and sugar beets are all examples of this type of
agricultural biomass (Figure 12). Corn, sugar
beets, and sugarcane are commonly fermented to produce ethanol. Oilseed crops can be
refi ned into biodiesel.
Nonfood-based Portion of Crops
The nonfood-based portion of crops is the portion of the plant
that is commonly discarded during processing and consists of
complex carbohydrates. This category includes materials such as
corn stover, wheat, barley, and oat straw, and nutshells. Stover
and straw are fermented into ethanol. Nutshells are typically re-
fi ned into biodiesel or combusted for heat. Due to the important
function of crop residues in erosion protection and overall soil
quality, their sustainable use is accomplished through the planning
and monitoring of harvest rates specifi c to a given site.

Gasification
Gasification is a process which can be used to turn a wide variety of substances into
gas, by partially combusting these substances and reacting them with air to make a
blend of carbon monoxide and hydrogen which is known as syngas or synfuel. Synfuel
can be used to run an assortment of engines from gas turbines which generate
electricity to the engines found in cars. Many proponents of clean and sustainable
energy have promoted gasification as a process which should be considered, since it
can be made carbon neutral and it can utilize a wide range of materials as fuel.

What is Gasification?
Gasification is the thermal treatment of solid fuels ("feedstock") into a gaseous form while
retaining most of the energy in the original fuel.
In contrast to incineration, where fuel is burned under high temperatures to produce heat energy,
gasification converts the hydrocarbons in solid fuels under controlled temperature and oxygen
conditions to produce viable fuel known as syngas.

Syngas contains most of the energy potential of the original fuel and can drive a variety of energy
generating applications.

