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