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From Solid Feedstock to Liquid Fuel

The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) is expanding its support of the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology, Inc. (CCAT) effort to convert solid and gaseous fuels to synthesis gas for catalytic conversion to liquid fuels for U.S. military applications. The EERC will continue demonstrating gasification-based technologies for converting feedstocks such as coal, supplemented with various types and amounts of biomass, into liquid fuels. This testing supports CCAT’s work for the U.S. government.

Driving the work is the U.S. military’s commitment to energy security through utilization of domestic resources for producing specification-compliant fuels with life cycle carbon dioxide emissions that are equal to or less than those of their petroleum-derived counterparts. Military feedstock options for liquid fuels are currently nearly 100% petroleum. The overall goal of the CCAT project is to provide additional data for the production of liquid fuels for military applications utilizing a wide variety of feedstocks.

Section 526 of the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act requires that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all transportation fuels used by the government be below the life cycle emission levels of petroleum-derived products. Analysis shows that liquid fuel production using coal–biomass blends results in a net reduction of GHG emissions compared to traditional petroleum resources if carbon capture technologies are employed. Limits in biomass supply and quantities will require any system utilizing renewable feedstocks to be fuel-flexible to account for variations in transportation costs and seasonal supply. Demonstration of the conversion of these feedstocks in gasification systems is a critical step in moving the technologies forward.

In January 2010, CCAT began investigating different gasification techniques to assist the military’s mandate on becoming more energy independent through the utilization of sustainable energy and fuels. The EERC had performed testing previously in its unique gasification systems and had shown that a highly clean gas could be produced from coal and coal–biomass blends, which is essential for the production of quality liquid fuel. A partnership was formed to test the viability of various coal and biomass blends as feedstocks for jet fuel production.

“By developing systems that can produce alternative liquid fuels and power, the U.S. military sees the potential for improved energy security, competitive fuel costs, increased efficiency, and environmental sustainability,” according to EERC Deputy Associate Director for Research Mike Holmes, who is the project manager for the EERC testing. “Cofeeding biomass with the coal and utilizing CO2 capture technologies will allow us to minimize CO2 emissions from these energy systems.

“The military has been good at developing products that private companies and consumers can benefit from,” Holmes added. “This has the possibility for development of moderate-scale systems that allow distributed production of power and fuels, utilizing coal and regional sources of biomass.”

The EERC is supporting the CCAT team by using the EERC’s transport reactor development unit and bench-scale entrained-flow gasifier (EFG) systems to evaluate the impact of fuel quality and operating conditions on synthesis gas composition, gas cleanup, system performance, overall process efficiency, and CO2 emissions.

CCAT awarded the EERC an additional $2,222,215 for an expanded scope of work through early 2014, bringing the program total to $3,128,785. The initial project, evaluating coal and coal–wood blends, was completed in September 2012. That testing used both raw and specially treated wood.

“The intent of Phase II is to extend the testing to include different amounts of biomass as well as different types of biomass: switchgrass, corn stover, and chipped railroad ties,” said Holmes. “We’re also looking at co-feeding the gasifier with natural gas and different amounts of wood as well as algae.”

“We’re evaluating feed type and conditions to determine the operational performance, and then with those results,” Holmes added, “the technical viability testing will provide data that can also be used to evaluate the economics of producing alternative liquid fuels.”