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University Collaboration Advances Cleaner Energy Technology
WVU’s bench-scale fluidized bed gasifier is providing valuable experimental data that is helping validate computer models at NETL.

NETL’s world-renowned computer modeling capabilities are front and center in a pivotal collaboration with West Virginia University (WVU). Computational modeling is a critical tool in technology development, and the forward-looking efforts by the NETL-WVU research team are improving the accuracy of fossil-fuel energy systems models — work that will ultimately help provide the nation with cost-effective, sustainable and efficient clean energy.

The NETL-led team is investigating gasification, a promising technology that can convert fossil fuels like coal into a highly useful mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide called synthesis gas or syngas. Because it can be used directly as fuel and as a precursor to an array of chemicals and products, syngas could become a major game changer in the fossil fuel industry. The NETL-WVU team is seeking to understand how to optimize gasification and syngas production. 

As part of the project, NETL is validating its open-source, internationally-used Multiphase Flow with Interphase eXchanges (MFiX) computer modeling suite. WVU is providing high-quality data from its bench-scale fluidized-bed gasifier, which researchers use to study fluidization and gasification fundamentals. The University’s experimental data is collected under well-controlled conditions, providing critical information on the parameters that control process efficiency and gas output composition.

MFIX is a critical tool in the design, analysis and optimization of novel gasifiers and associated devices. NETL researchers have used MFiX to successfully model complex energy systems for many years, and this new data is helping them better understand flow dynamics and their effect on the complex reaction chemistry of gasification inside of a fluidized-bed reactor.

“The collaborative approach of this project where physical and mathematical modelers work as a team has proven quite valuable,” Bill Rogers, Ph.D., said. “Our WVU colleagues are providing critical experimental data that we can use to help validate our models and help to further refine our capabilities to accurately model gasifiers at pilot and industrial scales.”

Valuable collaborations like this allow the Lab to continually sharpen its tools and ensure that, as the nation’s preeminent fossil-energy science and engineering resource, it continues to discover, integrate and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.