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California Energy Commission Awards UCR $1M Grant for Waste to Synthetic Fuel Facility Using Steam Hydrogasification and Reforming Process

Schematic diagram of the coupled steam hydrogasification and reforming process. Source: Raju et al. Click to enlarge.

The California Energy Commission has awarded a $1-million grant to UC Riverside’s College of Engineering-Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CE-CERT) to build a process demonstration unit (PDU) to convert waste biosolids to synthetic diesel fuel. Partners in the project include UCR, the City of Riverside and Viresco Energy LLC of Riverside.

The PDU will be located at CE-CERT’s facilities in Riverside and will use a steam hydrogasification and reforming process (the CE-CERT Process) to convert biosolids from the City of Riverside’s wastewater treatment facility comingled with green waste. The project is designed to help California meet its goals for alternative transportation fuels.

The process is an innovative gasification technology based on a combination of steam hydrogasification and reforming. The carbonaceous feedstock is first converted to a fuel gas, containing a significant quantity of methane, via steam hydrogasification, where the carbonaceous feed simultaneously reacts with steam and hydrogen. (Viresco Energy is commercializing the hydrogasification technology, which it licensed exclusively from CE-CERT, and calls the Viresco Process.)

The fuel gas is then subjected to gas cleanup and then reformed to generate synthesis gas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen). In the third step, the synthesis gas is converted in to a synthetic fuel over a high-efficiency catalyst. Examples of such synthetic fuels are Fischer-Tropsch (FT) diesel, methanol and dimethyl ether (DME). The fuel gas can also be converted into electric power.

The PDU will provide critical engineering data prior to a larger pilot plant targeted to be located at the City of Riverside’s wastewater treatment facility. This would be the final step prior to full commercial-scale plant.

The CE-CERT Process was recently evaluated by the National Energy Technology Laboratory of the US Department of Energy and found to be 12% more efficient and 18% lower in capital costs than all other mainstream gasification technologies, according to UCR.

Among the advantages of the CE-CERT Process is that it can use mixed feedstocks, including yard wastes, agricultural byproducts, waste wood, municipal wastes and sewage sludge, most of which currently end up in landfills. Because of the lower capital investment required, smaller fuel plants can be located near the sources of the feedstocks, reducing the costs and carbon emissions associated with their transportation.

California produces an estimated 83 million dry tons of biomass wastes per year, including agricultural and forestry wastes and wastewater treatment biomass that must be disposed of. Thirty-two million dry tons of this biowaste are estimated to be practically available for fuel production.

The state has committed to reduce petroleum use by the equivalent of 2.4 billion gallons per year by 2017. California already uses approximately one billion gallons of ethanol and four million gallons of biodiesel, but more than 95% of it is imported from outside the state.


  • A.S.K. Raju, et al.(2008)Synthesis gas production using steam hydrogasification and steam reforming. Fuel Processing Technology doi: 10.1016/j.fuproc.2008.09.011



UCR has a group that has studied suburban sprawl. Riverside County is one of the worst cases of it in the nation. There was no planning, so the developers got to do whatever they wanted. It is not surprising that they would want to make things better by creating a fuel source for all the cars that goes beyond oil. There are many commuters in the county that consume lots of fuel driving 50-100 miles per day from home to work and back. I guess it never occurred to anyone that creating jobs where the homes are is a better idea. With no planning, you get what you got.


Isn't California broke. Didn't they hand out IOU's for individuals tax returns and some current state employee paychecks.

Before a state agency hands out any money they need to pay California's IOU's.


California can save money many ways - don't worry.

In fact;

I know of a quick way to save $1M - cancel the above grant.


$1M - a mere snip.
It's just a matter of priorities.

I dont know what good more of this spending is:

There are claims Australia's biggest ever defence purchase, the $16 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program, has lost its biggest advantage - stealth. .

without more of this:

$1M Grant for Waste to Synthetic Fuel Facility Using Steam Hydrogasification and Reforming Process

Sounds like a bargain.


True, and kind of sobering that $1M is not that much money; but it comes at a time when California is bankrupt and on fire.

