High Quality Syngas from the Catalytic Gasification of Biomass Wastes

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Chemical and Process Engineering

Abstract

The gasification of biomass wastes represents a major thermochemical route to produce a high energy value hydrogen and methane rich syngas from a source which is renewable and CO2-neutral. Coupled with CO2 capture, the process offers a pre-combustion route to carbon capture sequestration for industrial power and electricity production. However, one of the major issues in the gasification process is the production of tar. Tar is a complex mixture of condensable hydrocarbons. The formation of tar causes major process and syngas use problems, including tar blockages, plugging and corrosion in downstream fuel lines, filters, engine nozzles and turbines.
This proposal seeks to develop advanced triple function nano-nickel catalysts for, tar removal, enhanced hydrogen/methane production and CO2 capture and thereby produce high yield, clean, high calorific value syngas from the gasification of biomass/waste. Novel catalysts with homogeneous, well dispersed nano-Ni particles on a high-surface functional structured support, will be produced and examined in relation to the process conditions of gasification of biomass wastes for syngas quality in a continuous operation. The mechanisms of tar reactions, catalyst coke formation and sintering will be developed throughout the programme enabling catalysts to be designed to maximise and predict syngas quality from the process of biomass/waste gasification.
The project benefits from the collaboration of a gasification system manufacturer and a catalysts development company who will aid the scale up of the catalyst preparation and trials in full scale gasification systems.

Planned Impact

One of the major issues in the gasification process is the production of tar which causes major process problems and limits syngas use. This proposal seeks to develop advanced triple function nano-nickel catalysts for enhanced hydrogen and methane production, tar removal and CO2 capture and thereby produce high yield, high calorific value syngas from biomass and waste. The project benefits from the collaboration of a gasification system manufacturer and a catalysts development company. Wider beneficiaries of the research include the UK gasification industry which will benefit from this research by developing a process that increases the calorific value of the gas by converting the problematic tar contamination in the product gas stream to a hydrogen/methane rich syngas. The option for the cleaned gas to be then used in much higher energy efficient power systems such as internal combustion engines and gas turbines then presents itself. The development of the technology would aid the gasification system manufacturers in marketing a higher efficiency gasification system. Catalyst companies would also benefit in the knowledge gained and would aid in the promotion of such catalysts which can operate at high temperature. The objective of addition of CaO into the catalyst structure as a CO2 capture sorbent would also open the possibilities for new markets which combine catalytic promotion with CO2 capture.
The gasification of wastes and biomass has the potential to make a significant contribution to the energy supply of the future and is a technology that has been highlighted by several future energy scenario reports as having the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions. The gasification of biomass wastes, and high bio-organic wastes such as municipal solid waste represents a major sustainable route to produce a hydrogen/methane rich syn-gas from a source which is renewable and CO2-neutral. Coupled with CO2 capture, the process offers a pre-combustion route to carbon capture sequestration for industrial power and electricity production.
The European Climate Foundation (ECF) 2010 report; "Roadmap 2050; A practical guide to a prosperous low carbon Europe" highlighted gasification with pre-combustion carbon capture as a major potential use for decarbonising power production. This proposal goes some way towards helping to fulfil the UK commitment to 2050 CO2 emissions reduction targets, whilst also enhancing hydrogen/ methane production and improvement in gas CV.
Dissemination & knowledge transfer of the results of this research will be via the following;
CPD - Directly to industry via lectures on Continuing Professional development short courses (2 - 5 days duration) organised by the Faculty of Engineering at Leeds e.g. Thermal Treatment of Municipal Waste and Energy from Biomass Combustion (including Gasification).
Public engagement - The applicants recognizes the importance of public engagement in showcasing our research. As such, we have been keen to promote our research to the general public and have disseminated our work through regional and national press and magazine articles.
Workshop- We plan an industry day workshop to engage UK industry at 24 months. This will be a planned event and funds are separately requested for this dissemination activity. The Faculty of Engineering at Leeds has a dedicated conference organisation unit to facilitate the success of the workshop.
Press releases - The Engineering Faculty at Leeds hosts a PR company (CampusPR) which aids in publicity of our research. .
Academic papers and international conferences. The applicants have an excellent record in publication of EPSRC sponsored research. The number of publications of EPSRC sponsored research by the two applicants since 2005 has been 96 high impact journal papers.

Publications

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Artetxe M (2017) Steam reforming of different biomass tar model compounds over Ni/Al2O3 catalysts in Energy Conversion and Management

 
Description work has concentrated on the development of novel catalysts and process development to remove tar from the syngas produced from the gasification of waste biomass. One of the major issues in the gasification process is the production of tar, a complex mixture of condensable hydrocarbons. The formation of tar causes major process and syngas use problems, including tar blockages, plugging and corrosion in downstream fuel lines, filters, engine nozzles and turbines. The catalysts developed are nano-sized nickel particles coupled with metal modifiers which can catalytically degrade the tar to enhance the production of hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide. The catalysts exhibiting stability and low levels of coke deposition whilst maintaining high catalyst activity.
Further recent developments led by Professor Williams has seen the award of a major EPSRC research grant of ~£1M (Ref. EP/M013162/1) and in collaboration with 5 Universities and 5 industrial partners (Alstom UK Ltd, Process Systems Enterprises Ltd, C-TECH Innovation Ltd, Thermitech Solutions Ltd, Future Blends Ltd.) The project seeks to develop an innovative low temperature plasma-catalytic process to remove tar from syngas generated from the gasification of biomass.
Exploitation Route Methods to remove tar from syngas, enabling the use of the product syngas in higher efficiency gas engines and gas turbines
Sectors Energy,Environment