02 April 2008

Biomass Gasification: Plasma and Otherwise

Gasification of biomass promises to be the best route for small to medium scale regional energy independence. For the purposes of most people, thinking locally and regionally is far more intelligent than trying to solve all the world's or nation's energy problems in one fell swoop. Intelligent bio-energy is both accessible and affordable. It should be at the top of the list for areas such as North America that are blessed by a prolific biosphere.

Qi-Bioenergy blog has a good assortment of April 1st postings that are not jokes. They are part of the patchwork quilt of approaches to bio-energy that can take a tremendous financial burden off of many regions of the continent (and world) while pumping in much needed financial stimulus the old-fashioned way--letting the market work.
Gasification is currently the best approach to start off the process of biomass to bio-energy. Plasma gasification may be the best all-purpose approach for the widest variety of feedstocks. Here is a description of Skygas, one of many approaches to gasification:
Skygas™ is the code name for an innovative technology for the disposal/gasification of carbonaceous wastes. It is a newly developed electric arc conversion process that converts solid and semi-solid waste into clean, medium BTU synthesis gas that can be used for steam production or direct fired gas turbine generation of electric power. The composition of the gas (primarily CO and H2) are useful building block chemicals. They can be taken through well-known chemical processing steps to produce products such as methanol and acetic acid, or downstream chemicals such as formaldehyde, acetic anhydride, vinyl acetate, acetate esters and many others. The reducing gas may also be combined with nitrogen to produce chemicals such as ammonia and urea.

The electric arcs produced in the primary reactor by three electrodes are sufficiently energetic to cause the generation of ionic reactive species by homolytic bond cleavage. Both the carbonaceous materials and the water molecules can be broken into ionic reactive species. These species will react in a chain reaction with other feed molecules to form still more ionic reactive species and cause the breakage of more chemical bonds. The net result of these ionic homolytic reactions is the conversion of the relatively high molecular carbonaceous feed material into low molecular gas products, primarily carbon monoxide, hydrogen and methane. ___Skygas__via__Qi-bioenergy
Following the flow diagrams above, the synthesis gas can be either used to drive a gas turbine, to create steam, to make hydrogen, alcohol fuels, gasoline and diesel fuels, or to generate electrical power. The image at the top of this post comes from BRI Energy, which is one of the many small companies at the forefront of developing biomass energy from waste products and other non-food materials.

Recent criticism of bio-energy from Time magazine and other media outlets only serve to emphasize the disconnect between the pioneers and informed observers of bio-energy and the lazy and ignorant media analysts who keep the public in ignorance of this valuable resource. As ligno-cellulose bio-waste resources are more easily converted into useful energy and fuel resources, the usefulness of biomass energy will become more difficult to conceal and obfuscate.

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