The Process of Gasification
Gasification is a safe non-combustion process in which a fuel feedstock is broken down and converted into a synthetic gas leaving only the residue ash. The resulting synthetic gas product can be combusted or processed into a liquid. Gasification occurs when you heat the feedstock (e.g. over 800F) yet restrict oxidation (air or oxygen) which causes the fuel to decompose or volatilize into simpler chemical building blocks.
Gasification product syngas can be efficiently combusted as the complex and dirtier chemicals have already been broken down leading to a higher temperature and cleaner combustion. Furthermore, Particulate Matter (PM) can be trapped prior to combustion leading to a more cost effective solution to PM reduction. In short, gasification can provide a cleaner and more efficient combustion of what might otherwise be a dirty or inefficient in a direct combustion application.
The History of Gasification
The gasification process was originally developed in the 1800s to produce town gas for lighting and cooking. Natural gas and electricity soon replaced town gas for these applications, but the gasification process has been utilized for the production of synthetic chemicals and fuels since the 1920s. Since the 1950's gasification has been extensively used to convert coal and heavy oil into hydrogen for the production of fertilizer. Only recently, gasification has been recognized for its wider applications and has attracted enormous attention from Utilities and power generators as the worldwide market looks to ICGG as a way to cleanly convert coal to energy. American Eco-Energy is the first company to develop a commercially oriented solution based on gasification that can reliably and efficiently convert available and viable alternative feedstocks into clean energy. The AEE solution solves one of the major hurdles with biomass, TDF and other regional feedstocks: reduced logistics and associated costs with transportation and storage of fuel. All commercial gasification systems have been developed with large utility-sized economics in mind thus creating the need to collect fuels from a large geographical area or narrowly focus on coal.
The Economics of Gasification
Gasification is not an economically viable solution in the face of low cost fossil fuels or uncontrolled air emissions standards. The added capital costs of a front-end (i.e. pre-combustion) gasification process overwhelm the added economics of the improved efficiency that the gasification process yields. Historically, gasification was widely used until the early 1900's until low cost natural gas and cheaper fossil fuels were readily available. With the advent of $40+/barrel gas and $8+/MM Btu natural gas the economics of gasification once again make economic sense. The modest investment in capital equipment can be offset by a one to two year savings - especially when making use of fuels that simply cannot be directly combusted in a clean manner.