Introduction (BOOK)
The manufacture of combustible gases from solid fuels is an ancient art but by no
means a forgotten one. In its widest sense the term gasification covers the conversion of
any carbonaceous fuel to a gaseous product with a useable heating value.
This definition excludes combustion, because the product flue gas has no residual
heating value. It does include the technologies of pyrolysis, partial oxidation, and
hydrogenation. Early technologies depended heavily on pyrolysis (i.e., the application
of heat to the feedstock in the absence of oxygen), but this is of less importance in
gas production today. The dominant technology is partial oxidation, which produces
from the fuel a synthesis gas (otherwise known as syngas) consisting of hydrogen
and carbon monoxide in varying ratios, whereby the oxidant may be pure oxygen,
air, and/or steam. Partial oxidation can be applied to solid, liquid, and gaseous
feedstocks, such as coals, residual oils, and natural gas, and despite the tautology
involved in “gas gasification,” the latter also finds an important place in this book.
We do not, however, attempt to extend the meaning of gasification to include
catalytic processes such as steam reforming or catalytic partial oxidation. These
technologies form a specialist field in their own right. Although we recognize that
pyrolysis does take place as a fast intermediate step in most modern processes, it is
in the sense of partial oxidation that we will interpret the word gasification, and the
two terms will be used interchangeably. Hydrogenation has only found an intermittent
interest in the development of gasification technologies, and where we discuss
it, we will always use the specific terms hydro-gasification or hydrogenating
gasification.
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF GASIFICATION
The development of human history is closely related to fire and therefore also to
fuels. This relationship between humankind, fire, and earth was already documented
in the myth of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods to give it to man. Prometheus
was condemned for his revelation of divine secrets and bound to earth as a punishment.
When we add to fire and earth the air that we need to make fire and the water to keep
it under control, we have the four Greek elements that play such an important role in
the technology of fuels and for that matter in gasificationThe first fuel used by humans
was wood, and this fuel is still used today by millions of people to cook their meals and
to heat their homes. But wood was and is
also used for building and, in the form of charcoal, for industrial processes such as
ore reduction. In densely populated areas of the world this led to a shortage of wood
with sometimes dramatic results. It was such a shortage of wood that caused iron
production in England to drop from 180,000 to 18,000 tons per year in the period of
1620 to 1720. The solution—which in hindsight is obvious—was coal.
Although the production of coal had already been known for a long time, it was
only in the second half of the eighteenth century that coal production really took
hold, not surprisingly starting in the home of the industrial revolution, England. The
coke oven was developed initially for the metallurgical industry to provide coke as a
substitute for charcoal. Only towards the end of the eighteenth century was gas produced
from coal by pyrolysis on a somewhat larger scale. With the foundation in
1812 of the London Gas, Light, and Coke Company, gas production finally became
a commercial process. Ever since, it has played a major role in industrial development.
The most important gaseous fuel used in the first century of industrial development
was town gas. This was produced by two processes: pyrolysis, in which discontinuously
operating ovens produce coke and a gas with a relatively high heating value
(20,000–23,000 kJ/m3), and the water gas process, in which coke is converted into a
mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide by another discontinuous method
(approx. 12,000 kJ/m3 or medium Btu gas).
The first application of industrial gas was illumination. This was followed by
heating, then as a raw material for the chemical industry, and more recently for power
generation. Initially, the town gas produced by gasification was expensive, so most
people used it only for lighting and cooking. In these applications it had the clearest
advantages over the alternatives: candles and coal. But around 1900 electric bulbs
replaced gas as a source of light. Only later, with increasing prosperity in the twentieth
century, did gas gain a significant place in the market for space heating. The use of
coal, and town gas generated from coal, for space heating only came to an end—often
after a short intermezzo where heating oil was used—with the advent of cheap natural
gas. But one should note that town gas had paved the way to the success of the latter in
domestic use, since people were already used to gas in their homes. Otherwise there
might have been considerable concern about safety, such as the danger of explosions.
A drawback of town gas was that the heating value was relatively low, and it could
not, therefore, be transported over large distances economically. In relation to this
problem it is observed that the development of the steam engine and many industrial
processes such as gasification would not have been possible without the parallel
development of metal tubes and steam drums. This stresses the importance of suitable
equipment for the development of both physical and chemical processes. Problems
with producing gas-tight equipment were the main reason why the production
processes, coke ovens, and water gas reactors as well as the transport and storage were
carried out at low pressures of less than 2 bar. This resulted in relatively voluminous
equipment, to which the gasholders that were required to cope with variations in
demand still bear witness in many of the cities of the industrialized world.
Until the end of the 1920s the only gases that could be produced in a continuous
process were blast furnace gas and producer gas. Producer gas was obtained by
partial oxidation of coke with humidified air. However, both gases have a low heating
value (3500–6000 kJ/m3, or low Btu gas) and could therefore only be used in the
immediate vicinity of their production.
The success of the production of gases by partial oxidation cannot only be attributed to
the fact that gas is easier to handle than a solid fuel. There is also a more
basic chemical reason that can best be illustrated by the following reactions:

C + ½ O2= CO −111 MJ/kmol


CO + ½ O2= CO2 −283 MJ/kmol
C + O2= CO2 −394 MJ/kmol

These reactions show that by “investing” 28% of the heating value of pure carbon
in the conversion of the solid carbon into the gas CO, 72% of the heating value of
the carbon is conserved in the gas. In practice, the fuel will contain not only carbon
but also some hydrogen, and the percentage of the heat in the original fuel, which
becomes available in the gas, is, in modern processes, generally between 75 and
88%. Were this value only 50% or lower, gasification would probably never have
become such a commercially successful process.
Although gasification started as a source for lighting and heating, from 1900
onwards the water gas process, which produced a gas consisting of about equal
amounts of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, also started to become important for the
chemical industry. The endothermic water gas reaction can be written as:

