Moving Science

Southern Research Successfully Demonstrates Unique Coal and Biomass Mixture Feeder

September 2, 2011

Could Reduce the Cost of Greenhouse Gas Emission Control on New Coal-Fired Power Plants

DURHAM, N.C. -Southern Research Institute today announced that its Clean Energy Technology Development Center in Durham, North Carolina has achieved an important milestone in the effort to find low-cost technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The technology development, a collaboration between Southern Research and TK Energi A/S of Denmark, successfully combined both coal and biomass feedstocks for use in coal-fired power stations of the future called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) systems. Use of biomass-as a supplement to coal-would allow power stations to take credit for the carbon dioxide that plants and trees take out of the atmosphere as they grow and mature. The program was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), with additional financial support from Southern Research and TK Energi.

In contrast to bulky and expensive lockhoppers, the prototype feeder creates a highly-compressed “plug” of coal and biomass, so dense that the high pressure inside commercial-scale gasifiers is held back as the material is pushed into the gasifier. The primary challenge related to biomass utilization in IGCC power plants has been the inability to reliably feed a variety of biomass feedstocks to the gasifier as biomass-coal mixtures. Southern Research and TK Energi have shown this challenge can be overcome.

“When we reached 450 pounds per square inch of pressure, and the feeder was still holding back pressure and increasing in feed rate, we knew we had a winner. There was a lot of high-fiving going on,” said Santosh Gangwal, Ph.D. project leader for Southern Research.

The prototype piston-driven plug feed system was demonstrated using a blend of two coal types (bituminous and lignite) and three biomass feedstocks (woody biomass, prairie grass, and corn stover) fed into a pressurized simulated gasifier environment up to 450 pounds per square inch.

“The key innovation in this project is the integration of existing technologies that complement one another very well,” said Dr. Gangwal.

About the Clean Energy Development Center

Southern Research has considerable experience in developing and evaluating technologies for the power industry. Southern Research’s Clean Energy Development Center is located on a 28-acre site in Durham, NC and includes 30,000 square feet of industrial high-bay space for development of pilot and prototype energy and advanced fuels production technologies.

About Southern Research

Southern Research Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization that conducts advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, environment and energy, and preclinical drug discovery and development. Southern Research has more than 550 scientific and engineering staff that support clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., Southern Research has facilities in Wilsonville, Ala., Frederick, Md., and Durham, NC and offices in New Orleans, La., Washington, DC and Kiev, Ukraine.

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