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Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations The Graduate School

2011

Downdraft Gasification of Various Biomass


Feedstocks for Energy Production
Hans Roesch

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THE FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY

FAMU-FSU COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

DOWNDRAFT GASIFICATION OF VARIOUS BIOMASS FEEDSTOCKS FOR

ENERGY PRODUCTION

By

HANS ROESCH

A Thesis submitted to the


Department of Mechanical Engineering
in partial fulfillment of the
requirements for the degree of
Master of Science

Degree Awarded:
Fall Semester, 2011
Hans Roesch defended this thesis on November 07, 2011.

The members of the supervisory committee were:

Anjaneyulu Krothapalli
Professor Directing Thesis

Juan Carlos Ordonez


Committee Member

Jonathan Clark
Committee Member

The Graduate School has verified and approved the above-named committee members, and
certifies that the thesis has been approved in accordance with university requirements.

ii
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I would like to acknowledge my advisor Dr. Anjaneyulu Krothapalli for providing me


with guidance and financial support. I appreciated the opportunity to work, research, and
study at the Energy and Sustainability Center (ESC) at Florida State University. I would
also like to thank my colleague in biomass gasification research, Phd candidate John Das-
comb, for all of his help with project direction, experiments, data processing, writing, and
editing. I would also like to thank the past and present ESC researchers including Brenton
Greska, Jonathan Pandolfini, Shannon Ingersoll, Justin Kramer and Ifegwu Eziyi for all of
their help and input. I would like to thank Juan Carlos Ordonez and Jonathan Clark for
serving on my thesis committee. I want to thank the staff of the Mechanical Engineering
department; George Green, Delandrea Humose, and Jon Cloos for clerical assistance and
purchasing help. Finally, I would also like to thank everyone at the fluids research lab for
their support and understanding during loud and sometimes aromatic experiments. All of
this work would not have been possible without your help and support.
I would also like to extend thanks to all of the companies that provided pelletized
biomass for experimentation. Thanks to:

PetroAlgae for supplying the BioCrude algae pellets

Free Clean Energy LLC for the municpal solid waste pellets

Renewable Energy Crops for the miscanthus pellets

BioPlus Inc. for the peanut shell pellets

Enviro Energy LLC for the field grass pellets

I would like to give special thanks to my brother, Karl Roesch, for helping me out when
I needed it and for his late night graphic design help. I want to acknowledge my parents
(Patric and Laura Roesch), my aunt (Missy Gunnels), and my uncle (Mike Schneider) for
their support and the occasional free meal. I would also like to thank several good friends
including Mindy Hall, Nancy McCabe, Lauralee Neno, Paul Prestarri, Sean Ficht, Branden
Perry, and Genevieve Turner for their support and help with keeping me motivated.

iii
TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
List of Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii
Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . x

1 Introduction 1
1.1 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
1.1.1 Renewable Energy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
1.1.2 Biomass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
1.1.3 Gasification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.2 Project Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.2.1 Motivation and Relevance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
1.2.2 Goals and Objectives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

2 Experiment Development 8
2.1 Equipment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.1.1 Gasifier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2.1.2 Engine and Generator Set . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
2.1.3 Heat Exchanger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.1.4 Measurement Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.2 Procedure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2.1 Feedstock Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2.2 Gasifier and Total System Characterization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
2.2.3 Syngas from Various Feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

3 Experiment Results 21
3.1 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3.2 Feedstock Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3.3 Gasifier and Total System Characterization . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
3.4 Syngas from Various Feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
3.5 Error Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34

4 Model Development 35
4.1 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
4.2 Thermodynamic Equilibrium Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
4.2.1 Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
4.2.2 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37

iv
4.3 Model Adjustment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
4.3.1 Method . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
4.3.2 Results . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
4.4 Model Comparison and Testing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

5 Extended Analysis 47
5.1 Background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
5.2 Feedstock Selection . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
5.3 Syngas Modelling and Expected Performance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
5.4 Cost Analysis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
5.5 Environmental Impacts and Sustainability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53

6 Conclusion 54
6.1 Relevant Contributions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
6.2 Overview and Final Remarks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
6.3 Future Work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Biographical Sketch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58

v
LIST OF TABLES

3.1 Proximate analysis data for experimental feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

3.2 Ultimate analysis elemental breakdown for experimental feedstocks . . . . . . 22

3.3 Ultimate analysis higher heating values for experimental feedstocks . . . . . . 23

3.4 Average experimental efficiencies for gasifier and system characterization . . 29

3.5 Engine, generator, and heat exchanger performance with pure methane . . . 29

3.6 Principal component experimental syngas compositions . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

3.7 Heavy hydrocarbon components in experimental syngas compositions . . . . 30

3.8 Calculated dry basis syngas heating values from experiments . . . . . . . . . 31

3.9 System performance parameters calculated from feedstock experiment data . 32

3.10 Expected system performance parameters calculated for each experimental


feedstock . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32

4.1 Equilibrium model dry basis syngas compositions for experimental feedstocks 37

4.2 Equilibrium model dry basis syngas heating values for experimental feedstocks 39

4.3 Adjusted model dry basis syngas compositions for experimental feedstocks . 41

4.4 Adjusted model dry basis syngas heating values for experimental feedstocks . 42

4.5 Experimental(reported), equilibrium and adjusted model lower heating values


for researched feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

5.1 Researched feedstock composition parameters needed for adjusted model cal-
culations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

5.2 Adjusted model dry basis syngas composition for researched feedstocks . . . 48

5.3 System performance parameters for researched feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . 49

5.4 Regional variation in levelized cost of energy for different generation resources [4] 50

vi
5.5 Cost and energy output expected for all feedstocks [7], [28], [11], [5] . . . . . 51

5.6 Levelized cost of energy for electrical and total system operation by feedstock 52

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LIST OF FIGURES

1.1 World marketed energy consumption, 2007-2035 (Quadrillion BTU) . . . . . 1

1.2 Current biomass conversion methods overview [33] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

1.3 Biomass source percentages in world primary energy mix [9] . . . . . . . . . 4

1.4 Schematic comparison of several different types of gasifiers [21] . . . . . . . . 6

2.1 Ankur Scientific gasifier used in experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

2.2 Section schematic of gasifier and syngas cleaning system . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

2.3 Prakash engine and generator set used in experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

2.4 Eagle Eye Power load-bank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

2.5 Gasifier system master control box . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

2.6 Heat exchanger attached to engine before and after insulation . . . . . . . . . 12

2.7 Typical experimental gas chromatograph readout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

2.8 Thermocouple locations inside gasifier . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

2.9 Diagram of system processes in experiments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

2.10 Power and energy flow rate diagram for the system, where: . . . . . . . . . . 17

3.1 Composite wet basis proximate analysis for experimental feedstocks . . . . . 22

3.2 Composite dry basis elemental ultimate analysis for experimental feedstocks 23

3.3 Ultimate analysis heating values for experimental feedstocks . . . . . . . . . 24

3.4 Thermocouple temperature development without engine . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

3.5 Thermocouple temperature development with engine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

3.6 Internal temperature profile and reaction zone locations without engine . . . 26

3.7 Internal temperature profile and reaction zone locations with engine . . . . . 26

viii
3.8 Syngas composition and lower heating value development with engine . . . . 27

3.9 Temperature difference for water across heat exchanger at various flow rates 28

3.10 System efficiencies at various heat exchanger water flow rates . . . . . . . . . 28

3.11 Composite principle component experimental syngas compositions . . . . . . 30

3.12 Experimental syngas heating values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

3.13 Calculated system efficiencies for experimental feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . 33

3.14 Solid fuel heating value and expected power output for experimental feedstocks 34

4.1 Average error in equilibrium model syngas composition for experimental feed-
stocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

4.2 Average error of equilibrium model for each syngas component in all experi-
mental feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38

4.3 Error of equilibrium model to experimental heating value by feedstock . . . . 39

4.4 Average error in adjusted model syngas composition for experimental feedstocks 41

4.5 Average error of adjusted model for each syngas component in all experimental
feedstocks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

4.6 Error of adjusted model to experimental heating value for each feedstock . . 43

4.7 Error in heating values computed with equilibrium and adjusted model to
reported experimental values . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44

4.8 Average error to reported experimental values in syngas composition for all
feedstocks with both models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

4.9 Average error to reported experimental values by component for all feedstocks
combined with both models . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45

ix
ABSTRACT

Gasification of biomass for energy production has the potential to be a cost effective and
environmentally sustainable technology. Small scale, 20-250 kWth, downdraft gasifiers have
the ability to provide power from low cost regionally available fuel sources. This technology
will be beneficial to many people in rural developing areas that lack access to traditional
energy sources.
A commercial 50 kWth downdraft gasifier providing fuel to an internal combustion
engine/generator set was tested. The entire system was characterized to determine the
operational parameters, electrical efficiency, and combined heat and power efficiency. The
electrical efficiency was found to be 14.5%, and the combined efficiency was found to be
36.5%. The gasifier was tested with different feedstocks to determine operational parameters
and synthesis gas composition resulting from different known fuel compositions. The data
from these experiments was used to develop a model for predicting this systems performance
for any fuel with known composition. The model and experimental data can be used to
determine the cost-effectiveness of using a small scale downdraft gasifier for energy based on
regional cost information. Research was conducted to determine the cost and composition
of many different biomass sources. This researched information was used with the model
and experimental data to determine this systems levelized cost of energy using various
feedstocks . For all experimental and researched feedstocks, the average levelized costs were
$ $
101.60 M W h and 39.80 M W h for electricity and combined heat and power respectively.

x
CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background
Energy is an indirectly observed quantity often understood as the ability of a system to
perform work. The development of human society has been tied to the ability to produce
and harness energy. With early humans, energy was used for the most basic life sustaining
needs, and as energy technology developed, the standard of living increased with it. In
modern society, energy is still used for basic needs, but many more uses have become inte-
grated into regular life. Daily activities such as heating, cooling, cooking,and entertainment
require the use of energy. On a societal scale, transportation, agricultural and industrial
production require large amounts of energy. It is difficult to project what energy demand
will be in the future due to a wide range of variables, but the US Energy Information Ad-
ministration prepared an International Energy Outlook in 2010 that predicts a 50 percent
increase in consumption by 2035 [14]. Figure 1.1 seen below shows the projected worldwide
consumption of energy through 20351 .

Figure 1.1: World marketed energy consumption, 2007-2035 (Quadrillion BTU)

1
Current OECD member countries (as of March 10, 2010) are the United States, Canada, Mexico,
Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ire-
land, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland,
Turkey, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

1
The previous figure shows that the majority of projected future energy consumption increases are
the result of non-OECD countries. Most of these are developing countries. In these countries, most
of the latter half of the 20th century has shown marked trends toward large scale urbanization. This
leads to politically and economically dominant urban areas. However, many of these developing
countries still have large rural populations with very limited access to electricity. It is estimated
that the power requirement for basic healthy functioning in these rural communities is less than 1
percent of an average persons usage in the United States at about 0.08 kWh/day/person [16]. Even
this small amount of energy can be quite costly and hard to access for these rural areas. Extending
an electric grid to a low capacity rural area can cost over seven times the cost of providing electricity
to an urban area [33]. This is why small scale self supporting energy production utilizing regional
resources are ideally suited for these rural and developing areas.