C + Η2Ο(REVERSIBLE)CΟ + Η2 +131 ΜJ/kmol

By converting part or all of the carbon monoxide into hydrogen following the CO
shift reaction
CO + H2O(REVERSIBLE) H2+ CO2−41 MJ/kmol
it became possible to convert the water gas into hydrogen or synthesis gas (a
mixture of H2
and CO) for ammonia and methanol synthesis, respectively. Other
applications of synthesis gas are for Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of hydrocarbons
and for the synthesis of acetic acid anhydride.
It was only after Carl von Linde commercialized the cryogenic separation of air
during the 1920s that fully continuous gasification processes using an oxygen blast
became available for the production of synthesis gas and hydrogen. This was the
time of the development of some of the important processes that were the forerunners
of many of today’s units: the Winkler fluid-bed process (1926), the Lurgi moving-bed
pressurized gasification process (1931), and the Koppers-Totzek entrained-flow
process (1940s)
With the establishment of these processes little further technological progress in
the gasification of solid fuels took place over the following forty years. Nonetheless,
capacity with these new technologies expanded steadily, playing their role partly in
Germany’s wartime synthetic fuels program and on a wider basis in the worldwide
development of the ammonia industry.
This period, however, also saw the foundation of the South African Coal Oil and
Gas Corporation, known today as Sasol. This plant uses coal gasification and
Fischer-Tropsch synthesis as the basis of its synfuels complex and an extensive
petrochemical industry. With the extensions made in the late 1970s, Sasol is the
largest gasification center in the world.
With the advent of plentiful quantities of natural gas and naphtha in the 1950s, the
importance of coal gasification declined. The need for synthesis gas, however, did not.
On the contrary, the demand for ammonia as a nitrogenous fertilizer grew exponentially,
a development that could only be satisfied by the wide-scale introduction of steam
reforming of natural gas and naphtha. The scale of this development, both in total
capacity as well as in plant size, can be judged by the figures in Table 1-1. Similar, if not
quite so spectacular, developments took place in hydrogen and methanol production.
Steam reforming is not usually considered to come under the heading of gasification. The
reforming reaction (allowing for the difference in fuel) is similar to the
water gas reaction.

