A wide range of research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities are being conducted to improve the fuel and product versatility, carbon footprint, efficiency, and economics of gasification processes. Current work focuses on gasification of mixed feedstocks including wastes, waste coal, and biomass, for production of clean hydrogen and sustainable fuels and chemicals, thereby supporting initiatives for accelerating development of clean energy solutions and helping to solve the climate crisis.
For gasification to achieve widespread deployment in the most significant markets of the future – decarbonized power generation, clean hydrogen production, and sustainable fuels and chemicals synthesis – technology improvements are required to reduce capital and operating costs relative to competing technologies. Gasification RD&D seeks to reduce costs through several objectives, including:
Research leading to improvement in the cost and efficiency of capture and storage of carbon dioxide (CO2) integrated with gasification processes is essential to decarbonization initiatives. Gasification has distinct technical and economic advantages over competing technologies in capturing and storing CO2 from process streams.
The following pages highlight the major gasification RD&D programs taking place in the United States and around the world.
The DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, works to minimize the environmental impacts of fossil fuels while working towards net-zero emissions. R&D is pursued to advance technologies to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use, particularly the hardest-to-decarbonize applications in the electricity and industrial sectors. FECM’s priority areas include point-source carbon capture, hydrogen with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, critical mineral production, and carbon dioxide removal to address the accumulated CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
The Hydrogen with Carbon Management area pertains to development of a new generation of carbon neutral or net-negative greenhouse gas emissions technologies which may enable economical ways to generate clean hydrogen using fossil sources and sustainable biomass, combined with carbon capture, utilization, and storage. NETL’s Gasification Systems Program is focusing on innovative technologies for gasification of solid feedstocks for production of clean hydrogen, fuels and chemicals. These technologies may play a significant role in clean hydrogen and sustainable fuels generation needed in the decarbonized economy of the future.
The Gasification Systems Program coordinates and works with other national laboratories and private organizations to ensure that gasification R&D dovetails well with other R&D efforts, and to ensure efficient technology development with minimum cost to the taxpayer. Other program activities include educating the public about gasification and ongoing contacts and discussions with the public and industry concerning what the future of gasification should be.
Research on biomass gasification is being done by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). EERE's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is working to improve gasification processes using agricultural products or useful wastes, wood and other forest products as feedstock. For example, BETO has a current initiative for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) production technology development, which is essential to reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry. NETL coordinates with EERE and BETO on fostering of advanced gasification technology that will advance mutual goals and decarbonization initiatives in the clean/sustainable energy and fuels field. For example, FECM/NETL and BETO jointly hosted the “Status of Gasification Technology of Biomass and Solid Wastes (Waste Coal, Waste Plastics and MSW) and Pathways for Net-Zero Carbon Economy Workshop” in November 2022.
Key R&D challenges include:
|Gasification R&D Around the World|
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Australia's national science agency, notes R&D priorities in gasification as follows:
These largely overlap U.S. priorities.
Australia has been pursuing an advanced clean hydrogen project, The Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) project which involves gasification of Latrobe Valley brown coal and biomass to produce clean hydrogen, which is liquefied and shipped overseas to Kobe Japan. Carbon dioxide from the gasification process would be captured and stored geologically in the region. The pilot phase successfully completed in 2022 with large-scale shipments of liquefied hydrogen delivered to Japan.
The CANMET Energy Technology Centre-Ottawa (CETC-O), a R&D arm of Natural Resources Canada, represents Canada's primary gasification R&D facility. CETC-O's research involves developing, testing and modeling gasification technologies, with emphasis on entrained flow gasification of multiple feedstock types. One recent emphasis is on greenhouse gas reduction of gasification for fuels production.
The Thermal Power Research Institute (TPRI) is a Chinese research organization devoted mainly to researching technologies and equipment of fossil-fired power plants, including gasification development.
In past years, Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) supported the development of capture technologies through its research and development initiative COORETEC (CO2 Reduction Technologies for Fossil-fired Power Plants), which aimed to reduce CO2 emissions of power facilities to near zero. There was a working group on IGCC with carbon capture. However, Germany has since been strongly transitioning to a complete exit from coal by 2030, which means that current R&D in coal gasification is largely or completely curtailed. Though a return to coal use is being experienced in 2022 in response to the recent cut in Russian gas supplies, Germany is still standing by the 2030 coal exit pledge.
In the greatest contrast to Germany, India is strongly invested in coal gasification development and plans to increase coal gasification to 100 MT by 2030 according to the Ministry of Coal’s mission statement from 2021. In the Ministry of Coal’s “Roadmap for Coal to Hydrogen production,” a path involving increased Indian coal use for hydrogen production is described. Barriers include high ash content of Indian coal, raw syngas cleanup, and integration of carbon capture and storage/overall reduction of CO2 emissions which need developmental attention and careful consideration of gasifier type and process options.
The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy performs biomass gasification research for developing rural power generation.
In Japan, J-POWER and the Japanese government’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) developed the Energy Application for Gas, Liquid, and Electricity (EAGLE) project. This program was aimed at developing a Japanese-built, advanced oxygen-blown, single-chamber, dual stage, spiral-flow gasifier to efficiently produce syngas for multiple applications including fuels, chemicals, and hydrogen. The EAGLE gasifier was successfully developed. The idea of adding a fuel cell to the gasification-combined cycle system to realize an integrated gasification fuel cell combined cycle (IGFC) system was pursued in the Osaki CoolGen project, which underwent verification tests with an integrated 1.2 MW solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) in 2022. CO2 is readily captured from the SOFC exhaust for storage or utilization at a capture rate of 90%. This is a significant accomplishment, demonstrating a carbon neutrality pathway for coal power and the world’s first operating IGFC system.
South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is Africa’s oldest research organization, with a history of coal combustion, gasification, and pyrolysis R&D. A fluidized bed combustion pilot plant offers testing opportunities for cleaner energy options involving low grade fuels such as waste coal, cofiring fuels, and fuel preparation.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in the U.K. currently has oversight of government supported gasification projects. The emphasis has been on wastes and waste wood gasification. In general, past projects have not often been successful for either higher electrical generation efficiencies or to produce syngas suitable for production of hydrocarbon fuels1
The Biomass and Fossil Fuel Research Alliance (BF2RA) in the U.K. promotes research and studies in the production, distribution and use of biomass and fossil fuels and their derivatives, and minimization of by-products and assessment of environmental impacts.