Another possible market for gasification technology is small scale (less than 50 MW) gasifier systems for electrical production. Gasification provides a clean-burning power production option to remote areas that have sufficient carbonaceous material to fire a small gasifier.
The economics of small-scale power generation via gasification are improved when fuel transport and electrical distribution distances are minimized. The closer the gasifier system is located to the fuel source, the better the economics, due to reduced fuel transport costs. Pollutants can be removed from the synthesis gas (syngas) prior to use in an internal combustion engine, fuel cell or microturbine, thus, improving emissions. In addition, locating the power plant close to consumers reduces distribution loses, provides a higher reliability of service, and allows for the possible marketing of waste heat.
Currently the economics of small-scale gasification prohibit wide spread market penetration of this technology in the United States. However, several have been implemented in India. The vast distances between sources of agriculture waste, wood, animal wastes, and wasteland, coupled with the distances that separate them from current centralized power plants make small-scale biomass gasification appealing throughout India. Use of small-scale biomass gasifiers remains limited with a capacity at roughly 43 MW, however, there is tremendous potential for growth in this market within India, and in similar less developed areas.
In the future, strains on electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure may force utility companies, and large electrical users, to consider distributed power generation. As fuel cells become more mainstream, gasification of low value fuels could be looked to as a means for producing the hydrogen necessary to run them, for clean and efficient electricity production.