1.1.1 Renewable Energy


Renewable energy is derived from naturally replenishing resources such as the sun, wind, rain,
tides and geothermal heat. About 81%, 405 EJ, of energy produced today is fossil fuel based [9].
Fossil fuels are sporadically distributed with many countries having little to no domestic fossil
fuel resources. The wide variety of renewable energy resources are distributed much more evenly.
Everywhere on earth will have regional access to at least some energy from these sources.
Wind energy can be characterized as the conversion of the kinetic energy of air mass driven by
solar energy. Solar radiation can be used for heating and direct conversion to electricity. Other
renewables used today are hydropower, marine energy, and geothermal power. Since these are
derived from the natural energy flows through the Earths ecosystem, there are derivative sources
that are also considered renewable. Biomass energy is the upward concentration of energy in the
ecosystem generally starting from plant growth through converting the suns radiation and soil
bound elements into more complex organic molecules. While many of the renewable sources are
used in large scale plants, some can be extended for use in small scale distributed systems. Small
solar photovoltaic systems power millions of households worldwide. Over 44 million households
worldwide rely on biomass based fuels for cooking and lighting, and over 166 million use new high
efficiency biomass burning stoves [15]. This is just a small part of the massive amounts of energy
available through Earths natural energy flows. The use of these renewable sources generally boils
down to economic and political competitiveness with traditional sources. In industrialized nations
and large urban areas in developing nations the competition is fierce with fossil fuels because of cost.
However, in rural areas of developing countries the use of small scale distributed energy production
with regionally available renewable sources can be a cost effective alternative to extending existing
grids or constructing new plants.

1.1.2 Biomass
Biomass is a basic term for all organic biological material that, at the elemental level, is primarily
composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. The food supply for humanity is essentially biomass
converted to energy by the body. Therefore, from a sustainable standpoint, biomass for societal
energy production needs to minimize overlap with the food supply. As biomass for energy expands,
it will become more intertwined with agriculture for the food supply. These markets should naturally
balance based on supply and demand, but energy markets can be very volatile. With more overlap
between the two, the food supply could become subjected to volatility the energy market. This could
lead to precarious situations, especially in regions already struggling with food supply issues. The
actual implications of this market overlap are not fully known and are a topic of current economic
policy debate. As the biomass for energy market expands, care needs to be taken in observing the
impacts of these market overlaps because the bottom line is food or fuel. This is why the main
sources of biomass for energy in descending order of useage are wood, agricultural by-products,

2
dedicated energy crops, and municipal or industrial waste [9].
Biomass has been used as an energy source by humans for heating, cooking, and lighting for
400,000 years. It wasnt until about 40,000 years ago that re-useable structures to contain fire began
to be used by hunter-gatherers. As settled groups of humans began to form, the uses for biomass as
an energy source expanded. It was still the primary heating and cooking source, but it also began to
be used to process materials for building and tools. The next major technological advance occurred
with industrialization and the understanding of energy conversion techniques. The heat produced
through combustion could now be harnessed like never before by converting liquid water into steam.
Soon after these new energy conversion techniques began to be implemented, many more uses for
biomass were developed. New thermochemical conversion techniques for carbonaceous fuels were
being developed in the early 1800s. Coal and peat were being turned into gaseous fuels for town
lighting and heat. Further understanding of thermodynamics and chemistry have allowed for the
development of many different methods of harnessing the energy contained in biomass.
There are many current technologies for harnessing the energy contained in biomass that run
across a wide range of methods, products, and uses. An overview of these methods and their products
can be seen in figure 1.2.

Figure 1.2: Current biomass conversion methods overview [33]

The thermochemical conversions make up the majority of the current use of biomass. This is largely
because combustion is still widely applied on the domestic scale in both rural and developed nations
for space heating and cooking. It is also extensively used on an industrial scale for process heat
and electricity. Another thermochemical conversion, gasification, is a process of converting carbon
based fuels into simpler gaseous fuels. For the production of electricity and heat, gasification is
commercially applied. However, for fuel production of hydrogen and hydrocarbons, it is still currently
in development phases [33]. Pyrolysis is the thermochemical conversion of biomass into charcoal,

3
methane, and tars in the absence of oxygen. It has been commercially used for the production
of charcoal for a long time. For the production of bio-oils, accomplished by refining the tars into
heavy liquid fuels, it is in development phases. The biochemical conversion methods are less used,
but do provide fuels to the commercial market. Fermentation of sugar and starch crops for ethanol
production has a sizeable market. It is also being developed for woody biomass sources. Digestion
to produce other liquid bio-fuels is commercially applied. These are some of the main technologies
for the use of biomass in various stages of implementation. There is a large amount of research into
new methods as well as refinements to these methods for better efficiencies and cleaner production.
Biomass continues to supply an increasing share of electricity and heat, and provides the majority
of all heat produced from renewable sources.
Biomass could potentially be one of the worlds largest energy sources. With a diverse range
of feedstocks, it is estimated that the annual biomass potential could be as high as 1500 EJ/yr by
2050 [9]. However, when sustainability constraints are taken into account, the estimates fall between
200 and 500 EJ/yr. Today, biomass represents roughly 45 EJ/yr, or about 10 percent of the worlds
energy supply [33]. A further breakdown by percentages can be seen in figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3: Biomass source percentages in world primary energy mix [9]

It can be seen in figure 1.3 that the largest percentage of biomass used is woody biomass. This is
due in large part to the widespread use of domestic heating and power plant combustion of wood
biomass that has been in widespread use for a long time. As many of the newer technologies and
refinements enter the market, this balance will begin to shift. The traditional uses of biomass are
not sustainable and can cause indoor and outdoor air pollution. Newer technologies have proven the
potential to create clean energy carriers that would create less pollution than traditional uses. As
technologies develop and become more cost effective they can begin to compete with fossil fuels. This
is especially true in rural developing areas because biomass resources are distributed more evenly
than many other energy sources. Biomass as an energy source could also fuel the need to modernize
agriculture in the rural developing areas which would have many positive impacts as long as it is
sustainably practised.

1.1.3 Gasification
Gasification, as mentioned in the previous section, is a well proven technology that has been
employed in various forms for almost 200 years. The process was discovered in 1798 in France

4
and England independently [1]. It is essentially an oxygen limited thermochemical conversion of
carbonaceous material to a useable gaseous fuel. This gaseous fuel, known as synthesis gas(syngas),
produced by the process has several advantages over the direct combustion of biomass. The syngas
burns more efficiently, with less emissions, and the flame can be controlled for sensitive industrial
processes. This means that it can be run directly into engines or turbines for transportation or power
generation. After its initial discovery, the technology for the process developed quickly. By 1850,
much of London was lit by syngas from coal gasification. The technology spread to the United States
and by 1920, many American cities provided coal gasification syngas as a public utility. Over the next
few decades, cheap availability of natural gas and oil displaced the more expensive manufactured
syngas with a few notable exceptions [1]. During World War 2 in Europe, petroleum shortages led
to almost a million vehicles running off small gasifiers using mainly wood as the fuel source [3].
The technology remained relatively stagnant until the late 1970s when energy availability concerns
surfaced again. This concern coupled with a developing understanding of environmental impact of
energy production has helped create a renewed interest in developing gasification technology.
The gasification process is a series of temperature dependent thermochemical conversions of
carbonaceous material. The kinetics of these reactions will vary between the different types of
gasifiers, but the fundamentals will remain the same. In a typical gasifier the first step the biomass
undergoes is a dehydration process which begins to occur at 100 C. The resulting steam evaporated
from the biomass is drawn into the gas flow, and depending on temperature may be involved in later
chemical reactions. The next step in the process is pyrolysis, which occurs between 200 and 600 C
depending on the amount of oxygen present in the gasifier. The process involves the breaking down
of the biomass into char, which is a solid high carbon content residue, and gaseous H2 , CH4 , and
tars. In the presence of oxygen a combustion process is also occurring where the volatiles and some
of the char react with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and release heat. This heat is used to sustain
pyrolysis and cause the subsequent thermochemical reactions. Equation 1.1 is the basic chemical
equation for combustion of carbon based material.

C + O2 CO2 (1.1)

The heat released from the combustion of a fraction of the biomass allows the gasification process
to occur. Char reacts with steam to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide seen in equation 1.2.
Occurring simultaneously, the reversible water gas shift reaction seen in equation 1.3, is an equilib-
rium reaction that balances the concentrations of the products to a ratio determined by chemical
kinetics.
C + H2 O H2 + CO (1.2)
CO + H2 O CO2 + H2 (1.3)
The previous equations represent a fraction of the reactions occurring inside a gasifier. There are
several different types of gasifiers that take advantage of different aspects of these reactions to achieve
some desired effect on the product gas. Simple schematics for several different types of gasifiers can
be seen in figure 1.4.

5
Figure 1.4: Schematic comparison of several different types of gasifiers [21]

Air gasification is the simplest form of the process. A small amount of air to provide oxygen for the
combustion reaction is the defining characteristic. This method is cheap and reliable, but produces
a low heating value syngas because of the large nitrogen content in air, roughly 78%. The inert
N2 simply dilutes the gas stream. There are two main types of air based gasifiers that can be seen
figure 1.4, updraft and downdraft. The updraft gasifier was the first commercial gasifier for solid
fuels developed in the 1830s [1]. As the name implies air is drawn up through a bed of biomass, and
the reaction zones described by the previous equations develop from the top down. The gasification
reactions develop near the limited air intake and the syngas formed is drawn up through the biomass
bed and out the top. The downdraft gasifier improves on the idea and draws the air directly into
the combustion area contained by a constricted hearth. Syngas is formed in this hearth and drawn
out the bottom through the bed of hot char. Drawing the syngas through the bed of hot char helps
to reduce tar quantities in the syngas, but the nitrogen dilution problem keeps the energy content
low. The energy range of the low heating value syngas from air gasification is from 5.5-7.5 Mm3
J . This

means that the syngas produced has to either be further processed or used on-site to produce power
or heat.
Gasification with oxygen or steam removes the problem of nitrogen in the syngas. Not allowing
air to feed into the system means there is no nitrogen dilution. The reaction equations shift slightly
depending on what method is used. There are two main types of gasifiers used for these modified
methods of gasification that can also be seen in figure 1.4. First, the fluidized bed gasifier has the
fuel fluidized in steam and possibly sand and catalysts. Another method is an entrained flow gasifier
where a pulverized, almost liquid fuel slurry is gasified with oxygen. The superfine dry particles
in the fuel slurry reach very high temperatures which removes almost all of the tars and methane.
These methods of gasification provide much higher heating value syngas with an energy range of
11-19 Mm3
J . The higher energy content is mainly due to not being diluted with nitrogen. Steam

gasification will greatly increase the H2 content in the syngas. The operating parameters of these
methods can be manipulated to create syngas with desired contents of specific components. These
much higher quality fuels come at a cost however, as the reactors are not nearly as simplistic as the
updraft or downdraft gasifiers. These methods also typically require an external heat input which

6
will reduce their overall efficiency.
Gasification as a method of conversion of energy has several advantages over traditional power
generation methods. First, from an environmental standpoint, it can be a carbon neutral process if
practised sustainably. Sustainable agriculture methods have been in practice for a long time. Crop
rotation to keep the land from becoming nutrient deficient is one example. Energy agriculture is
similar, except that energy agriculture has to be concious of the food supply and the CO2 balance
between growth and consumption. Carbon neutrality of biomass for energy means that all of the
CO2 emitted during the gasification process is only what was absorbed during the growth of the
biomass. This means that any harvested biomass needs to be replaced with an equal amount to
truly be carbon neutral. This is not the case with traditional uses of fossil fuels because all of the CO2
in them has been sequestered out of the ecosystem for millions of years. Second, from an economic
standpoint, the cost can be competitive due to the wide variety of fuels that can be used and the
ability to be used on a small scale distributed basis. This becomes an even larger advantage when
the fuel source can be a local agricultural, forestry, or municipal waste product. In rural areas in
developing countries, the use of a small scale energy system using local resources has the potential
to be far more cost effective than traditional energy delivery.

