BMW Emphasizes Improved Efficiency of New 4-Cylinder Engines; Gasoline Direct Injection and Diesel
Suzuki Car Sales in India to Overtake Those in Japan

Pulp Mill Proposes Biomass Gasification Project to Replace Natural Gas; Hydrogen Generation a Possibility

The HydroMax reactor and the two stages of processing. Click to enlarge.

Diversified Energy Corporation and Evergreen Pulp have formed a partnership and submitted a proposal to pursue a project to replace natural gas usage at the pulp mill with syngas produced on-site by the gasification of low-value excess wood fines using HydroMax gasification technology. (Earlier post.) 

Using an iron/tin molten metal based reactor, the HydroMax system produces both carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2) in separate and distinct streams from the reactor. In addition to providing fuel for heat and power, the syngas can be used in Fischer-Tropsch processing for fuels and chemicals, or to deliver a hydrogen stream for subsequent purification and use.

The HydroMax process begins with a molten iron/tin (FeSn) bath heated to 1,300° C. Steam is injected into the bath, and is then thermo-chemically split resulting in H2 gas (released) and oxidized iron. In the second step, after the iron is oxidized, steam injection ceases and a carbon source (here, the biomass) is injected into the reactor. Carbon has a high affinity to oxygen and reduces the oxidation of Fe to its pure form and produces a CO-rich syngas which is released for use.

Diversified Energy says that the HydroMax technique can deliver gasification systems at up to 50% the cost of traditional systems and  with 80+% efficiency.

We are excited to move towards the implementation of this green technology that could eliminate our dependency on natural gas and produce biomass hydrogen for fuel cells at the same time. Through such projects, we endeavor to do our part in supporting California as a leader in the field of renewable fuel development.

—David Tsang, CEO of Evergreen Pulp

The Diversified Energy-Evergreen Pulp proposal is for the Public Interest Energy Research Natural Gas (PIER-NG) Program, a part of the California Energy Commission. The program is seeking research, development, and demonstration of technologies capable of replacing natural gas usage with renewable resources.

The focus of the state solicitation is on biomass-to-gas and/or hybrid projects specifically addressing industrial and commercial process heating or combined heat and power needs. The state is expected to make an award this Spring, with project execution occurring over a period of 36 months.

Diversified Energy Corporation is the prime contractor for the program, providing program management and the gasification technology. Evergreen Pulp, the largest kraft pulp mill is the US, is acting as the host for the project at their kraft pulp mill in Eureka, CA.

A PIER-NG program award would allow Diversified Energy to take HydroMax from its several bench-scale tests and extensive analyses and modeling to a larger-scale test deployment.

The two companies have also discussed activities beyond the initial PIER-NG demonstration. This broader relationship could include installation of a full-scale HydroMax system capable of generating enough high-Btu syngas to replace all of the natural gas consumed at the Eureka, CA plant. This would make Evergreen Pulp the first US pulp mill to run its operations entirely fossil-fuel free.

Diversified Energy is also developing the Centia process to turn virtually any lipidic compound—e.g., vegetable oils, oils from animal fat and oils from algae—into aviation fuel or other high-value fuels. Centia integrates a sequence of three thermocatalytic-reforming processes that are either extensions of current commercial processes or based on recent laboratory breakthroughs. Centia can also be used to make additives for cold-weather biodiesel fuels and holds the potential to fuel automobiles that currently run on gasoline. (Earlier post.)



All righty then...this will be less of a demand on natural gas which is a good thing. There are lots of ways we can reduce our use of natural gas. Then we can get on with creating most of the rest from SNG made from biomass.


Gasification is growing everywhere. The greatest aspect is the secondary step of Fischer-Tropsch technology where they take the syngas and can convert it into ethanol, methnaol, diesel, etc. Seems to me that the highest value products they could produce would be motor fuels. Electricity has to be one of the cheapest forms of energy available right now. Why would they produce electricity when they could produce ethanol or diesel for a higher price/energy unit versus electricity.

If anyone has a link for an analysis of cost and revenues of a gasification process which discusses revenue streams for converting syngas to electricity vs syngas-to-Fischer Tropsch fuels, I'd love to see it.

You have to remember that MIT claims they can produce "Ethanol from Trash" for $.10-.95/gallon so why would a producer decide to produce electricity for a wholesale rate if he could get ethanol prices for very little more. I understand that there are large capital costs for Fischer Tropsch but there are large volumes of biomass and trash out there. The numbers have to favor syngas-to-ethanol/diesel/methanol.

Google gasification + biomass. Lots of projects in the works.


This is great.  At first blush, it looks like this reactor could take just about anything as feedstock.  Not only is this an avenue for waste cleanup, it could create markets for chips and bark which currently go to waste.  If shipping raw biomass costs too much, the waste could be torrefied and compressed at the point of production.

The products of the reactor could go for anything.  The hydrogen is an obvious candidate for ammonia production (fertilizer), and CO+H2 can be turned into a host of things with relative ease.  Reaction heat goes for process heat or electricity (or both, via cogeneration).

I look forward to seeing more about these.  Unfortunately, the HydroMax brochure is vague on the very details I want to know as an analyst (they determine the limits of suitability for various applications, and things like product yields).

Warren Heath

This is definitely the way to go for Biomass utilization. Substantially superior to fermentation methods or agriculturally produced biofuels. Best use of the H2-SynGas is to produce liquid fuels, most notably methanol. Although another energy input would be needed to produce biofuels with 100% transfer of carbon in the biomass to liquid fuel carbon, which is the desirable goal to maximize production of carbon neutral liquid fuels. The added energy could be obtained from surplus wind / solar / tidal / wave energy or modern designed nuclear reactors.


This is the first I have seen iron and tin used. I assume that they are catalysts and are used in their molten state. The big problem with biomass gasification is the slag or ash corrupting the catalyst. At these temperatures, they may have minimized, if not eliminated that problem.


No, the iron is used to make hydrogen by oxidation with steam (2 Fe + 3 H2O -> Fe2O3 + 3 H2) and is then reduced back to metal with carbon (Fe2O3 + 3 C -> 2 Fe + 3 CO).  The beauty is that the production of H2 and CO occurs in separate reactions separated by time, so you can tap off more of one or the other to get the desired composition of gas for your next step.  This scheme has also been proposed to produce carbon-free hydrogen from fuel to allow the carbon to be sequestered; I have no figures on the efficiency, however.


Thanks EP, chemistry was never my major :)

The separation in time is a big deal. I would think that would make the process of isolating the gases much easier.


I didn't major in chem either, but I did take the freshman weed-out course with the pre-meds.


BTW, EP, take a look in Wiki for Hiriya, and follow ALL possible links. I believe it will be beneficial to your analysis.

Paul Dietz

There are similar technologies using solid metal oxide particles for burning fuels. Called 'chemical looping combustion', this allows the CO2 to be kept separate from the depleted nitrogen-rich air stream. In one reactor, the fuel reacts with oxide particles to make reduced oxide or metal (plus water and CO2); in the second reactor the reduced oxide is reoxidized with air.

Another advantage of these schemes is that the two reactions can be performed at different temperatures. This can reduce the thermodynamic losses (entropy production) that occurs in single stage combustion.

Cheryl Ho

DME is developing in China now:
Since DME has an advantage of decomposition at lower temperature than methane and LPG, R&D for hydrogen source for fuel cell has been carried out. DME has a potential of feedstock for chemicals. DME to olefins is under development in Japan.

If you would like to know more on the latest DME developments, join us at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:

DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information:

The comments to this entry are closed.