CH4+ H2O(REVERSIBLE) 3H2+ CO +206 MJ/kmol


The heat for this endothermic reaction is obtained by the combustion of additional
natural gas:
CH4+ 2O2= CO2+ 2H2O −803 MJ/kmol
An important part of the ammonia story was the development of the secondary
reformer in which unconverted methane is processed into synthesis gas by partial
oxidation over a reforming catalyst.
CH4+ ½O2= CO + 2H2 −36 MJ/kmol
The use of air as an oxidant brought the necessary nitrogen into the system for the
ammonia synthesis. A number of such plants were also built with pure oxygen as
oxidant. These technologies have usually gone under the name of autothermal reforming
or catalytic partial oxidation.
The 1950s was also the time in which both the Texaco and the Shell oil gasification
processes were developed. Though far less widely used than steam reforming for
ammonia production, these were also able to satisfy a demand where natural gas or
naphtha were in short supply.
Then, in the early 1970s, the first oil crisis came and, together with a perceived
potential shortage of natural gas, served to revive interest in coal gasification as an
important process for the production of liquid and gaseous fuels. Considerable
investment was made in the development of new technologies. Much of this effort
went into coal hydrogenation both for direct liquefaction and also for so-called
hydro-gasification. The latter aimed at hydrogenating coal directly to methane
as a substitute natural gas (SNG). Although a number of processes reached the
demonstration plant stage (Speich 1981), the thermodynamics of the process dictate a
high-pressure operation, and this contributed to the lack of commercial success of
hydro-gasification processes. In fact, the only SNG plant to be built in these years
was based on classical oxygen-blown fixed-bed gasification technology to provide
synthesis gas for a subsequent methanation step (Dittus and Johnson 2001).
The general investment climate in fuels technology did lead to further development
of the older processes. Lurgi developed a slagging version of its existing technology
in a partnership with British Gas (BGL) (Brooks, Stroud, and Tart 1984). Koppers
and Shell joined forces to produce a pressurized version of the Koppers-Totzek gasifier
(for a time marketed separately as Prenflo and Shell coal gasification process, or
SCGP, respectively) (van der Burgt 1978). Rheinbraun developed the high-temperature
Winkler (HTW) fluid-bed process (Speich 1981), and Texaco extended its oil
gasification process to accept a slurried coal feed (Schlinger 1984).
However, the 1980s then saw a renewed glut of oil that reduced the interest in
coal gasification and liquefaction; as a result, most of these developments had to
wait a further decade or so before getting past the demonstration plant stage.
GASIFICATION TODAY
The last ten years have seen the start of a renaissance of gasification technology, as
can be seen from Figure 1-1. Electricity generation has emerged as a large new market
for these developments, since gasification is seen as a means of enhancing the
environmental acceptability of coal as well as of increasing the overall efficiency of
the conversion of the chemical energy in the coal into electricity. The idea of using
synthesis gas as a fuel for gas turbines is not new. Gumz (1950) proposed this
already at a time when anticipated gas turbine inlet temperatures were about 700°C.
And it has largely been the development of gas turbine technology with inlet
temperatures now of 1400°C that has brought this application into the realm of reality.
Demonstration plants have been built in the United States (Cool Water, 100 MW,
1977; and Plaquemine, 165 MW, 1987) and in Europe (Lünen, 170 MW, 1972;
Buggenum, 250 MW, 1992; and Puertollano, 335 MW, 1997).
A second development, which has appeared during the 1990s, is an upsurge in
gasification of heavy oil residues in refineries. Oil refineries are under both an economic
pressure to move their product slate towards lighter products, and a legislative pressure
to reduce sulfur emissions both in the production process as well as in the products
themselves. Much of the residue had been used as a heavy fuel oil, either in the refinery
itself, or in power stations as marine bunker fuel. Residue gasification has now
become one of the essential tools in addressing these issues. Although heavy residues
have a low hydrogen content, they can be converted into hydrogen by gasification.
The hydrogen is used to hydrocrack other heavy fractions in order to produce lighter
products such as gasoline, kerosene, and automotive diesel. At the same time, sulfur is
removed in the refinery, thus reducing the sulfur present in the final products (Higman
1993). In Italy, a country particularly dependent on oil for power generation, three
refineries have introduced gasification technology as a means of desulfurizing heavy
fuel oil and producing electric power. Hydrogen production is incorporated into the
overall scheme. A similar project was realized in Shell’s Pernis refinery in the
Netherlands. Other European refineries have similar projects in the planning phase.