1.2 Project Development


1.2.1 Motivation and Relevance
Fossil fuel costs, environmental concerns, and the need for distributed energy have driven inter-
ests in using gasification of various forms of biomass. The wide range of sources including energy
crops, agricultural waste, and municipal solid waste, create easy accessibility to low cost fuel sources
for gasification almost anywhere in the world. With the power requirement for basic healthy living
in rural areas being less than 1 kWh/day/person [16], small scale downdraft gasifiers running gen-
erators could provide that power for 100 to nearly 1500 people. These units are cheap, easy to use,
require minimal maintenance and support and can drastically improve the lives of rural communities
that have no access to electricity or gas for cooking. The potential for cost effective, sustainable,
and regionally adaptable energy production is the primary motivation for this study.

1.2.2 Goals and Objectives


The main objective to be accomplished in this study is to characterize a commercial small
scale downdraft gasifier and generator set to develop cost estimation for implementation based
on feedstock. The experiments begin with a complete characterization of the operation of this
gasifier with a typical biomass feedstock. The characterization will give a baseline of operational
temperatures, pressures, fuel consumption, syngas production, composition, and heating value. The
next experimental step is to use the syngas produced in the gasifier to power an internal combustion
engine driving an electric generator to determine complete system efficiencies. The engine will then
have an exhaust heat exchanger attached for combined heat and power (CHP). The complete system
efficiency while running CHP will then be characterized. With these conditions established, a variety
of different biomass feedstocks will be tested in the gasifier to determine syngas composition and
heating values. The fuel composition and syngas data from the different feedstock tests will be
used to develop a computer model for predicting syngas composition and heating value for other
feedstocks not tested in this gasifier. This is a valuable prediction tool because being able to estimate
the syngas composition will lend valuable information to the planning stages of implementing these
systems. A designer can compare all available resources for cost of electricity. The experimental data
combined with the data from the computer model will be used to perform some extended analyses.
These will include cost and sustainability analyses. In total, this study will provide a complete
picture of the operation and cost of using this gasifier based on any feedstock selected.

7
CHAPTER 2

EXPERIMENT DEVELOPMENT

2.1 Equipment
A commercial small scale downdraft gasifier was used for the experiments. The engine and
generator set is commercially available and designed to operate off methane or syngas. The exhaust
heat exchanger is a commercial product as well. These are the main components being characterized
in the experiments in this study. This section provides detailed descriptions and specifications about
these components and the measurement devices used to analyse them.

2.1.1 Gasifier
The gasifier used for these experiments was an Ankur Scientific WBG-20 rated at 50 kWth. A
picture of the gasifier can be seen in figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1: Ankur Scientific gasifier used in experiments

8
This air fed gasifier is capable of producing syngas at a rate of up to 60 N m3 /hr. It was designed
primarily for woody biomass, but can handle many different feedstocks if they are pelletized and
have a wet basis moisture content below 25%. A full detailed section view of the gasifier can be seen
in figure 2.2.

Figure 2.2: Section schematic of gasifier and syngas cleaning system

The reference numbers in the following description refer to the locations in figure 2.2. Biomass is fed
into the gasifier as needed through the biomass feeder (1). The feed door (2) allows biomass to enter
into the hopper (3). The stratification of the reactions that occur inside the hopper and reactor
develop as follows; moist biomass sits on top of the bed (4), drying/pyrolysis (5) occur towards the
bottom of the hopper, and pyrolysis/gasification (6) occur from the bottom of the hopper to the
constricted hearth. The gasifier has a 114.3 mm (4.5-inch) restricted hearth, that creates the high
temperature reaction zone. The hearth constriction sits directly above an inert charcoal bed (8). An
induced pressure drop is used to draw in air just above the hearth through two 19 mm (0.75-inch)
air intakes (7). The oxygen in the incoming air combusts with some of the biomass in order to
generate the heat that is then used by the pyrolysis and gasification reactions (6). The resulting
syngas exits through the bottom of the bed along with small particles of ash into an outer chamber
that surrounds the charcoal bed. The ash is pushed out of the charcoal bed by the bed ash rotor
(9) and falls down into an ash removal box (10). The syngas is drawn out of the gasifier through
the use of a venturi water scrubber that sprays into the cyclone separator (11). The venturi induces

9
the pressure drop that draws the air into the gasifier while the engine is not running. After the gas
is drawn out of the reactor it enters a series of apparatuses meant to clean the gas. In the schematic
shown in figure 2.2, the venturi scrubber utilizes a pressurized water spray to cool and drive the
syngas and water mixture into the cyclone separator (11). The cyclone separator causes some of
the tars to fall into the wastewater box (12), which drains into an effluent container. The scrubbed
gas flows into a passive sawdust filter (13) where it is dried and further cleaned before flowing into
a final fiber filter (14). The syngas that exits the fiber filter is now relatively clean and can then
be burned off or run into a modified natural gas engine. The engine creates an additional pressure
draw that increases the air flow into the gasifier, which increases the production and flow of syngas.

2.1.2 Engine and Generator Set


The cleaned and cooled syngas is routed to the engine and generator combination manufactured
by Prakash. This genset, model PNG-15-BM, is designed specifically to be able to run off of syngas
or bio-methane. A picture of the genset can be seen in figure 2.3.

Figure 2.3: Prakash engine and generator set used in experiments

The engine is a twin cylinder, 2280 Lts swept volume, internal combustion engine. It drives the
direct coupled generator that is rated at 230 volts, 50 Hz 3-phase, and 12 kW. The engine has an
automatic air and fuel mixing controller for smooth operation with a variable load. To be able to
maintain a steady operation of the system as a whole, a high power load bank seen in figure 2.4 is
attached to the electrical output of the gasifier control box seen in figure 2.5.

10
Figure 2.4: Eagle Eye Power load-bank

This load bank is designed to field test 120/208 volt three phase generators at 1 kW steps up to 30
kW. It has gauges on the front to show volts, amps and hertz. The generator is rated at 12 kW for
230 V three-phase, which is about 132 V in each phase. The 1 kW step switches are rated at 208
volts or 120 volts per phase. Therefore, the load bank increments are actually about 1.1 kW. The
gauges read the true amps and volts the load is applying so actual power can be computed from
those or seen on the display of the gasifier control box in figure 2.5.

Figure 2.5: Gasifier system master control box

The control box, seen closed on the left and open on the right in figure 2.5, serves several purposes.
First, the main electrical output from the generator exits the main circuit breaker from this control
box. Second, it operates the controls for all of the actuators on the gasifier like the feed door and
the air inlet covers. Finally, it has digital readouts for volts, amps, hertz, and power. These can be
used to verify and check the values displayed on the traditional gauges of the load bank.

11
2.1.3 Heat Exchanger
To improve the total system efficiency an exhaust heat exchanger was added to the engines
exhaust output to capture waste heat. The heat exchanger is commercially available from Polar
Power Incorporated. Polar Powers model 30 exhaust heat exchanger is designed to work with 5-20
kW engine powered generators. This heat exchanger is a spiral plate counterflow heat exchanger
that converts waste exhaust heat into more useable heated water. It can be seen attached to the
engine in figure 2.6.

Figure 2.6: Heat exchanger attached to engine before and after insulation

The heat exchanger was tested first without insulation, but significant surface temperature indicated
that insulation would greatly benefit in decreasing heat loss. Therefore, the entire heat exchanger
was covered in silica based insulation. The right side of figure 2.6 also shows the water inlet and
outlet lines connected with a simple flow meter attached to the inlet line. The ultimate goal of
attaching the heat exchanger is to boost the entire system efficiency by capturing the waste heat
from syngas combustion.

2.1.4 Measurement Devices


The experiments for this system set up required quite a few intricate measurement instruments.
One of the most important tools for all of these experiments was a gas chromatograph (GC) used
for syngas composition analysis. The GC used was the Agilent MicroGC300, which is on-line, and
can sample once every 2-3 minutes. It sampled small amounts of the syngas from the flow line after
the fiber filter in figure 2.2. The GC was connected to a computer and measured the retention times
of the component gases in two different columns. A screen shot of a typical analysis is shown in
figure 2.7. The peaks were calibrated with a known gas to calculate the experimental values.

12
Figure 2.7: Typical experimental gas chromatograph readout

In figure 2.7, the channel A readout in blue is the retention times for syngas components separated
by the molecular sieve column; H2 , O2 , N2 , CH4 , and CO from left to right. Each peak except the first
represents a component. Channel B readout shows retention times for the components separated
by the HayeSep-D column. The first peak for this channel represents all of the molecular sieve
components. The remaining peaks are CO2 and heavier hydrocarbons up to C4 H10 . The GC came
bundled with proprietary software EZ Diablo Reporter which processed the data from the readout.
It handles the integration of each peak over time, and computes the mole percentage breakdown of
the syngas. Accurate values for the composition of the syngas allowed for many further operational
parameters to be computed.

13
The remaining measurement tools were electronic sensors connected to a data acquisition (DAQ)
system monitored by Labview to record data continuously. An Omega PX409 vacuum pressure
transducer was connected to the hopper to monitor the negative pressure in the reactor. This
monitored the air intake of the gasifier. A venturi type flow meter, located before the GC on the
clean syngas line, was used to monitor syngas flow rate. The venturi flow meter is a simple device
that has a static pressure tap before it constricts the flow to a smaller area containing another static
pressure tap, and finally re-expands the flow. An Omega PX653 differential pressure sensor was
connected to these pressure taps. Using the pressure differential, cross sectional area ratio between
the tap locations, and the density of the gas, the flow rate of the syngas was computed. These
two pressure sensors were calibrated to a manometer to compute the continuous pressure from the
voltage data collected in Labview.
Since energy was a main focus of this study, several type K thermocouples were used to charac-
terize energy transfers within the system. The heat exchanger was equipped with thermocouples at
the exhaust inlet and outlet as well as the water inlet and outlet. The temperature data at these
points coupled with the water flow rate measured by the traditional flowmeter seen on the far right
of figure 2.6 yielded a characterization of the energy and heat transfer from engine exhaust to the
water stream. There were also thermocouples placed inside of the hopper and reaction zones of the
gasifier, with their locations seen in figure 2.8.

