|EERC plans to gasify biomass and process the syngas into ethanol. Click to enlarge.|
The Centers for Renewable Energy and Biomass Utilization at the University of North Dakota Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) are partnering with ICM, Inc., one of the leading companies involved in designing and building ethanol plants, to develop new gasification and conversion technology for the production of ethanol from cellulosic biomass materials such as grasses, wood, and straw.
The EERC’s technology gasifies biomass to create a syngas that is then converted to ethanol and other high-value products such as methanol or butanol. This thermochemical conversion process represents a different pathway than the biochemical process usually considered for the production of cellulosic ethanol via hydrolysis and fermentation.
Some scenarios for intergated biorefineries combine both pathways, however,with thermochemical conversion processing the lignin-rich residue from the primary pathway of bioconversion
Over the past several years, the EERC has made progress in developing small-scale biomass gasification systems that produce gas that can be burned to generate electricity. Earlier in January, EERC announced that it will demonstrate a biomass gasification power generation system at the Grand Forks Truss Plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
The biomass gasification power generation system, developed by the EERC’s Center for Renewable Energy through several years of projects with the US Department of Energy and commercial industry, will convert the sawdust and wood waste from the building product plant into a combustible gas to produce heat and electricity. The system is designed to match typical power requirements of various manufacturing industries generating between 10 kW to 1 MW of power.
Research is now under way to further refine the system to produce an ultraclean gas with low contaminants which can be converted to ethanol, using additional new technologies that are simple and economically feasible.
In 2006, ethanol startup Xethanol acquired Advanced Biomass Gasification Technologies (ABGT) from UTEK. ABGT holds the exclusive worldwide license for MicroGasification technology developed at EERC. The MicroGasifier produces syngas from carbon matter to drive a portable, power generation system. Xethanol and EERC are mutually funding a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to further apply the MicroGasifier in the production of ethanol. EERC will perform system integration of the MicroGasifier for customers. (Earlier post.)