Introduction 7
An additional driving force for the increase in partial oxidation is the development
of “Gas-to-liquids” projects. For transport, liquid fuels have an undoubted advantage.
They are easy to handle and have a high energy density. For the consumer, this
translates into a car that can travel nearly 1000 km on 50 liters of fuel, a range
performance as yet unmatched by any of the proposed alternatives. For the energy
company the prospect of creating synthetic liquid fuels provides a means of bringing
remote or “stranded” natural gas to the marketplace using existing infrastructure.
Gasification has an important role to play in this scenario. The Shell Middle Distillate
Synthesis (SMDS) plant in Bintulu, Malaysia, producing some 12,000 bbl/d of liquid
hydrocarbons, is only the first of a number of projects currently in various stages of
planning and engineering around the world (van der Burgt 1988). environmental
acceptability of coal as well as of increasing the overall efficiency of
the conversion of the chemical energy in the coal into electricity. The idea of using
synthesis gas as a fuel for gas turbines is not new. Gumz (1950) proposed this
already at a time when anticipated gas turbine inlet temperatures were about 700°C.
And it has largely been the development of gas turbine technology with inlet
temperatures now of 1400°C that has brought this application into the realm of reality.
Demonstration plants have been built in the United States (Cool Water, 100 MW,
1977; and Plaquemine, 165 MW, 1987) and in Europe (Lünen, 170 MW, 1972;
Buggenum, 250 MW, 1992; and Puertollano, 335 MW, 1997).
A second development, which has appeared during the 1990s, is an upsurge in
gasification of heavy oil residues in refineries. Oil refineries are under both an economic
pressure to move their product slate towards lighter products, and a legislative pressure
to reduce sulfur emissions both in the production process as well as in the products
themselves. Much of the residue had been used as a heavy fuel oil, either in the refinery
itself, or in power stations as marine bunker fuel. Residue gasification has now
become one of the essential tools in addressing these issues. Although heavy residues
have a low hydrogen content, they can be converted into hydrogen by gasification.
The hydrogen is used to hydrocrack other heavy fractions in order to produce lighter
products such as gasoline, kerosene, and automotive diesel. At the same time, sulfur is
removed in the refinery, thus reducing the sulfur present in the final products (Higman
1993). In Italy, a country particularly dependent on oil for power generation, three
refineries have introduced gasification technology as a means of desulfurizing heavy
fuel oil and producing electric power. Hydrogen production is incorporated into the
overall scheme. A similar project was realized in Shell’s Pernis refinery in the
Netherlands. Other European refineries have similar projects in the planning phase.
GRAPH FROM BOOK..1
An additional driving force for the increase in partial oxidation is the development
of “Gas-to-liquids” projects. For transport, liquid fuels have an undoubted advantage.
They are easy to handle and have a high energy density. For the consumer, this
translates into a car that can travel nearly 1000 km on 50 liters of fuel, a range
performance as yet unmatched by any of the proposed alternatives. For the energy
company the prospect of creating synthetic liquid fuels provides a means of bringing
remote or “stranded” natural gas to the marketplace using existing infrastructure.
Gasification has an important role to play in this scenario. The Shell Middle Distillate
Synthesis (SMDS) plant in Bintulu, Malaysia, producing some 12,000 bbl/d of liquid
hydrocarbons, is only the first of a number of projects currently in various stages of
planning and engineering around the world (van der Burgt 1988).