Figure 2.8: Thermocouple locations inside gasifier

The following references refer to the letters seen in figure 2.8. Thermocouple A is located 342.9
mm (13.5 inches) above the hearth bottom where thermocouple D is located. This is 139.7 mm
(5.5 inches) above the beginning of the hearth constriction where thermocouple B is located. Ther-
mocouple C is located halfway up the hearth or 101.6 mm (4 inches) above D and below B. The
placement of these four thermocouples provided a temperature profile across the reaction zones and
the ability to compute their locations inside the gasifier as they developed. Finally, thermocouple
E is placed in the syngas exit pipe for system monitoring. Labview automatically converted ther-

14
mocouple voltage to temperature readings. All thermocouples were calibrated with a high precision
Omega thermocouple calibrator. All of these measuring devices provided valuable data that aided
in being able to understand the complete operation of this biomass gasification energy system.

2.2 Procedure
There were several different parts to the experiments that made up this study. The experimental
procedures for running the gasifier system were similar for all experiments. The first step for all
experiments was to analyse the feedstock to be gasified. This was followed by several experiments
with a typical feedstock to characterize the operation of the system. In these tests the transient
properties of the gasifier were observed. Then the steady state energy characterization was observed
to provide a complete analysis of the energy flow in the system. After the initial gasifier characteri-
zation, the goal was to operate the system while minimizing the operational variables. The different
feedstock tests were then tested using the same experimentally controlled methods with analysis
focused on the syngas produced.

2.2.1 Feedstock Analysis


The standard method for characterizing a feedstock is through the ultimate and proximate
analyses. These fuel characterizations give valuable information about the contents of the fuel. All
the components are generally given as mass percentages. The proximate analysis was performed
on the fuels to obtain the total moisture content. After the moisture content was determined, the
volatile matter, fixed carbon, and ash were determined on a wet and dry basis. The ultimate analysis
performed was comprised of two very important parts. First, on a dry basis, the fuel composition
was broken down into the key elements of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. The
second important fuel parameter conveyed in the ultimate analysis was the wet and dry basis gross
calorific value. This is the higher heating value (HHV) with and without moisture present. These
two analyses require many different types of tests and therefore many different pieces of analytical
equipment not normally found in an engineering lab. Due to this, it was more cost effective to
send fuel samples to a lab that specialized in these kinds of tests than to purchase the equipment
necessary. For all of the feedstocks in this study, samples were sent to Columbia Analytical Services
to be tested.

2.2.2 Gasifier and Total System Characterization


Pine pellets were chosen for this part of the study. They are relatively inexpensive and easy
to acquire in large amounts because of their abundance in north Florida. They are also a good
fuel in terms of energy density. One more advantage to using the pine pellets for this study was
that this gasifier was primarily designed for woody biomass. Five separate runs with this feedstock
were conducted. These experiments were used to characterize the gasifier and the energy flow of the
system as a whole with a typical feedstock. The basic processes involved in each experiment can be
seen in figure 2.9.

15
Figure 2.9: Diagram of system processes in experiments

The first step in developing the characterization from the five runs was to average all of the data
collected. Once the runs were averaged, the internal gasifier temperatures throughout operation
were analysed. The temperatures for the time period from beginning the experiment until steady
state operation without the engine characterized the initial operation. The temperatures for the time
period from turning on the engine until steady state conditions were once again reached characterized
the typical operation. These temperature developments inside the reactor were used to determine the
reaction zone locations. The other operational parameters for each of these steady state conditions
were also observed. The temperature and composition data was directly gathered, but the density
and heating values had to be computed from the composition data. The following equations were
used to compute the density and heating values of the syngas produced from the GC composition
data.
V olume of Component M ol % of Component 1
= Component M ol W eight (2.1)
M ol of Syngas 100 ST P Component Density

V olume of Syngas X V olume of Component


= (2.2)
M ol of Syngas M ol of Syngas
Components

V olume of Component
M ol of Syngas
Component V olume % =
V olume of Syngas
100 (2.3)
M ol of Syngas

M ass of Component Component V olume %


= ST P Component Density (2.4)
U nit V olume of Syngas 100
X M ass of Component
Syngas Density = (2.5)
U nit V olume of Syngas
Components

M ass of Component M ol % of Component


= Component M ol W eight (2.6)
M ol of Syngas 100
M ass of Syngas X M ass of Component
= (2.7)
M ol of Syngas M ol of Syngas
Components

Component Heating V alue M ol % of Component 1


=
M ass of Syngas
Component Heating V alue (2.8)
U nit M ass of Syngas 100
M ol of Syngas
X Component Heating V alue
Syngas Heating V alue = (2.9)
U nit M ass of Syngas
Components

16
SI units were used in these equations to simplify the calculations. The density of the syngas was
computed using equations 2.1 to 2.5. Equations 2.1, 2.3, and 2.4 were computed for each component
found in the syngas from the GC composition data. Equations 2.2 and 2.5 are bulk properties of
the syngas and were computed once for each GC reading. The Mol % of Component needed for
equations 2.1 and 2.6 was given by the GC data gathered in the experiment. Both the higher and
lower heating values of the syngas were computed using equations 2.6 to 2.9. These were dry basis
heating values because all moisture in the syngas was filtered out before measurement. Equations 2.6
and 2.8 were computed for each component of the syngas. Equations 2.7 and 2.9 are bulk syngas
properties and were computed for each GC reading. The difference in computing the higher and
lower heating values was in equation 2.8. Each syngas component has a known lower and higher
heating value in kJ/mol used in that equation. Equation 2.9 was then computed for each case to
yield the dry basis heating values in kJ/kg.
The final step in characterizing the gasifier was to determine the various system energy conver-
sions and efficiencies. An overview of the energy flow for the system can be seen in figure 2.10.

Figure 2.10: Power and energy flow rate diagram for the system, where:
Eb = energy flow rate of introduced solid biomass (kW )
LHVb = lower heating value of introduced biomass ( kJ
kg )
kg
Mb = solid mass combustion rate ( s )
Es = energy flow rate of clean syngas (kW )
LHVs = lower heating value of syngas ( kJ
kg )
ms = syngas mass flow rate ( kg
s )
Ew = energy flow rate of water flow from heat exchanger (kW )
Qw = heat transfer from exhaust heat to water flow ( kJ
kg )
mw = mass flow rate of water through heat exchanger ( kg s )
Pel = electrical power produced by generator (kW )
IL = three phase current drawn from load bank (A)
VL = three phase voltage from generator (V )
The efficiencies for the system are based on ratios of the powers and energy flow rates seen in
figure 2.10. The first efficiency needed was the gasifier conversion efficiency. This is the efficiency at
which the gasifier converted the solid biomass fuel into syngas. The gasifier efficiency was computed
from the formula seen in equation 2.10.
Es
gasif ier = (2.10)
Eb

To compute Es , the syngas lower heating value and mass flow rate were needed. The previously
calculated lower heating value(LHV) in kJ/kg was used because when it is combusted in the engine

17
the water vaporization heat is not recovered. This seems to be a matter of convention though as in
the United States the HHV is typically used, but in Europe the LHV is used [1]. Next, the mass
flow rate was needed. To compute the mass flow rate, the sygas density as well as the venturi flow
meters differential pressure and geometry were needed. Equation 2.11 was used to calculate the
mass flow rate. r
2 P Aa
m = C q (2.11)

(A a 2
Ab ) 1

where:
= syngas density
C= discharge coeffiecient
P = venturi pressure differential
Aa = large venturi area
Ab = constricted venturi area
The mass flow rate solved for in equation 2.11 was multiplied by the syngas LHV to obtain the Es
output from the gasifier. The Eb in equation 2.10 and figure 2.10 was computed next. To calculate
this value, the solid biomass heating value and mass consumption rate were needed. The biomass
wet basis LHV in kJ/kg was used because the biomass was put into the gasifier in its wet basis.
The biomass does dry in the hopper with the resultant vapor used to produce some of the hydrogen.
However, the combustion of the dry biomass also produces vapor, which due to the equilibrium water
shift reaction means that most of the extra steam from moisture evaporation just passes through and
is filtered out. Therefore, if HHV was used, the fuels actual heating value would be overstated and
consequently understate the gasifier efficiency. This also helps to maintain a consistent methodology
in calculations. The feedstock heating value was given as higher heating value so equation 2.12 was
used to convert to the lower heating value.
nH2 O, out
LHV = HHV hv (2.12)
nf uel, in

where:
hv = heat of vaporization of water
nH2 O, out = moles of water vaporized
nf uel, in = moles of fuel combusted
Next, the mass consumption rate, or solid biomass combustion rate Mb , was needed. To compute the
mass consumption rate, the solid biomass leftover from the experiment was measured to determine
the total amount consumed. Then, the mass flow rate of air intake was computed using the negative,
below atmospheric, pressure inside the reactor and equation 2.13.
r
2P
m = 2 A (2.13)

where:
= air density
A= air inlet area
P = pressure below atmospheric
The air intake mass flow rate was multiplied by the correct portions to break it into oxygen and
nitrogen mass flow rates. This provided the diatomic oxygen mass flow rate in, which when compared
to the oxygen mass flow rate was used to determine the biomass consumption rate. The oxygen
mass flow rate out was computed from the previously calculated syngas mass flow rate, the molar
ratios, and the volume percentages of the all oxygen containing components in the syngas; O2 , CO,
and CO2 . Each of these oxygen mass flow rates were added together to create the total oxygen
mass flow rate out in the syngas. The oxygen intake was subtracted from the oxygen outflow to

18
determine the oxygen mass release rate from the biomass. This mass release rate was compared to
the elemental oxygen mass content from the fuel data to determine the biomass consumption rate.
The consumption rate was verified by summing the values over the time of the run and comparing
to the measured total consumption. After verification the consumption rate was multiplied by the
biomass LHV to determine Eb . Finally, with this value and Es , the gasifier efficiency over the time
of the experiment was determined with equation 2.10.
The final two important total system efficiencies needed were the system efficiencies for electrical
power and total combined power. These efficiencies were the ratios based on the Eb input, Ew output,
and Pel output seen in figure 2.10. The system electrical efficiency was computed first. The formula
used to determine this efficiency can be seen in equation 2.14.
Pel
system el = (2.14)
Eb

With the Eb already computed to calculate the gasifier efficiency, only Pel needed to be determined
to compute this efficiency. The syngas was powering the internal combustion engine which supplied
the mechanical power to the generator. The electric load was applied to the generator at about 11
kW with slight variation throughout the test. Therefore, the Pel values were known directly from the
applied load. The total combined heat and power(CHP) system efficiency was the final computation
needed for this part of the experiment. This was determined using equation 2.15.

