gasifier optimization

The Gasifier Optimization and Plant Supporting Systems key technology area focuses on improving the performance and reducing the costs of advanced gasifiers. Specifically, current projects focus on creating models to better understand the kinetics and particulate behavior of fuel inside a gasifier.  This work supports development of a highly advanced gasifier optimally configured with its supporting systems, which would incorporate the most aggressive and successful technologies resulting from both Gasification Systems program and other DOE programs. Anticipated improvements include highly efficient new reactors for smaller scale applications and superior products, systems integration to increase efficiency and reduce costs plant-wide, and allow for more use of low-cost, low rank coals, expanding opportunities for gasification systems and lowering feedstock costs. Additionally, research projects are also under way to optimize microbially converting coal to methane.

Microbial Enhanced Coalbed Systems (MECS) (RIC Task 2)
NETL’s Research & Innovation Center (R&IC) is conducting research to investigate enhancing coal-to-methane conversion of unmineable coalbeds utilizing the naturally occurring subsurface microbial community. This simplifies above ground processes by reducing the balance-of-plant operations and costs, and converts an unusable resource into a viable energy source.

  • Coal-to-Methane Characterization and Stimulation (Subtask 2.1) – The goal of this Subtask is to characterize the geochemistry, geology, and microbiology of various coal basins to evaluate the potential naturally occurring coal-to-methane production and determine the mechanisms to stimulate coal-to-methane production.
  • Micro-Field Laboratory (Subtask 2.2) – The goal of this Subtask is to begin project planning and development for in situ microbial enhanced coalbed experiments. This experiment will serve to test and amend MECS installation/operational procedures before full commercial deployment.
  • Optimization, Scale-up, and Design of Coal-Dependent Methanogenesis in Preparation for In Situ Field Demonstration

Process and Reaction Intensification (R&IC Task 3)
NETL’s R&IC is focused on developing new reactors and reaction pathways that enablable process intensification and/or reduce the overall cost of small-scale energy conversion. The initial focus is to investigate new reactors and reactions such that a techno-economic analysis can be performed to determine the benefit of the technology and provide R&D guidance on technology goals. Later, the focus will shift to determining realistic goals and refining the pathway to achieve those technology specific goals.

  • Microwave Reactions for Gasification (Subtask 3.1) – This subtask is focused on understanding how and if microwave-based reactions for coal conversion to value-added chemicals at relatively low temperatures are feasible.
  • Non-Traditional Thermal Reactors (Subtask 3.2) – Focusing on the development of advanced non-traditional thermal reactors is aimed at achieving the primary goal of process intensification. This is being conducted to provide: (1) smaller reactors, (2) better performing reactors, and (3) reactors with lower costs.
  • Enabling Materials and Manufacturing Technologies (Subtask 3.3) – The objective of this effort is to identify materials and manufacturing technology that will allow the rapid construction and evaluation of computer modeled advanced reactor system designs to process specific carbon feedstock materials.
  • Gasification Test Stand (Subtask 3.4) – This Subtask will provide a small flexible test stand where the CFD software can be tested and new reactors and materials can be tested quickly and cost effectively without having to go outside of NETL. Importantly, this system can be instrumented and modified such that staff can quickly test their new products in an actual gasifier and exposed to process conditions.
  • Oxygen Carrier Development (Subtask 3.5) – This Subtask will conduct research into oxygen carrier materials and provide information about the link between composition and carrier performance with a focus on use of these materials in modular reactor systems.
  • CHP Reactor Design, Construction, and Testing (Subtask 3.7) – Effort in this Subtask will be focused on designing, building, and testing 2-3 CFD optimized reactors in the 5-20 kW gasification test stand in Subtask 3.4 as well as move the reactors that demonstrate the most economic benefit (via systems analysis) to the larger 0.2-0.5 MWe scale.
  • CTL Reactor Design, Construction, and Testing (Subtask 3.8) – Effort in this Subtask will be focused on designing, building, and testing 1-2 CFD optimized reactors in the 5-20 kW gasification test stand in Subtask 3.4 as well as move the reactors that demonstrate the most economic benefit (via systems analysis) to the larger 0.2-0.5 MWe scale.

In addition to work being done by R&IC, TDA Research is working to determine the kinetic benefits of small coal particles in order to reduce the cost of smaller-scale coal gasification units. Smaller-scale coal gasification has commercial potential for on-site/on-demand power generation or as part of modular fuels and chemicals production facilities. This project supports this need.