This is elective long term research, a luxery that, if worthwhile, fine; it should be done by somone that can pay for it.

And this probably enables many times this much in parallel expenditures and probably helps JUSTIFY the existence of excess bureaucrats in the California Energy Commission.

What does bankrupt mean?
Many thing but one is "Don't buy luxeries"


It could also mean Invest wisely, for the future, slow the hemorrhage (by turning silk purses from sows ears) sell all the mineral oil you can for cash (in this instance) - and leverage the social and intellectual property.


It could ? - Sure - Anything is possible.

But this is not even as rational as a gambler borrowing money to “win it all back” - because this is a non-investment for today, there is no “win”; that is not even the goal.
California is bankrupt NOW.

This is like blood thinning to slow the hemorrhage.

1. This is money for a FUTURE Process Demonstration Unit.

2. The PDU that results MAY provide critical engineering data for a FUTURE larger PILOT plant.

3. The possible pilot plant MAY justify a far-in-the-FUTURE full commercial-scale plant that would be planned for what used to be California.

This foolishness is not even justified on the crass basis of saving money, but by California’s self imposed goal for alternative transportation fuels.

Henry Gibson

What ever the excuse, the US must build liquid fuel producing units from any form of carbon containing materials.

Bio-methane produced from sewage could be used directly for vehicles. Or it could be burned in a cogeneration facility to to produce electricity.

California has spent its people into debt by trying to pretend that they are being ecologically correct after killing the the electric car.

If Californians were truly interested in saving fuel and limiting the release of CO2 to the air there is a fast and certain way to do it. Even the so called clean burning natural gas puts CO2 into the air, and if Califonia wants to keep their compact fluorescent lights glowing, they can send out orders for CANDU power plants that can be built in less than five years and they can build them in Mexico where all the other factories went before China took over the industry of the world. They could also buy pebble bed power plants from China.

These factories could produce the hydrogen for the now millions of fuel cell cars on the road that CARB predicted. Actually the hydrogen can go to make methanol or ethanol that can be added to gasoline or made into gasoline. CO2 collectors can be installed in many places for the CO2 needed to make liquid fuels.

Actually cars that collect their CO2 should be required for sale in the state. Cars that produce low NOX were required why not cars that collect CO2. I can tell any car company how to build a car that collects all its CO2 and NOX. NOX can be sold to the remaining farmers in California. There are many ways to collect CO2 from car operations. Service stations can collect it for the oil companies. It actually does not take much additional weight to collect CO2, and water can be collected at the same time. Any model of automobile allowed to be sold new in California could be equipped to collect CO2 for far under $10,000 with mass production.

There is absolutely no question that new California houses should all be required to collect CO2 from all natural gas that they burn, and they should also collect the water produced.

The gas companies must be required to build pipelines to collect and transport the CO2 from all the homes and businesses that they sell gas to. The NOX can be collected too. Their customers will pay them to do this as a profit on a regulated business. Gas companies could have the option of converting natural gas to hydrogen and then only deliver the hydrogen and keep the CO2.

It must be remembered that all people and animals and bacteria and plants produce CO2, and in California, all foods logically will have a CO2 tax appended. It is not true that foods are carbon neutral, and people who live in the state of California and tolerate the pretense of "green government" should pay cash for every bit of CO2 that they and their animals and houses and cars put into the air.

Except for a small amount of free carbon or methane that might have collected when the earth was formed, all the carbon in fossil fuels was once in the atmosphere. There seems to have been a time when there was almost no oxygen in the earths atmosphere and it was filled with CO2, methane and perhaps ammonia.

Massive amounts of CO2 in the air is not a problem for the earth now; just as it was not a problem millions of years ago. It may be a problem for some plants and animals on the earth. As the water rises the animals can move and the plants will propagate elsewhere or just die.

It is well known that the Oceans were lower in recent geological history and the change of the location of massive bodies of water is frequent in the earths history.

To reduce CO2, the state of California must put a limit on its population and require a passport for all of its inhabitants and visitors. Germany and other countries require an identity document and a permit to reside in any town or area. ..HG..

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