Ew + Pel
system chp = (2.15)
Eb

With the values for Pel and Eb already computed, the only value needed to determine the final
efficiency was Ew . This is based on the heat transferred from the engines exhaust to a supplied
water flow. After the engine and generator were running and loaded, the water flow rate provided
to the heat exchanger was varied to determine the power captured from the exhaust. The heat
exchanger power had to be calculated from temperature and water flow rate data. The temperature
difference between the water inlet and outlet was measured at steady state for each flow rate tested.
The temperature difference and the water flow rate were then used to compute the power captured
by the heat exchanger in equation 2.16.

Ew = m Cp T (2.16)

where:
m = water mass flow rate
Cp = water specific heat
T = water temperature difference across heat exchanger
The Ew along with the other previously computed values were then used in equation 2.15 to determine
the total system efficiency.
Two other important component efficiencies were also computed. The engines electrical effi-
ciency was computed using equation 2.17. Similarly the efficiency at which syngas power is converted
into useable power and heat was computed using equation ??.
Pel
engine el = (2.17)
Es

Ew + Pel
engine chp = (2.18)
Es
The engine/generator as well as the CHP system were also tested with pure methane as the fuel
source to compare the experimental operation to a homogeneous fuel supply. The efficiencies and
operational parameters measured and determined in this part of the study form a full characterization

19
of the operation of this system with a typical feedstock. The system was then tested with a variety
of feedstocks to determine the effects of fuel composition on the operation and performance of
the system. The operational information determined in this part of the study was used to verify
controlled operation and extrapolate performance for the following feedstock tests.

2.2.3 Syngas from Various Feedstocks


The feedstocks chosen for this study were; alfalfa, algae, field grass, hemp, miscanthus, peanut
shells, pine, and municipal solid waste(misc. paper and plastic). The feedstocks were chosen for
their wide ranging availability and cost. These feedstocks were also chosen to represent a wide
variety of available biomass sources like energy crops, agricultural and forest residues, and waste
streams. All these feedstocks were pelletized with a size range of 20 to 50 mm in length and 5
to 12 mm in diameter except the waste pellets which were 30 to 80 mm in length and 20 mm in
diameter. The biocrude algae pellets are a relatively new alternative to energy agriculture. There
is no arable land requirement to produce because bio-reactors are used for growth. The specific
algae pellets used for this study were a mixture of several native strains of micro-crops consisting
of Pseudochlorococcum sp., Chlorococcum sp., Chlorella sp., Scenedesmus sp., Palmellococcus sp.,
Cylindrospermopsis sp., and Planktothrix sp. The mixture is compressed and the carbohydrate rich
solids are dried and pelletized. The ultimate, proximate, and heating value analyses of each of these
biomass fuel sources were performed. Each feedstock was tested in the gasifier like the pine pellets
in the previous section. The main goal of this part of the study was to experimentally determine
the composition and heating values of the syngas produced from each feedstock. The GC data was
used to calculate the heating values for each feedstock in equations 2.1 to 2.9. These feedstocks
were compared quantitatively based on fuel composition and syngas characterizations. The energy
characterizations from the previous section were then used to calculate expected power performance
for each feedstock.

20
CHAPTER 3

EXPERIMENT RESULTS

3.1 Overview
This section contains results and analysis for each separate component of the experiments.
The first section will detail the results of the lab based feedstock analysis. The following section
will display and analyse the results from the typical feedstock system characterization. The final
sections will detail the results from the experimental testing of the various selected feedstocks and
error associated with experiments and calculations.

3.2 Feedstock Analysis


As detailed in the previous chapter, all the feedstocks were sent to a lab for ultimate and
proximate analyses. The proximate analysis is the more basic characterization of each fuel and can
be seen in table 3.1. The moisture, volatile matter, fixed carbon, and ash are represented by M,
VM, FC, and A respectively.

Table 3.1: Proximate analysis data for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized Mass % Wet Basis Mass % Dry Basis


Feedstock M VM FC A VM FC A
Alfalfa 9.12 67.57 13.42 9.05 74.35 14.77 9.96
Algae 16.20 63.72 14.77 5.34 76.01 17.61 6.37
Field Grass 9.06 68.48 15.72 6.73 75.30 17.29 7.40
Hemp 10.7 66.88 15.81 6.6 74.89 17.71 7.40
Miscanthus 10.20 72.03 15.63 2.13 80.21 17.40 2.37
Peanut Shells 9.88 67.06 19.62 3.44 74.41 21.77 3.82
Pine 8.68 74.85 16.17 0.30 81.96 17.70 0.33
Municipal Waste 7.11 71.88 9.92 11.10 77.38 10.68 11.90

The previous table is a detailed breakdown, but it contains a large amount of data that is difficult to
compare between the different feedstocks. Therefore, to be able to compare the total compositions
of all the feedstocks against each other, the composite wet basis proximate analysis data was plotted
and can be seen in figure 3.1.

21
Figure 3.1: Composite wet basis proximate analysis for experimental feedstocks

The previous figure shows an overview of the basic proximate feedstock compositional data. The
ultimate analysis is a more detailed characterization of each fuel. It is comprised of a dry basis
elemental breakdown, table 3.2, as well as the wet and dry basis higher heating value analysis,
table 3.3.

Table 3.2: Ultimate analysis elemental breakdown for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized Component Mass % Dry Basis


Feedstock Carbon Hydrogen Nitrogen Oxygen Sulfur
Alfalfa 43.99 5.83 3.30 38.20 0.255
Algae 45.62 6.17 3.26 39.43 0.241
Field Grass 47.06 5.94 1.41 39.45 0.129
Hemp 48.46 6.27 5.67 31.27 0.552
Miscanthus 48.75 5.94 0.39 43.33 0.069
Peanut Shells 50.73 6.16 1.49 37.52 0.088
Pine 51.20 6.09 0.16 40.03 0.010
Municipal Waste 42.16 5.65 0.07 36.70 0.090

22
Table 3.3: Ultimate analysis higher heating values for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized Wet Basis Dry Basis


kJ kJ
Feedstock kg kg
Alfalfa 16210 17840
Algae 15770 18820
Field Grass 17210 18930
Hemp 18010 20170
Miscanthus 17060 19000
Peanut Shells 18160 20150
Pine 18750 20540
Municipal Waste 16700 17320

The tables for the ultimate analysis provided a large amount of information that is difficult to
compare for all feedstocks in a tabular form. Therefore, this data was also plotted to be able to
visually determine trends and characteristics about the feedstocks. Figure 3.2 displays the composite
ultimate analysis elemental breakdown, and figure 3.3 displays the heating values for each fuel.

Figure 3.2: Composite dry basis elemental ultimate analysis for experimental feedstocks

23
Figure 3.3: Ultimate analysis heating values for experimental feedstocks

From figures 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 several key relations between fuel composition and heating value were
noted. First, it can be seen that the total moisture content of the fuel directly affected the magnitude
of the difference between the wet and dry basis heating values. The volatile matter did not seem
to have any direct correlation to heating value. The fixed carbon content had a strong positive
correlation to the heating value, and the ash content had a strong inverse relation to the heating
value. The fixed carbon content was proportional to the elemental carbon content and therefore
it also directly correlated to heating value. The carbon content correlation to heating value was
expected because elemental carbon is the basis for the simple gasification reactions. The other
elemental components did not have any easily identifiable correlation to the heating value.

3.3 Gasifier and Total System Characterization


The total system described in section 2.1 was tested with pine pellets as the fuel source. After
five tests had been run with the pine pellets, the experimental data was averaged. The first step
in the characterization was to analyse the temperature development during operation. The internal
thermocouple locations can be seen in figure 2.8. The temperatures for these thermocouples, from
initial light to steady state without the engine on can be seen in figure 3.4 with time zero representing
the time at which the reactor was started.

24
Figure 3.4: Thermocouple temperature development without engine

The letters in figure 3.4 correspond to the thermocouple locations shown in figure 2.8. In the
previous figure the temperature variance between all tests is represented in the error bars for each
thermocouple. The time variance was effectively equal for each thermocouple with a 9 minute
variation. A similar characterization was performed for the time period from turning on the engine
to resumed steady state operation. The temperatures for each thermocouple in this case can be seen
in figure 3.5 with time zero representing the engine start time.

Figure 3.5: Thermocouple temperature development with engine

25
The temperature profiles for each case along with their known locations from figure 2.8 allowed for
the typical reaction zone locations to be computed. Based on the equivalence ratio measured, the
pyrolysis zone was assumed to be 300 to 600 C. The zone development for the case without the
engine can be seen in figure 3.6, and the engine case can be seen in figure 3.7.

Figure 3.6: Internal temperature profile and reaction zone locations without engine

Figure 3.7: Internal temperature profile and reaction zone locations with engine

26
The typical operation of the gasifier system is represented in the previous figures. The case without
the engine shows the smooth development of the reaction zones with a low pressure drop created
entirely by the venturi scrubber. The reaction zones develop and achieve steady state slowly and
uniformly. After the engine is started, the reaction zones expand due to the increased pressure draw
from the engine. The temperatures and reaction zones increase before returning to steady state.
With the engine in operation, syngas sampling with the GC was carried out until steady state
operation was reached. The composition development over time can be seen in figure 3.8 with time
zero representing engine start time. This composition development was used in equations 2.1 to 2.9
to compute the LHV of the syngas during the same time period. This is also displayed in figure 3.8
on the secondary right vertical axis.

Figure 3.8: Syngas composition and lower heating value development with engine

It can be seen in figure 3.8 that most components mol percentages were relatively constant through-
out this time period. The value for nitrogen however significantly decreased by the time steady
state was reached. With the increase in air intake caused by the engine pressure draw, it should
be expected that nitrogen content in the syngas should increase. That was the case, but the value
displayed in the previous graph is mol % and not total amount. The total amount of nitrogen in the
syngas did increase, but gasifier efficiency also increased significantly. Therefore, nitrogen content
increased, but nitrogen mol % of the total syngas decreased. The error bars in syngas composition
are based on the variation in the tests and measurement error. The measurement error for syngas
composition is less than .1%, but the test variation error is between 1 and 4%. Therefore, the test
variation error is a far more significant error source. The error in the LHV also includes test variation
error, but the measurement error was carried through calculations. The long series of calculations
caused the measurement error to propagate up to almost 1%, which made it a significant error
source, although still less than the test variation error.
After the general operation of the system was determined, the typical feedstock steady state

27
energy characterization was developed. Once the gasifier and engine system were running at steady
state, the heat exchanger flow rate was varied and the T was measured at the applied water flow
rates. The averaged T compared to flow rate can be seen in figure 3.9.

Figure 3.9: Temperature difference for water across heat exchanger at various flow rates

The error bars in figure 3.9 represent the measurement error and the test variation. Similar to the
previous error, the test variation is far greater than the measurement error. This was especially
evident at low flow rates due to very unsteady flow for 2 gallons per minute or less. With this data,
the various power values from the energy flow diagram seen in figure 2.10 were then computed.
Then the efficiencies were calculated using equations 2.10, 2.14, and 2.15. These efficiencies varied
slightly during the tests and can be seen in figure 3.10 at different heat exchanger flow rates.

