The Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota, along with one of its major corporate partners, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc. (PWR), announced the commissioning of a unique commercial-scale gasification technology on April 10, 2012.
The prototype dry solids feed pump system developed by PWR can process 400 tons/day of solid fuels, such as coal and biomass, and paves the way for high-efficiency, low-emission gasification.
“The system is designed to align with the needs of a commercial-scale plant, so testing it at the EERC is a perfect fit,” said Tim Saunders, PWR Integrated Process Team Leader. “The fact that the EERC is experienced in coal and coal handling and has the facilities to accommodate a commercial-scale unit prototype makes the EERC an ideal location for verifying performance characteristics on the pump.”
A variety of coal feedstocks will be tested with the pump over the next 12 months.
“This demonstration emphasizes the practical, problem solving, commercial deployment of new technologies at the EERC,” said EERC Director Gerald Groenewold. “It is one of many strategic partnerships between the EERC and the private sector focused on demonstration of cutting-edge technologies, allowing the utilization of fossil fuels in an extremely clean, environmentally friendly scenario that allows for long-term energy security for our country.”
The development of the technology is a result of a collaborative effort between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), PWR, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions, and the EERC.
“This project stems from interest on the part of DOE and NETL to commercialize gasification as a strategic energy platform,” Saunders said. “This is an opportunity for us to utilize our natural resources efficiently and, most importantly, cleanly, which is what the whole gasification process is expected to provide,” he said.
The ceremony will showcase the technology, which is designed to feed a wide range of fuels, including coals, petcoke, and coal–biomass blends at a higher pressure (1200 psi) than any current gasifier. The high pressure allows such solid fuels to be utilized more efficiently and cleanly. It also allows the gasification system equipment to be scaled down in size, reducing the overall cost of the gasification process.
PWR’s compact gasifier is designed to provide a 90% decrease in size compared to competing systems, thereby enabling higher efficiency, and as much as a 25% reduction in cost with enhanced reliability. In addition, the cost to build a commercial-scale compact gasification plant using PWR’s technology is estimated to be 20% less than conventional gasification plants. It’s also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 10% compared to standard gasification technologies.
Design of the system was cofunded by DOE NETL, with the understanding that the pump will be made commercially available to U.S. companies in support of several gasification technologies.