Virtual Reactor Design, Validation, and Optimization (R&IC Task 4)
NETL’s R&IC is focused on the creation and validation of advanced computational toolsets for design and optimization of novel reactor systems. These toolsets will be based on the use of multiphase CFD to predict reactor performance, and the simulation-based optimization that use these predictions to meet optimal performance criteria.

  • Simulation-Based Optimization Toolset – Development, Application, Validation (Subtask 4.2) – Efforts in this area will focus on the development and use of multiphase modeling tools to design radically engineered modular reactor systems that can separate solid particles and predict the effect of different reactor geometries, temperature zones, pressure differentials, gas velocity field gradients, and other reactor characteristics on the gasification of coal/coal-biomass and its conversion into electrical power and/or liquid fuels. These modeling efforts will be used to lead the development of both cold- and hot-flow prototype reactors fabricated by 3D printing and advanced manufacturing techniques, which can be used to validate computational modeling.
  • CFD Application and Validation for Chemical Looping Devices (Subtask 4.3) – The emphasis in this work will be the use of multiphase CFD tools and simulation-based optimization techniques to better understand the solids separation processes and thermal management and to use this knowledge to develop novel, optimized designs for these chemical looping systems. A validation hierarchy will be used to demonstrate the efficacy of modeling and optimization tools.

Defining and Evaluating Modular Performance and Cost Metrics (SE&A) (R&IC Task 5)
The objective of this Task is to define small-scale (1 MWe), coal and coal/biomass-based energy conversion systems and develop performance and cost estimates for such systems. Efforts will focus on developing cost and performance estimates which, to the extent feasible, represent commercial, state-of-the-art system components at the desired scale.

  • Gasification Feasibility Study for 1 MWe Coal to Power (Subtask 5.1) – The primary work product of this Subtask will be a feasibility study of a 1 MWe coal gasification-based combined heat and power (CHP) system. The objective of the study is to establish a system definition and provide baseline performance and cost estimates. The study will serve as the benchmark for small-scale coal gasification to power systems in order to inform and guide related R&D efforts and develop ARS program goals and metrics.
  • A 1 MWe Coal to Heat and Power Process with Improved Economics (Subtask 5.3) – This Subtask will be responsible for developing a 1 MWe CHP processes that has a proposed economic value better than the current SOA process developed in Subtask 5.1. It will utilize any R&IC technology that is developed as well as extramurally developed technologies, but will utilize at least one reactor that has been optimized using the CFD code developed at NETL.

Gasifiers for High H2 Syngas Production
Gas Technology Institute (GTI) has further developed an advanced pilot-scale gasifier for use in a first-of-a-kind, commercially relevant demonstration plant. Research has been conducted on advanced water-gas shift processes and catalysts for testing at pilot-plant scale, to reduce the cost of high-hydrogen syngas production.

The Ohio State University recently completed research utilizing chemical looping to separately produce hydrogen and CO2 from gasification of carbonaceous feedstocks including coal.

Alstom focused research on chemical looping for conversion of coal to high-hydrogen syngas for power generation and/or liquid fuel production in a recently completed project.

Additional information on all of these projects can be found in the Recently Completed Projects section below.

Modular Gasification
The University of Alaska-Fairbanks is developing a Front-End Engineering Design (FEED) study to develop cost estimates examining the potential for modular/small-scale coal gasification units.

The University of Kentucky is presently working on two projects associated with modular gasification. The first is a FEED study related to a 5MWe polygeneration plant utilizing waste coal fines and biomass. The second involves research associated with testing a staged opposed multi-burner gasifier for a modular version of a commercial gasification technology.

Southern Research Institute is performing research to develop a modular pressurized oxygen-blown gasifier that is simple to operate and minimizes tar production.

National Carbon Capture CenterNational Carbon Capture Center
Transport Reactor Integrated Gasification (TRIG™), originally developed by Kellogg, Brown, and Root (KBR) based on the company's fluidized catalytic cracking technology, has been enhanced through extensive testing by Southern Company at the Power Systems Development Facility in cooperation with NETL. Testing corroborated that the gasifier effectively handles low-rank coals (e.g., Powder River Basin lignite), which account for half of the worldwide coal reserves but are often considered uneconomic as energy sources due to high moisture and ash contents.

Systems Analyses
As part of the support for the Gasifier Optimization and Plant Supporting Systems key technology area, systems studies are being conducted to provide unbiased comparisons of competing technologies, determine the best way to integrate process technology steps, and predict the economic and environmental impacts of successful development.

Recently Completed Projects:

Archived Projects:

Other key technologies within Gasification Systems include the following: