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Cummins Power Generation Provides Generator for Biomass Syngas Demonstration Project at the EERC

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota, in partnership with Cummins Power Generation, Inc., has begun a project to demonstrate the production of heat and power from high-moisture biomass. Cummins Power Generation has provided the electrical generator for the project, a key component in producing 35-40 kilowatts of power a day, enough for one home.

The Cummins generator, which normally runs on natural gas, has been modified to run on synthetic natural gas (syngas) produced by an EERC-developed advanced gasification unit.

The EERC’s gasification unit can convert a range of fuels, such as forestry, agricultural, and industrial biomass waste; animal waste; waste plastics; and railroad ties or cable poles as well as a range of coals, into clean syngas. Together, the Cummins and EERC technologies will work in harmony as a gasification-based combined heat and power technology, with a variety of applications.

The physical properties of the biomass feedstocks, such as their origin, storage, and aging, can often vary. That variation can affect the performance and, ultimately, impact stack emissions when used in a typical internal combustion generator. The synergistic and seamless integration of an advanced gasifier and the engine generator will overcome this limitation and achieve environmentally acceptable emissions. The project aims at demonstrating this fact.

The outcome of the project will lead to the development and demonstration of engine performance on syngas, producing data for environmental permitting and providing strategies for achieving emission levels that meet current and future environmental regulations, which are critical for successful commercialization of combined heat and power technologies.



An interesting step toward more CHP. Of course the use of syngas produced from waste products is laudable and must be pursued. But we have few impediments to using plain NG to fire ICE, turbines or FCs in CHP units today. NA has an abundance of NG and could produce a large portion of its electric demand via converted coal to NG.

It would be interesting to understand what volume of syngas can be generated from a nationwide effort to convert waste (excluding coal). It would also be interesting to see if the newer SOFC stacks (Bloom eg) can use syngas fuel.

It is GREAT to see CHP taking a higher profile in our long term energy portfolio.


"synthetic natural gas (syngas)"

I think of synthetic natural gas as methane synthesized from syngas, which is CO and H2. This is a different use of the term. Some might call if "substitute natural gas"/

You could take the syngas (CO/H2) and put that into an SOFC, both are fuels. This has been done before and is very efficient. Put a gas turbine on the output of the SOFC and you can use the remaining H2 to generate even more electricity, with an efficiency of around 60%. Use the remaining heat to distill cellulose ethanol and you get even more out of it.

Henry Gibson

Please in the future do not confuse kilowatts( 1.34 horsepower) with kilowatt-hours(3410 btu). The 35 kilowatt-days is 24*35=840 kilowatt hours. Yes a medium modern US house will use 35 or 40 kilowatt-hours. ..HG..


"producing 35-40 kilowatts of power a day, enough for one home."

They should have said 35-40 kWh each day.

Henry Gibson

There is not enough biomass being produced every year in the world to supply a large fraction of the energy used by industry and people in the world. The use of biomass for industrial energy was mostly terminated 200 years ago in England with the vanishing of most woodlands. The conversion of woodlands and grasslands to agricultural uses was the first energy revolution that was found 10,000 years later to be insufficient for making the vast amounts of iron needed for modern homes and industry. This use resulted in the massive and total destruction of natural environments.

The biomass energy production and storage by plants on your own property can be estimated by the average solar energy falling on your property, 1000 watts per square meter maximum, times the number of hours the sun is at full power and its smaller values earlier in the day and later in the day. The efficiency of the plants conversion and storage of the energy, about %2, is another factor. Biomass is not likely enough from an acre of land to be able to power your computers. Most states in the US do not even have enough farms to feed their inhabitants.

Biomass is the worst way of using ground for energy production if efficiency and productivity is needed. INFINIA and other themal solar generators are much more efficient.

When land in Africa was cheap more than a hundred years ago, A railroad company planted trees along its right of way for locomotive fuel, one of the first biofuel plantations.

Just try to buy any land from any country today and they will not sell it so you remain subject to the laws and whims of each country and its officials and population.

Solar energy is too diluted for most uses, and it costs the money for the land and the money for the collectors.

All energy is free, not just solar energy, even fossil fuels are renewable. Solar energy comes from the nuclear reactor called the sun and its radiations have been far more deadly this century than all of man made nuclear energy including bombs. The sun is using up tons of hydrogen every second to provide its light, and this hydrogen is destroyed forever.

Uranium is destroyed forever when it fissions, but it destroys itself, so humans might as well use it before it goes away on its own. It is the supreme peak of wastefulness to not use the energy in uranium before it goes away. The earth has lost most of the best uranium fuel, U235, already, and most of the rest will go away before the earth is consumed by the expanding sun in about 5 billion years.

Sooner than hydrogen fusion is producing commercial electricity, it will be possible to produce nearly pure uranium isotopes at low enough costs so that small factory produced nuclear reactors can be installed in a few days after being ordered. Centrifuges can likely do this today but this information is being kept somewhat hidden. CSIRO developed and sold the rights to an even cheaper and more secret way of separating uranium isotopes that will be installed in the US. A pound of uranium contains the energy of three million pounds of coal.

Massive installations of nuclear reactors can form oil from water and CO2 in the air and pump it into the ground to renew the fossil fuel deposits. All the needed technology is known but more efficient versions can be invented. ..HG..


We may not have enough biomass to run all cars in the U.S. but it can help reduce oil imports and oil consumption in general. Saying that we can not run all cars this way misses the point. It may be a valid point, but one that throws people off track. If it can help, then use it.


"It can help" is often an excuse to stop there, like screwing in a CF bulb and going back to planning a cross-country vacation in a new motor home.

Biofuels may be able to provide 20%, but we need the other 80% too. That's why I love things like zinc-air batteries.


I am not saying "stop there" and you know it. Quit criticizing and start contributing.


I'm not saying you propose to stop there. I'm saying that lots of people think magically, and often give up after making one gesture (particularly if it's an easy one and anything further would require much more effort, cost or even thought).

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