Synova and the Pursuit of Clean, Green and Lean
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) A newer technology Synova Power has arrived with the promise of clean, green, lean stream of pipeline-quality natural gas from biomass.
Streams coming off cellulosic biofuels or biogas refineries have been green, and in some cases (and increasingly) lean, but they haven’t been in most cases sufficiently clean, and that shortfall in clean has been keeping gas out of pipelines, poisoning catalysts, plugging up lines, and in other ways killing the rates and yields needed to make money in the cellulosic business.
The confusion between “clean” and “green” in the public’s mind has been a problem. Because most people see all cases of greentech as a subset of cleantech, we haven’t had room in the language for a definition of ‘clean’ that refers to a certain purity and composition that works efficiently and effectively within a refining or conversion technology, or a pipeline. It’s as if “clean” is a trivial distinction, but it most assuredly is not.
Then there are high free fatty acid feedstocks, such as brown grease — they are lean and they are green, you can buy them on the cheap and they give you a very low-carbon fuel. But many bioconversion technologies can work with none of them, and no bioconversion technology can work with all of them.
Here comes gasification to save the day
Gasification technology has been, for many people — a way around many of the problems of affordable feedstocks for a long time. Instead of trying to deal with the impurities and recalcitrant conversion challenges, say, of lignocellulose, why not just heat it up until you have that soup of carbon monoxide and hydrogen known as syngas?
But most gasifiers have either produced a stream that is not clean enough to use, or technologies like plasma gasification have solved the clean problem but at too high a cost.
The slogan for Synova goes like this: “When You Remove the Impurities, Waste is Pure Energy”.
The company, on its website, goes on to explain:
Quite simply, the world needs new sources of clean, reliable, baseload power. Synova’s process for recovering energy from mixed-waste removes the impurities and recovers conventional recyclables such as metal, glass, and certain plastics, as well as the chemical energy in the residual, a residual that would ordinarily be discarded in a landfill or worse. Removal of the impurities allows the chemical energy within to be used for the production of clean baseload power.
“The OLGA process strips gasified municipal solid waste (MSW) of tars and other impurities, leaving pure hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen,” the company says. “The process unlocks this clean, pure, and largely biogenic energy so that it can be used without harming the environment. Contaminants—small in volume—are removed and/or sequestered or recycled.”
“In addition, because the tars resulting from gasification contain roughly 15% of the chemical energy resident in the gasification feedstock, our process recycles them back into the gasifier in a way that ensures they are broken down and no longer form the unwanted compounds.”
“The gas has not been very pure from the sector,” Synova CEO Giffen Ott told The Digest. “You can tell from the dirty orange flame. Our gas is very pure. It’s now blue, like a kitchen stove. That means we can go into a Caterpillar turbine, or we can go into bio for chemicals or fuels.”
What’s the holy grail, when it comes to clean? That’s pipeline injection.
Together with Royal Dahlman, Synova has developed a turnkey, four-step solution:
1. Feedstock preparation (at a remote location or co-located with steps 2-4)
3. OLGA gas cleaning
4. Power or chemical production
Here’s the model: develop or co-develop projects from the ground up, from sourcing the waste supply and choosing the site to securing offtake agreements; from connections and permits to arranging technology and construction agreements; from operations and maintenance to issuing debt and equity. Projects are typically structured so that no investment is required from the municipality (the waste supplier) or industrial host (the off-taker).
Modular designs are available for independent power, and can be leveraged for custom industrial applications or CHP designs. READ MORE