1.1 HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF GASIF

INTRODUCTION
Modern agriculture is an extremely energy intensive process. However high agricultural
productivities and subsequently the growth of green revolution has been made possible
only
by large amount of energy inputs, especially those from fossil fuels
1
With recent price rise .
and scarcity of these fuels there has been a trend towards use of alternative energy
sources
like solar, wind, geothermal etc.
2
However these energy resources have not been able to
provide an economically viable solution for agricultural applications
3
.
One biomass energy based system, which has been proven reliable and had been
extensively
used for transportation and on farm systems during World War II is wood or biomass
gasification
4
.
Biomass gasification means incomplete combustion of biomass resulting in production of
combustible gases consisting of Carbon monoxide (CO), Hydrogen (H2) and traces of
Methane (CH4). This mixture is called producer gas. Producer gas can be used to run
internal combustion engines (both compression and spark ignition), can be used as
substitute
for furnace oil in direct heat applications and can be used to produce, in an economically
viable way, methanol – an extremely attractive chemical which is useful both as fuel for
heat
engines as well as chemical feedstock for industries
5
Since any biomass material can .
undergo gasification, this process is much more attractive than ethanol production or
biogas
where only selected biomass materials can produce the fuel.
Besides, there is a problem that solid wastes (available on the farm) are seldom in a form
that
can be readily utilized economically e.g. Wood wastes can be used in hog fuel boiler but
the
equipment is expensive and energy recovery is low
6
As a result it is often advantageous to .
convert this waste into more readily usable fuel from like producer gas. Hence the
attractiveness of gasification.
However under present conditions, economic factors seem to provide the strongest
argument
of considering gasification
7, 8
In many situations where the price of petroleum fuels is high .
or where supplies are unreliable the biomass gasification can provide an economically
viable
system – provided the suitable biomass feedstock is easily available (as is indeed the case
in
agricultural systems). 2
II HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
The process of gasification to produce combustible from organic feeds was used in blast
furnaces over 180 years ago. The possibility of using this gas for heating and power
generation was soon realized and there emerged in Europe producer gas systems, which
used
charcoal and peat as feed material. At the turn of the century petroleum gained wider use
as a
fuel, but during both world wars and particularly World War II, shortage in petroleum
supplies led to widespread re-introduction of gasification. By 1945 the gas was being
used to
power trucks, buses and agricultural and industrial machines. It is estimated that there
were
close to 9000,000. Vehicles running on producer gas all over the world
9
.
After World War II the lack of strategic impetus and the availability of cheap fossil fuels
led
to general decline in the producer gas industry. However Sweden continued to work on
producer gas technology and the work was accelerated after 1956 Suez Canal crisis. A
decision was then made to include gasifiers in Swedish strategic emergency plans.
Research
into suitable designs of wood gasifiers, essentially for transport use, was carried out at the
National Swedish Institute for Agricultural Machinery Testing and is still in progress
10
.
The contemporary interest in small scale gasifier R&D, for most part dates from 1973 oil
crisis. The U.S. research in this area is reviewed by Goss
11
The manufacturing also took off .
with increased interest shown in gasification technology. At present there are about 64
gasification equipment manufacturers all over the world
11,36
The present status of .
gasification technology and R&D activities will be discussed in chapter VII.
INTRODUCTION
Biomass gasification is an endothermic thermal conversion technology where a solid fuel
is converted into a combustible gas. A limited supply of oxygen, air, steam or a
combination serves as the oxidizing agent. The product gas consists of carbon monoxide,
carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane, trace amounts of higher hydrocarbons (ethene,
ethane), water, nitrogen (with air as oxidant) and various contaminants, such as small
char
particles, ash, tars, higher hydrocarbons, alkalies, ammonia, acids, alkalies, and the like.
When undertaken with air as the oxidizing agent, the produced gas has a net calorific
value (NCV) of 4 6 MJ/Nm
3
The heating value of this gas makes it suitable for boiler and .
engine use, and for turbine use with burner modifications (for turbine use, the gas must
be
partially cooled to protect valve control materials and cleaned to protect turbine blades).
When oxygen is used, the produced gas has a NCV of 10-15 MJ/Nm
3
, sufficient for
limited pipeline transport and synthesis gas conversion.

PROCESS
3.1 Chemistry
The substance of a solid fuel is usually composed of the elements carbon, hydrogen and
oxygen. In the gasifiers considered, the biomass is heated by combustion. Four different
processes can be distinguished in gasification: drying, pyrolysis, oxidation and reduction.
From a chemical point of view, the process of biomass gasification is quite complex. It
includes a number of steps like
· thermal decomposition to non-condensable gas, vapors and char (pyrolysis);
· subsequent thermal cracking of vapors to gas and char;
· gasification of char by steam or carbon dioxide;
· partial oxidation of combustible gas, vapors and char.

A schematic presentation of these processes is shown below.

Reactions

Gasification parameters
Equivalence ratio
The water gas, water gas shift, Boudouard and methane reactions provides the
opportunity to calculate the product gas composition of a gasifier, but only in case this
equilibrium can really be reached. Models can be used to calculate the gas composition
as
function of the temperature and/or the equivalence ratio (ER), which is the oxygen used
relative to the amount required for complete combustion. This dimensionless parameter
shows that curves of several parameters like chemical energy in the gas and the gas
composition change significantly at ER = 0,25.
GRAPH

