Insights from IEA Task 36
By Michael Eggleston* (Advanced Biofuels USA) On December 5th, 2017 the Institute of Technical Chemistry (ITC) at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) hosted a workshop for members of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Task 36 to share and promote research and development (R&D) findings oriented for the energy recovery of waste via thermochemical conversion.
Thermochemical conversion technologies such as gasification can provide a significant contribution to facilitating the development of the bioeconomy, as it provides a more flexible use to waste before it is sent to the landfill. By meeting long-term trends such as an increasing volume of biomass and decreasing volume of fossil fuels, gasification ultimately creates a system to access and store chemical building blocks.
Bulk waste, typically being collected heterogeneously such as municipal solid waste (MWS), can be thermally recycled in waste incinerators. Material recycling that has been implemented for some waste fractions requires extensive pretreatment and is very costly. In contrast, feedstock recycling via thermochemical conversion deals with bulky waste, mixtures of organic and inorganic content. These technologies are scalable, can handle difficult feedstocks and produce specified clean intermediates such as syngas that can be upgraded to chemicals or fuels in existing petrochemical value chains.
- KIT’s ITC introduced BioLiq, a biomass to liquid project that utilizes a wide spectrum of feedstocks and that produces pure quality syngas. The project coordinates the collection of widely distributed waste residue biomass feedstocks from a de-centralized location. At this location the feedstocks are pretreated and transported as an intermediate carrier of high energy density to supply their pilot plant in Karlsruhe for the production of synthetic fuel. These fuels can be used as drop-in fuels which are completely compatible with existing diesel or gasoline type engines.
- Ecoloop presented their “lime-loop” concept which utilizes a lime reaction bed to gasify carbon rich high caloric materials and pollutants to produce syngas. What makes this concept so unique is that costly off-gas treatments are fully avoided and off-gas cleaning is not necessary. Halogen corrosion and formation of dioxins and furans at high temperature can also be avoided inhibiting the formation of ash.
Landfill bans will push more waste into thermochemical recycling streams. Waste reduction schemes and recycling means less waste will be available in the future. Expansion of renewable power in cheaper electricity complicates economics of incineration since power generation will have to come from somewhere else.
Common challenges discussed between members of the task force within current gasification R&D include scaling-up a cost-effective flexible feedstock process, optimizing the production of syngas, and minimizing deposits of critical components such as chloride and sulfur during gasification.
* Michael Eggleston is a chemical engineering student specializing in the interdisciplinary & intercultural communication of sustainable development practices with the University of Rhode Island’s International Engineering Program and spending a semester abroad at the Technische Universität Darmstadt in Darmstadt, Germany. He will be reporting on and representing Advanced Biofuels USA at international conferences.