Applications of Gasification Technology

The main markets for gasification technology are in the production of electricity, transportation fuel, hydrogen, and chemicals, as well as various applications in industry. The stable price and abundant supply of coal throughout the world makes it the main feedstock option for gasification technologies going forward. The technology's placement markets with respect to many factors, including costs, reliability, availability and maintainability (RAM), environmental considerations, efficiency, feedstock and product flexibility, national energy security, public and government perception and policy, and infrastructure will determine whether or not gasification realizes its market potential. However, the following discussion focuses on where and how gasification technology is or may be used in the future.

Multifuel gasification plant in Finland.
Multifuel (biomass and coal) 
gasification plant in Finland. 
(source: GTI)

Electrical Power (IGCC)
Electrical power generation by integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) power plant using coal or refinery bottoms as a feedstock has proven to be economical. In addition, IGCC for municipal waste, and biomass feedstocks are realizing some commercial applications, and could potentially develop a large foothold in the market if certain drivers develop as expected, including energy price forecasts and more stringent greenhouse gas requirements.

Coal-to-Liquids
The synthesis gas (syngas) created by gasification (once impurities such as sulfur and mercury are removed) can be turned into liquid fuels and chemicals via the Fisher-Tropsch process or other processes. Since impurities are removed earlier in the process, these ultra-clean liquid fuels burn with much fewer emissions than conventional diesel fuel. Environmental considerations, national energy concerns, and global oil markets could play a role in the development of these applications.

Coal-to-SNG (Synthetic Natural Gas) and Hydrogen
Syngas produced by gasification can also be used for the production of synthetic natural gas (SNG) by a process called methanation. SNG is identical to natural gas and is capable of the same applications. The future of the natural gas market will play a large role in driving this application of gasification. Syngas refinement using a water-gas shift process can be used to produce hydrogen. This may become a significant gasification technology application if hydrogen infrastructures and markets become established.

Coal-to-Chemicals
Gasification offers a means of converting coal to a variety of useful products including fertilizers, ammonia, and the manufacture of plastics.

Industrial Applications
The chemical and physical conversion characteristics of gasification also allow for more specialized applications in a wide range of industries, particularly in the production of electricity, chemical byproducts, and hydrogen.

 

Distributed Generation/Biomass
Gasification of biomass holds potential for distributed power generation and small-scale syngas production. Some groups are looking at gasification of biomass for power, transportation fuels, and even cooking fuel in remote locations.

Co-Generation
Gasification of multiple products by one plant has the potential to change the way we view energy production. The ability to produce multiple products allows plant management to optimize profits based on market conditions and can improve plant efficiency, economics, and decrease overall environmental impact versus multiple plants to each produce one product.

Integrated Gasification Fuel Cell (IGFC)
The Fuel Cells technology area, part of DOE's Advanced Energy Systems R&D Program is working to develop and demonstrate high efficiency, fuel flexible solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) and coal-based SOFC power generation systems for large (greater than 100 MW) integrated gasification fuel cell (IGFC) power plants. Fully integrated IGFC power plants have the potential to achieve greater than 60 percent net efficiency, near-zero air emissions (CO2 capture greater than 99 precent) and minimal water consumption.

 


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