Figure 3.10: System efficiencies at various heat exchanger water flow rates

28
The error bars seen in the previous figure represent the variance and measurement errors carried
through calculations. The test variation is once again much larger than the propagated measurement
error. It can be seen from figure 3.10 that these values remain relatively constant with varied heat
exchanger flow rates. Therefore, average steady state values for the calculated efficiencies and
associated error can be seen in table 3.4. The syngas conversion efficiencies for electrical power and
CHP calculated with equations 2.17 and ?? respectively were also included in the table.

Table 3.4: Average experimental efficiencies for gasifier and system characterization

Efficiency % %Error
Gasifier 80 4
Engine Electrical 18 2
Engine Total 46 4
System Electrical 14 3
System Total 36 5

The engine and generator were run with pure methane as a fuel source for a typical operation. The
power performance and efficiency were characterized as before and can be seen in table 3.5.

Table 3.5: Engine, generator, and heat exchanger performance with pure methane

Parameter Value Units


MJ
LHV 50.5 kg
ECH4 64.2 kW
Pel 12.2 kW
Pchp 30.8 kW
el 19 %
chp 48 %

The engine performance was slightly better than with the syngas, but fell within the error range.
This was expected becasue the engine has an automatic air intake adjustment which allowed the
engine to operate similarly with a fuel with a much higher energy density. All of the data gathered
and parameter calculated for this typical feedstock provided a general characterization of system
operation. This syngas data served as a point of comparison for the different feedstocks tested. The
calculated efficiencies also allowed for performance from various feedstocks to extrapolated.

3.4 Syngas from Various Feedstocks


The gasifier system was operated as close as possible to the typical operation of the previous
section with different feedstocks as the fuel. The steady state gas composition for each feedstock
was gathered by the GC. The main syngas elements measured in these experiments can be seen
in table 3.6 below. The heavier hydrocarbons (HHC) are added together in table 3.6, and their
separated values can be seen in table 3.7 immediately after. This data was plotted to be able to
compare and visually determine trends and characteristics about the feedstock syngas composition.
Figure 3.11 displays the total principle component breakdown for each fuel.

29
Table 3.6: Principal component experimental syngas compositions

Pelletized Component Mol % Dry Basis


Feedstock H2 O2 N2 CH4 CO CO2 HHC
Alfalfa 12.823 0.020 53.004 2.067 12.245 18.589 1.253
Algae 10.768 0.035 59.395 1.564 9.911 17.317 1.011
Field Grass 12.454 0.023 51.621 2.860 13.630 17.795 1.617
Hemp 10.362 0.019 58.546 2.098 12.622 14.891 1.463
Miscanthus 9.147 0.039 53.152 2.685 17.509 16.194 1.274
Peanut Shells 13.410 0.033 51.017 2.635 15.833 15.735 1.337
Pine 12.300 0.498 53.422 2.696 16.568 13.368 1.150
Municpal Waste 11.323 0.029 59.493 1.899 9.615 16.257 1.384

Table 3.7: Heavy hydrocarbon components in experimental syngas compositions

Pelletized Component Mol % Dry Basis


Feedstock C 2 H4 C 2 H6 C 2 H2 C 3 H6
Alfalfa 0.604 0.326 0.020 0.303
Algae 0.573 0.256 0.033 0.149
Field Grass 0.952 0.281 0.097 0.287
Hemp 1.001 0.181 0.13 0.151
Miscanthus 0.772 0.295 0.076 0.131
Peanut Shells 0.787 0.261 0.044 0.245
Pine 0.755 0.186 0.123 0.086
Municpal Waste 0.895 0.082 0.353 0.054

Figure 3.11: Composite principle component experimental syngas compositions

30
This syngas breakdown shows valuable resultant data for each feedstock with solid fuel composition
data seen in figures 3.1 and 3.2. The syngas compositional breakdown for each feedstock was used in
equations 2.1 through 2.9 to compute the dry basis LHV and HHV. The results of these calculations
can be seen in table 3.8 and figure 3.12.

Table 3.8: Calculated dry basis syngas heating values from experiments

Pelletized LHV HHV


kJ kJ
Feedstock kg kg
Alfalfa 3680 4000
Algae 2920 3180
Field Grass 4210 4560
Hemp 3570 3850
Miscanthus 3980 4250
Peanut Shells 4400 4760
Pine 4290 4650
Municpal Waste 3210 3500

Figure 3.12: Experimental syngas heating values

The syngas heating values seen in figure 3.12 yield some interesting results. When compared to the
solid fuel data seen in figures 3.1 and 3.3, several key correlations were noted. First, the heating
value of the solid fuel is directly correlated to the resultant syngas heating value. Second, it appeared

31
that moisture and ash content in the feedstock were inversely proportional to the syngas heating
value.
To extend analysis beyond just qualitative trends, definitive performance parameters were needed.
To determine the performance parameters for these different feedstocks, several further values needed
to be determined. First, the Es for each feedstock was calculated using the LHV from table 3.8
and the mass flow rate computed with equation 2.11. Next the Eb for each feedstock was com-
puted from the wet basis HHV, equation 2.12, and the biomass consumption rate. The gasifier
efficiency, expected power outputs, and expected system efficiencies were then calculated using
equations 2.10, 2.14, 2.15, 2.17, and ??. The directly computed experimental values can be seen in
table 3.9, and the expected values for total system performance based on typical system performance
parameters can be seen in table 3.10.

Table 3.9: System performance parameters calculated from feedstock experiment data

Pelletized LHV wet basis Eb Es gasif ier


kJ
Feedstock kg (kW ) (kW ) %
Alfalfa 15730 65.1 52.3 80
Algae 15300 63.3 41.5 66
Field Grass 16700 69.1 59.9 87
Hemp 17110 70.8 50.7 72
Miscanthus 16720 69.2 56.6 82
Peanut Shells 17620 72.9 62.6 86
Pine 18380 76.1 61.0 80
Municpal Waste 16200 67.0 45.8 68
Average Error % .1 3.5 2.1 4.1
Maximum 18380 72.9 62.6 87
Minimum 15300 63.3 41.5 66
Average 16720 69.2 53.8 78

Table 3.10: Expected system performance parameters calculated for each experi-
mental feedstock
Pelletized Pel Pchp system el system chp
Feedstock (kW ) (kW ) % %
Alfalfa 9.4 24.1 14 37
Algae 7.5 19.1 12 30
Field Grass 10.8 27.6 16 40
Hemp 9.1 23.3 13 33
Miscanthus 10.2 26.0 15 38
Peanut Shells 11.3 28.8 15 39
Pine 10.9 28.1 14 36
Municpal Waste 8.2 21.1 12 31
Average Error % 2.2 4.4 2.8 5.2
Maximum 11.3 28.8 16 40
Minimum 7.5 19.1 12 30
Average 9.7 24.7 14 36

32
The values in table 3.9 were calculated directly from experimental data, and as such the error only
results from the propagation of measurement error through calculations. The values in table 3.10
are expected values based on this experimental data and typical system operating parameters from
the previous experiment. Therefore, the errors were higher because in addition to the propaga-
tion of measurement error, they also contain the variation error from the previous experiment. A
comparative overview of these efficiencies and their errors by feedstock can be seen in figure 3.13.

Figure 3.13: Calculated system efficiencies for experimental feedstocks

It can be seen in figure 3.13 that all the efficiencies followed the same basic overall trends. The
component efficiencies are strongly correlated. For example, the highest gasifier efficiency also has
the highest total system efficiency. There was a wide variation in the gasifier efficiencies among
feedstocks, and little to no variation in system electrical efficiency. To further illustrate this, gasif ier
for all feedstocks ranged from 66 to 87%, while system el ranged from just 12 to 16%. The total
combined system efficiency fell in the middle with a range of 30 to 40%. The fuel composition
had a large effect on the performance of the gasifier, but much smaller effect on the total system
power. To give a good visualization of the total expected power characterizations of the feedstocks,
a comparison was made between the heating value of the fuel and the output power expected from
the system. This comparison can be seen in figure 3.14.

33
Figure 3.14: Solid fuel heating value and expected power output for experimental
feedstocks

The major attribute to be noted from figure 3.14 was made clear when it was compared to figure 3.13.
Figure 3.13 is the separate efficiencies. Therefore, system total efficiency in green is the ratio of the
output in red to the LHV in blue in figure 3.14. This illustrated that the highest output power
was not necessarily the best performance. The difference between the values of the LHV and the
output power in figure 3.14 are indicative of the efficiency. The difference between them is inversely
proportional to the efficiency. This relationship demonstrates the rather complex relationship that
can develop in system efficiency characterization.

3.5 Error Analysis


The errors reported and associated with values in this section came from two main sources.
First, each measurement device used in the experiments had at least one type of measurement error
associated with it. These sources included resolution and calibration errors. Due to the large series
of calculations for some of the analysis, the measurement errors propagated through the calculations.
These were computed by means of root-means-square deviation. This method of error calculation
effectively used partial derivatives of each variable in an equation to determine the sensitivity of that
equation to deviation of each variable. These sensitivities were then multiplied by the known errors,
squared, and summed. The square root of this sum provides the total error effect from each variable
on the total calculation. This yielded the bulk error in the equation propagated from all component
error sources. The other major error source for this data was the experimental variation between
tests. This turned out to be the larger error source for the majority of analysis. When any averaged
parameters are carried forward in calculations, this experimental variation error propagates similarly
to the measurement error. All extended analysis with any of the data measured or computed will
carry some of this error. Any analysis using values from the averaged test will contain the propagated
error from test variance.

34
CHAPTER 4

MODEL DEVELOPMENT

4.1 Background
The goal for this part of the study was to use the feedstock lab analysis data and the experimental
syngas data to develop a model that could accurately predict syngas composition and heating value.
After development, the model should be able to predict these values from the ultimate and proximate
analyses for a wide variety of feedstocks. Previous literature on gasifier modelling was researched.
Several models have been proposed in literature to predict downdraft gasifier syngas composition
and heating value from feedstock compositional data. Zainal et al proposed using a thermodynamic
equilibrium model for such predictions, and concluded reasonable agreement with experimental
data [34]. Sharma compared a kinetic model to a thermodynamic model [29], and concluded that
the kinetic model is limited because it uses rate constants based on the difference from the equilibrium
value. Altafini et al tested both equilibrium and kinetic models as well and came to the same results
as Sharma, showing that the specificity of the kinetic models are not adaptable enough to model
various conditions [12]. For gas composition, the equilibrium model was deemed to be a reasonable
alternative to the complexity of the kinetic model.

4.2 Thermodynamic Equilibrium Model


4.2.1 Method
The model developed in Zainals study formed the starting point for this development, but
several other equilibrium model articles were used to help formulate the derivations [25], [23], [13],
and [18]. The calculations for estimating syngas composition in this model began with an overall
chemical equation describing the reactions. The global equation for gasification based on one carbon
atom of biomass is defined in equation 4.1.

