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DOE Awards Diversified Energy Corporation Phase II SBIR Award for HydroMax Gasification Technology

HydroMax gasifier and production cycle. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Diversified Energy Corporation (DEC) a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II grant to continue the development and commercialization of its HydroMax advanced gasification technology. (Earlier post.) The 24-month, $945,000 grant resulted from a competitive solicitation from the DOE’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and builds upon results achieved by DEC during Phase I.

The HydroMax gasifier uses a patented molten-metals approach that can gasify a broad range of hydrocarbon inputs (biomass, municipal solid waste, petroleum coke, and coals with varying moisture, sulfur, and heating value content). The resulting syngas is relatively free of tars and oils and therefore requires less downstream clean-up equipment.

During Phase I of the SBIR, a technical team that included Pittsburgh Mineral and Environmental Technology, Inc. (PMET) built and operated a HydroMax gasification reactor that tested multiple coal types to characterize synthesis gas output composition and measure overall system performance and efficiency.

In Phase II, the objectives are to scale-up and conduct more rigorous testing. This includes the testing of high moisture content, low rank coal (Powder River Basin) and high sulfur content, high rank coal (Illinois #6), as well as coal/wood blends. Testing will use a reactor 2.5 times larger in diameter than Phase I and showcase longrun continuous operations, self-heating, the use of commercial refractory materials, and operations and maintenance procedures including the removal of sulfur from the coal.

The Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) will join the team to support design, testing, and analyses activities. In addition, CertainTeed, one of North America’s leading gypsum wallboard manufacturers and a subsidiary of Compagnie de Saint-Gobain, will continue to act as the industrial partner by assessing how HydroMax can integrate into their North American wallboard and finishing plants.

The DOE SBIR Phase II award, coupled with on-going research and development being sponsored by the California Energy Commission (for biomass gasification to syngas) and Department of Defense (for biomass and waste gasification to liquid transportation fuels, earlier post), contributes to the commercial potential for HydroMax. DEC plans to leverage these various government awards and industry partnerships to introduce the first HydroMax commercial pilot plant system within the next five years.

Diversified Energy has also licensed the Centia process from North Carolina State University, and has produced a bio-gasoline very similar to traditional unleaded gasoline using that process. (Earlier post.) Centia is based on a three-step thermal, catalytic, and reforming process that has the potential to turn virtually any lipidic compound—e.g., vegetable oils, oils from animal fat and oils from algae—into drop-in replacements for petroleum jet fuel, diesel, and gasoline.



It's a fairly interesting technology for medium scale gasification. There is really a hole for available technology in that range and it takes very large plants to justify mammoths like the updraft Lurgi or British Gas types of gasifiers. It's probably thermally less efficient than the biggies but it could be good for distributed plants.

Also, they use calcium oxide aka lime as the flux for the molten iron bath so I guess they have a good capture of contaminants like sulfur and chlorine in the slag. No need for tar cracking, COS hydrolysis, solvent H2S capture, etc. Then, a single step chemical scrubbing like a zinc oxide bed is probably viable as a finishing step for gas clean-up.

Henry Gibson

Making coke out of coal should be one of the first steps of coal gasification. It is possible to get fertilizer and useful hydrocarbons by distillation prior to gasification. The coal industry now needs to develop a cheap process for low temperature coking of coal before it leaves the mine. This will allow for the sale of valuable byproducts and eliminate the cost of transporting the water that is in most coals. Much ammonia, sulphur and hydrocarbon liquids and solids can be made from the coal prior to gasification. Any process that can be implemented on a small scale can be more viable. The US government should guarantee loans and subsidies for all carbon to liquid processes.

It may be that cities will have to build plants to produce clean methane from coal because natural gas prices are to subject now to speculative pressures. Such plants would also produce methanol and perhaps diesel. With home co-generation units, it may be that the only public utilities of the future will be gas, water and sewer. Nuclear power plants may replace gas pipes with buried DC cables. There might even be the chance that heat from nuclear reactors is distributed in super insulated pipes for heating and cooling similar to the geothermal heating systems. ..HG..


Great, yet another way to burn coal and make it look green.


I seem to recall another molten iron furnace described on GCC that was horizontal not vertical. I presume you have to keep it molten 24/7. If that metal has to be refreshed it may not be so cheap to run. I guess when the inspector from the Department of Carbon Taxation calls round the operator will say it runs on 20% coal 80% biomass even if the opposite is true.


"...requires less downstream clean-up equipment."

This is a big issue with gasification. Biomass gasifiers have cyclones and ceramic filters that with stand the temperatures and pressures. They require upkeep and are costly. So any advances in this area would be good.


Aussie: If that metal has to be refreshed it may not be so cheap to run.

My guess is that yes, it requires a regular refresh to compensate what is lost with the slag, but it doesn't need to be expensive. They should be able to inject iron ore directly, not refined iron. After all, the system is based on cycling between oxidation and reduction of the iron load so it should be able to take iron oxide and reduce it in place just as well as a blast furnace.


Well, there might be something in it but I see some negative points. It looks like they are going to heat the molten bath internally with air or oxygen. This means intermittent operation - air blast then run with steam. The make gas is going to leave very hot, about 1500 deg C, which will lower thermal efficiency.
There are definitely better concepts for small scale gasification of biomass. This might be good for waste instead of plasma.


It’s good to see this tech getting some attention and progressing forward. – It seems to have the advantage of an arc reactor when it comes to producing a clean useable clean synthesis-gas from municipal waste for with the additional advantage of producing hydrogen gas on the alternate cycle at a price cheaper that traditional sources like natural as has been earlier reported. I like the idea of keeping the municipal waste out of our water systems while reducing the use of natural gas in hydrogen and power production. If the synthesis-gas is used for liquid fuel production instead of power production that provides another valuable stream of energy available to flow into the transportation sector in addition to the natural gas that is not being used for hydrogen production. Although I like to se the tech moving forward I am worried in seeing it used to process coal, it should be limited to renewable resources that already exist with a preferable concentration to the pre existing waste streams.

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