A value of zero (left side) corresponds to pyrolysis while combustion is shown at the
right
hand side. At ER = 0.25 all the char is converted into gas giving the highest energy
density of the gas; at lower values char is remaining and at higher values some gas is
burned and the temperature will increase
Superficial velocity and hearth load
The superficial velocity is one of the most important parameters determining the
performance of a gasifier reactor, controlling gas production rate, gas energy content, fuel
consumption rate, power output, and tar/char production rate. The superficial velocity is
defined as the gas flow rate (m
3
/s) divided by the cross sectional area (m
2
). A low
superficial velocity causes relatively slow pyrolysis conditions and results in high
charcoal yields and a gas with high tar content.
3.3.3 Turn-down ratio
For every gasifier there is an optimum range of operating conditions corresponding to a
certain turn-down ratio, i.e. the ratio under which gas is produced of sufficient quality for
its application. This quality criterion is in particular related to the tar production level.
For
gasifiers the turn-down ratio is typically 2-3, although some technology developers claim
higher values.
3.3.4 Gas heating value
The gas heating value is usually expressed in MJ/Nm
3
A normal cubic meter is referring .
to the gas volume at 1 atmosphere and 0 °C.
3.3.5 Gas flow rate and gas production
The gas flow rate can be calculated from the primary air flow if the nitrogen content in
the producer gas is known, or measured by orifice plates, venturies, pitot tubes or
rotameters.
Gas flow rate and gas production
The gas flow rate can be calculated from the primary air flow if the nitrogen content in
the producer gas is known, or measured by orifice plates, venturies, pitot tubes or
rotameters.
3.3.6 Efficiency
The efficiency of a gasifier reactor can be expressed on cold or hot gas basis.
3.3.7 Fuel consumption
The fuel consumption is needed to determine the gasifier and overall efficiency. The fuel
consumption can be measured by a balance or automatically by metering bins.
3.3.8 Tar and entrained particles
The amount of tar and entrained particles depends on the gasifier design and operating
conditions, in particularly the load level (actual power output to the maximum rated
power output)
Important biomass characteristics related to gasification
Each type of biomass has its own specific properties, which determines its performance
as
a fuel in gasification plants. The most important properties for gasification are:
· moisture content
· ash content and ash composition
· elemental composition
· heating value
· bulk density and morphology
· volatile matter content
· other fuel related contaminants like N, S, Cl, alkalies, heavy metals, etc.
Advantages of producer
gas fuels

> Producer gas obtained


from gasification
of biomass can be used
in dryers, kilns,
furnaces and boilers
> Producer gas obtained is
free from noxious
substances and
contaminants.
> The internal
combustion engine fueled
by fuel gas from gasification
have fewer
emission compared to
petroleum derivatives fueled
engines.
> Sulphur dioxide and NOx
are normally absent in fuel
gas from biomass
gasification.
> Using this producer gas it
is possible to operate a
diesel engine on duel fuel
mode.
Diesel substitution of the
order of 80-85% can be
obtained at nominal loads.
> Mechanical energy
derived from the producer
gas can be used for driving
water
pumps, irrigation purposes
or for coupling with an
alternator for electrical
power
generation

Salient features
of Biomass Gasifier
* High conversion efficiency
of 70 - 80% from
solid biomass to gaseous
fuel

* Each Kilogram
of Biomass produces
around 2.5 to 3.0 cubic
meters of gas
having a calorific value of
1000 - 1100 kilocalories per
cubic meter.

* A Liter of liquid fuels


(diesel / gasoline) can be
saved with only 3 to 4
kilograms of biomass.

* Extremely clean and


complete combustion of gas
due high hydrogen
content.

* Positive environmental
impact through saving
of biomass in mot cases.

* Positive impact on global


climate i.e. reduced threat of
global warming.

Industrial uses
of biomass gasifier

Thermal applications
( Drier )
Brick / tile kiln running
on Biomass Gasifier
Island electrification and
also for running of cottage
industries on
small islands
Grid parallel operation / grid
feeding
Chilling / cold storage
applications

CONCLUSION

Biomass gasifier is a very


important equipment in
present days. It can remove
the present energy crisis
and enviornmental

Reference: http://www.seminarprojects.com/Thread-biomass-gasifier-full-
report#ixzz1FKNrIahW