CHhc Ooc + wH2 O + mO2 + 3.76mN2 = x1 H2 + x2 CO + x3 CO2 + x4 H2 O + x5 CH4 + 3.76mN2 (4.1)

The unknown values in equation 4.1 were; m, which is the amount of oxygen per kmol biomass, and
the x# values which are the mole percentages of the resultant gases. The known values from fuel
composition were; hc and oc, which are the single carbon hydrogen and oxygen ratios in the biomass
respectively, and w, the amount of moisture which can be computed from the proximate analysis
moisture content on a mass basis, seen in equation 4.2.
4 moisture
w= (4.2)
3 (1 moisture)

35
Using the individual reaction equations, equilibrium constants, and an assumed adiabatic heat bal-
ance for the global gasification reaction, three equations in terms of three unknowns were derived.

x21 K1 + x2 + x3 1 = 0 (4.3)

K2 (x1 x2 ) + (w (2 0.5hc))K2 x2 + 2K2 x22 x1 x3 + 2K2 x2 x3 = 0 (4.4)


Ax1 + Bx2 + Cx3 + Dw + E = 0 (4.5)
In equation 4.5 the constants A-E were computed based on enthalpy changes using equations 4.6
to 4.10.
A = dHH2 + dHH2 Og 1.88dHN2 (4.6)
B = dHCO + 2dHH2 Og dHCH4 + 5.64dHN2 (4.7)
C = dHCO2 + 2dHH2 Og dHCH4 + 7.52dHN2 (4.8)
D = dHH2 Og dHH2 Ol (4.9)
E = dHCH4 (2 0.5hc)dHH2 Og dHbiomass (4.10)
The method used to calculate the unknown enthalpy changes in equations 4.6 to 4.10 can be seen
in equations 4.11 to 4.13.
dHany gas = Hf0 + Cp T (4.11)
dHH2 Ol = Hf0H Ol + Hvap (4.12)
2

dHbiomass = Hf0 biomass (4.13)


The Hf0 biomass values for each feedstock were computed from the heating value and a theoretical
complete combustion formula adjusted for ash content seen in equation 4.14.
P
comb prod
Hf i nf i
Hf0 biomass = DryF uelHV + (4.14)
1 ash

The specific heat values, Cp , needed in equation 4.11 for each gas were temperature dependent
constants computed with the formula seen in equation 4.14.
C3 2 T T ) + C4 )
Cp = R(C1 + C2 Tave + (4Tave 1 2 (4.15)
3 T1 T2

In equation 4.15, R is the universal gas constant, T1 was considered to be ambient temperature,
and T2 was the temperature at which equilibrium was being solved for. All temperatures for the
equations in this section were in Kelvin. The C# constants are typical values for each component and
were looked up in thermodynamic tables for the constituent gas being solved for. The equilibrium
constants K1 and K2 in equations 4.3 and 4.4 respectively are also temperature dependent. This
dependency is characterized by the relation in equation 4.16.

G0
ln K = (4.16)
RT

K1 C + 2H2 = CH4 (4.17)


K2 CO + H2 O = CO2 + H2 (4.18)
In equation 4.16, G0 is the standard Gibbs function of formation. It is also temperature dependent,
and governed by the relationship seen in equation 4.19.
0
d( G
RT ) H 0
= (4.19)
dT RT 2

36
Equation 4.19 was then related to equation 4.16 for the desired equilibrium constant K# , equa-
tion 4.17 or 4.18. Then it was integrated with the Gibbs function value and specific heat constants
of the relevant components. This is calculation is carried out to determine K1 and K2 . All con-
stants in equations 4.3, 4.4, and 4.5 at a specific temperature were computed. The Newton-Raphson
numerical method was then used to solve this system of equations and obtain x1 , x2 , and x3 . The
remaining unknown compositions were computed using relations derived from equation 4.1 and can
be seen in equations 4.20 to 4.23.

x4 = x1 + 2x2 + 2x3 + w (2 0.5hc) (4.20)

x 5 = 1 x2 x 3 (4.21)
m = 0.5(x1 + 3x2 + 4x3 ((2 0.5hc) + oc)) (4.22)
x6 = 3.76m (4.23)

4.2.2 Results
The overall gas composition for each feedstock at a specific temperature was calculated using
the method described in the previous section. The single temperature calculation was insufficient
to model a small scale downdraft gasifier because of the widely varying temperatures measured in
the reaction zone during the experimental runs. To accommodate for the temperature range, the
temperature dependent model was calculated over a range of temperatures with a weighted average
for each feedstocks temperature average. The syngas composition computed for each feedstock using
the temperature averaged equilibrium model can be seen in table 4.1.

Table 4.1: Equilibrium model dry basis syngas compositions for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized Component Mol % Dry Basis


Feedstock H2 N2 CH4 CO CO2
Alfalfa 16.2 53.2 1.2 16.2 13.2
Algae 19.9 48.0 1.7 17.3 13.2
Field Grass 17.6 50.3 1.3 18.8 12.1
Hemp 17.0 53.4 1.3 17.2 11.1
Miscanthus 20.0 45.1 1.6 21.9 11.5
Peanut Shells 18.1 49.7 1.4 20.0 10.9
Pine 20.1 45.1 1.5 23.8 9.5
Municpal Waste 12.8 59.2 0.9 12.5 14.7

These modelled compositions were compared against the experimental data. The average error in
composition for each feedstock and average error in each component for all feedstocks combined can
be seen in figures 4.1 and 4.2 respectively.

37
Figure 4.1: Average error in equilibrium model syngas composition for experimen-
tal feedstocks

Figure 4.2: Average error of equilibrium model for each syngas component in all
experimental feedstocks

In total, for all feedstocks and all gas components included in model calculations, the average percent

38
error was found to be about 34%. The error is actually higher because heavy hydrocarbons were not
computed in this model. The heating values for the modelled syngas were computed as previously
described as well. The results of these calculations can be seen in table 4.2.

Table 4.2: Equilibrium model dry basis syngas heating values for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized LHV HHV


kJ kJ
Feedstock kg kg
Alfalfa 3673 3991
Algae 4462 4875
Field Grass 4203 4556
Hemp 3972 4314
Miscanthus 5002 5416
Peanut Shells 4470 4838
Pine 5300 5721
Municpal Waste 2719 2956

The heating values calculated from the modelled syngas composition were compared to the exper-
imentally determined heating values. The error of the equilibrium model heating values to the
experimental heating values can be seen in figure 4.3.

Figure 4.3: Error of equilibrium model to experimental heating value by feedstock

The average error for all feedstocks was calculated to be about 15.7% for LHV and 16.1% for

39
HHV. This was significantly better than the error in composition. However, it was still far too high
to be an acceptable model for further analysis. The model needed to be adjusted to correlate better
with the actual compositions resulting from gasification in this system.

4.3 Model Adjustment


4.3.1 Method
The first step in correcting the equilibrium model was to identify the major sources that led to
the errors in the equilibrium model composition predictions. One method of determining these error
sources is to use Pearsons correlation coefficient to determine the relationship between many of the
variables used in the model [2]. This correlation method is very similar to Spearmans coefficient, but
it is a better correlation representation for variables that do not follow basic ranking. A simplified
formula for computing the Pearson coefficient between any two variables is seen in equation 4.24.
cov(X, Y )
xy = (4.24)
x y
In equation 4.24, the denominator is the product of the standard deviations for each variable. The
numerator is the covariance between the two variables which was computed with equation 4.25.
N
X (xi x)(yi y)
cov(X, Y ) = (4.25)
N
i=1

All of the proximate and ultimate fuel data was tested against the error in each syngas component
for all feedstocks using Pearsons coefficient. A value closer to 1 than 0 was indicative of strong
a strong relationship between the item in the feedstock data and error in the prediction. Several
notable influences on the error of the model were determined using Pearsons correlation coefficient.
Significant correlations between the moisture and ash from the wet basis proximate analysis and the
error in syngas hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide were found. For oxygen, the new model will
still assume equilibrium without adjustment due to low content and zero energy value. Regression
analysis between each correlated variable was coupled with its respective Pearson coefficient. This
provided adjustment formulas to recalculate gas composition. Overall, the method to compute the
adjusted gas compositions was to run the temperature averaged equilibrium model from the previous
section, then use the following equations to adjust the compositions calculated using that model. In
the equations 4.26 to 4.28 subscript p represents wet basis proximate analysis data.
H2 = 4.0904 .299ashp + .3503moisturep (4.26)
CO = 3.9742 .1403ashp + .1784moisturep (4.27)
N2 = 1.2526moisturep 8.5795 (4.28)
These equations were used to calculate adjusted compositions for the components strongly correlated
to sources of error. The heavy hydrocarbons are formed out of equilibrium so using equilibrium con-
stants to compute their formation was not possible. It can be seen from comparing the experimental
data to the equilibrium model that it predicted too much hydrogen and carbon monoxide in all
cases. Therefore, the adjustments computed for hydrogen and carbon monoxide were used to adjust
the remaining syngas components. To ensure that changes to the other elements stay in balance
with the error adjustments, the following compositional balance formula, equation 4.29 was used.
11H2 + 20CO = 10CO2 + CH4 + C2 H4 + C2 H6 + C2 H2 + C3 H6 (4.29)
The total syngas composition was solved by plugging the computed adjustments for hydrogen and
carbon monoxide from equations 4.26 and 4.27 into equation 4.29. This process ensured that the
decreases computed in hydrogen and carbon monoxide are distributed as increases in balance with
the remaining components.

40
4.3.2 Results
The adjusted model was used to compute the compositions of for each of the feedstocks tested
in the experiments. The adjusted model syngas composition results can be seen in table 4.3.

Table 4.3: Adjusted model dry basis syngas compositions for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized Component Mol % Dry Basis


Feedstock H2 N2 CH4 CO CO2 HHC
Alfalfa 11.8 56.5 1.6 12.0 16.8 1.4
Algae 11.1 58.6 1.1 10.6 17.5 1.2
Field Grass 12.5 53.8 1.7 14.3 16.1 1.5
Hemp 11.1 58.1 1.7 12.2 15.2 1.6
Miscanthus 10.1 52.0 2.5 17.1 16.9 1.4
Peanut Shells 11.7 54.2 2.3 15.0 15.6 1.2
Pine 13.5 49.5 2.6 18.4 14.7 1.5
Municpal Waste 10.8 60.0 1.7 9.1 17.3 1.1

These adjusted model compositions were compared against the experimental data. The average error
in composition for each feedstock and average error in each component for all feedstocks combined
can be seen in figures 4.4 and 4.5 respectively.

Figure 4.4: Average error in adjusted model syngas composition for experimental
feedstocks

41
Figure 4.5: Average error of adjusted model for each syngas component in all
experimental feedstocks

The average percent error for all feedstocks and all gas components included in adjusted model
calculations was found to be 8.2%. This is a much better prediction than the ordinary equilibrium
model. The average error of the old equilibrium model to experiment values was about 34%, therefore
this adjustment provides a roughly 26% decrease in error. To further validate the model, the heating
values need to be computed from the adjusted model syngas compositions. The higher and lower
heating values for these compositions were computed as before and can be seen in table 4.4.

Table 4.4: Adjusted model dry basis syngas heating values for experimental feedstocks

Pelletized LHV HHV


kJ kJ
Feedstock kg kg
Alfalfa 3437 3725
Algae 2967 3219
Field Grass 3911 4225
Hemp 3594 3887
Miscanthus 4082 4373
Peanut Shells 3940 4251
Pine 4712 5071
Municpal Waste 2914 3177

To be able to determine the validity of the model, these heating values were compared to the exper-

42
imentally determined values. The error of the adjusted model heating values to the experimental
heating values can be seen in figure 4.6.

Figure 4.6: Error of adjusted model to experimental heating value for each feedstock

The average error for all feedstocks was calculated to be about 5.45% for LHV and 5.95% for HHV.
The average error for the equilibrium model was 15.7% and 16.1% for LHV and HHV respectively.
Therefore, the new model provided about a 10% decrease in error for heating value prediction. This
was a significant improvement over the equilibrium model. With the 26% decrease in compositional
error, the adjusted model accuracy was comparable to the experimental accuracy.

4.4 Model Comparison and Testing


It was obvious that adjusting the equilibrium model to better correlate with experimental data
will improve the accuracy of the model for that set of data. To validate the usefulness of the model,
it was tested against experimental data from outside studies not included in the development data
set. The adjusted model was compared to experimental data from other small scale downdraft
gasifier experiments available in literature. The standard equilibrium model was also computed to
compare the improvements achieved with the adjusted model. In many of the other tests available
in the literature the gas measurement devices did not read the extent of heavy hydrocarbons that
the Agilent GC could, so the heavy hydrocarbons will be left as a sum value for error comparisons.

43
The lower heating values computed for both models and the experimental lower heating values from
the literature can be seen in table 4.5.

Table 4.5: Experimental(reported), equilibrium and adjusted model lower heating


values for researched feedstocks
Pelletized Experiment Equilibrium Model Adjusted Model
kJ kJ kJ
Feedstock kg kg kg
Hazelnut [20] 4660 4525 4325
Olive Kernel [31] 3000 3521 3365
Sawdust [24] 4394 4830 4464
Rubberwood 1 [30] 3630 5157 4222
Rubberwood 2 [30] 3585 5061 4056
Rubberwood 3 [30] 4123 4932 3954
Rubberwood 4 [30] 4339 4767 4047
Charcoal [27] 4510 5195 4862

To determine each models accuracy, the calculated lower heating values were compared against
the reported experimental values. The error for each models lower heating value for all researched
feedstocks is shown in figure 4.7.

Figure 4.7: Error in heating values computed with equilibrium and adjusted model
to reported experimental values

The total average error in heating value for all researched feedstocks with the equilibrium model

44
was found to be 19.7%. The total average error in heating value for all feedstocks with the adjusted
model was found to be 8.6%. The adjusted model resulted in an 11% decrease in error. The accuracy
of composition prediction for each model was also tested. The syngas composition computed from
the equilibrium model and the adjusted model were compared to the reported experimental values.
The average composition error in each researched feedstock for both models can be seen in figure 4.8.
The average error in each syngas component for both models is shown in figure 4.9.

Figure 4.8: Average error to reported experimental values in syngas composition


for all feedstocks with both models

Figure 4.9: Average error to reported experimental values by component for all
feedstocks combined with both models

45
The total average error for all researched feedstocks and components was calculated at 31%
for the equilibrium model with heavy hydrocarbons not included. The total average error for all
researched feedstocks and components for the adjusted model was calculated at 8.4% including heavy
hydrocarbons. The errors in prediction tended to increase as the difference between the size of the
researched gasifier and our experimental gasifier increased. The hazelnut and charcoal experiments
utilized gasifiers over 100 kWth. If these two experiments are taken out of the test set, the adjusted
model error decreases to 6.2%. This is understandable because the experimental data used to develop
the model was based on a 50 kWth gasifier. Therefore this 6.2% error can be the expected error
propagation for syngas composition and heating value for gasification of any feedstock in small-scale
gasifiers under 100kWth. Overall, this adjusted model evaluated the syngas composition for similar
sized downdraft gasifiers with a noticeable improvement over a generalized equilibrium model. The
adjusted model error in syngas composition prediction is slightly higher than the experimental error.
This error proximity means that the adjusted model is acceptably accurate to be used for analysing
other known composition feedstocks.

46
CHAPTER 5

EXTENDED ANALYSIS

5.1 Background
In this section of the study, a basic cost analysis was performed to determine the levelized cost
of energy(LCOE) for using this system based on different feedstocks. The experimental gasifier
parameters, researched data on feedstock cost and composition, and the adjusted model were used
to determine the LCOE. The LCOE is dependent on the feedstock used as fuel. The energy that
can be harnessed from it and its cost are both components in these calculations. The LCOE will
remain applicable for scaling up to a certain extent, as long as performance parameters and initial
investment cost/kW ratio remain close to the experimental system used in this study. The LCOE
was calculated for the experimental feedstocks as well as other researched sources.

5.2 Feedstock Selection


The feedstocks tested in the experiment were a good variety of available biomass streams, but
several others were selected to give a broader picture of available options. The extended selection
included verge grass, wood-waste, common sludges, cardboard, dry manure, prunings, straw, sun-
flower, rapeseed, and arundo donax or giant reed. These were chosen to represent several other
popular sources and some of the typical biomass streams not represented in the experimentally
tested feedstocks.

5.3 Syngas Modelling and Expected Performance


The adjusted model was used to determine the expected syngas composition and heating value
for the extended selection of feedstocks not tested in the experiment. This required determining
typical compositions expected for each of them. All compositional parameters needed for modelling
and their sources can be seen in table 5.1.

47
Table 5.1: Researched feedstock composition parameters needed for adjusted
model calculations
Researched Component Mass% LHV
kJ
Feedstock C H N O S Moisture Ash kg
Verge Grass [32] 49.9 5.7 2.47 40.9 0.2 7.0 18.0 18720
Wood-waste [22] 48.8 6.5 0.1 44.1 0.2 5.0 0.3 18890
Common Sludges [32] 53.0 7.4 7.7 41.1 2.0 7.2 34.0 17750
Cardboard [8] 41.7 6.4 1.2 43.5 0.1 1.1 5.7 15700
Dry Manure [10] 43.5 6.2 2.2 47.6 0.5 13.1 29.8 15930
Prunings [19] 51.3 5.3 0.7 40.9 0.1 7.5 1.6 18930
Straw [19] 43.2 5.0 0.6 39.4 0.1 9.2 8.9 16490
Sunflower [35] 46.4 7.0 1.4 41.9 0.5 11.4 2.9 18020
Rapeseed [17] 49.9 6.5 7.2 29.2 0.7 11.1 6.5 19780
Arundo Donax [6] 47.0 6.0 0.2 43.4 0.2 18.0 3.3 17900

This data for the researched feedstocks was used in the adjusted model to determine the expected
syngas composition for gasification in this specific system or a similar set up. The composition and
heating value results from the adjusted model can be seen in table 5.2.

Table 5.2: Adjusted model dry basis syngas composition for researched feedstocks

Researched Component Mol % Dry Basis LHV


kJ
Feedstock H2 N2 CH4 CO CO2 HHC kg
Verge Grass 14.30 53.63 1.20 15.91 14.28 0.68 3739
Wood-waste 14.59 47.85 2.01 17.97 15.86 1.72 4771
Common Sludges 12.81 64.41 0.50 7.90 14.39 0.29 2282
Cardboard 12.38 55.29 1.35 11.09 18.81 1.09 3445
Dry Manure 10.69 64.35 0.76 6.29 17.53 0.37 1970
Prunings 11.20 51.20 1.61 18.61 15.59 1.78 4301
Straw 8.94 59.32 1.23 10.44 18.66 1.40 2835
Sunflower 10.32 58.35 1.90 9.26 18.25 1.92 3339
Rapeseed 9.21 61.83 1.56 9.93 15.80 1.67 3094
Arundo Donax 8.54 59.23 1.94 8.62 19.42 2.24 3219

The data computed from the model was then used to calculate the expected performance of the
system at typical operating conditions. The expected values for these parameters can be seen in
table 5.3.

48
Table 5.3: System performance parameters for researched feedstocks

Researched LHV Eb Es gasif ier Pel Pchp el chp


kJ
Feedstock kg (kW ) (kW ) % (kW ) (kW ) % %
Verge Grass 18722 77.5 53.2 69 9.6 24.5 12 32
Wood-waste 18890 78.2 67.9 87 12.2 31.2 16 40
Common Sludges 17754 73.5 32.5 44 5.8 14.9 8 20
Cardboard 15700 65.0 49.0 75 8.8 22.5 14 35
Dry Manure 15930 65.9 28.0 42 5.0 12.9 8 20
Prunings 18930 78.3 61.2 78 11.0 28.1 14 36
Straw 16490 68.3 40.3 59 7.3 18.5 11 27
Sunflower 18024 74.6 47.5 64 8.5 21.8 11 29
Rapeseed 19780 81.9 44.0 54 7.9 20.2 10 25
Arundo Donax 17900 74.1 45.8 62 8.2 21.1 11 28
Average Error % 2.5 5.1 6.8 7.1 7.4 7.2 7.6 7.2
Maximum 19780 81.9 67.9 87 12.2 31.2 16 40
Minimum 15700 65.0 28.0 42 5.0 12.9 8 20
Average 17812 73.7 46.9 63.4 8.4 21.6 11.4 29.2

The data calculated in the previous table is the complete expected system performance for each
researched feedstock. The error in the LHV is an average error reported from the research. The
remaining errors are higher because they contain propagation error from the experimental test
variance. The final 6 columns in table 5.3 have higher erros becaus ethey also contain the propagated
error from the model. The same data set can be found for the experimental feedstocks in tables 3.9
and 3.10. These system performance characterizations can be used to compare the expected system
performance based on what feedstock is used for fuel.

5.4 Cost Analysis


The computed system performance data and cost research data for all feedstocks was used to
calculate the LCOE for operating a small scale distributed downdraft gasifier system of this type
based on feedstock. A basic formula to compute the LCOE for a given system can be seen in
equation 5.1. P n It +Mt +Ft
t=1 (1+r)t
LCOE = Pn Et
(5.1)
t=1 (1+r)t

where:
It = investment expenditures in year t
Mt = maintenance expenditures in year t
Ft = fuel expenditures in year t
Et = energy generation in year t
r= discount rate
n= life of system in years
The previous equation is a standard simple formula used to determine LCOE for many technologies.
Many assumptions have to be made when projecting future costs. LCOE is supposed to represent the
present value of the total lifetime capital and operating costs expressed in real dollars to remove any
inflationary effects. A recently released US Department of Energy(DOE) report used the previous

49
equation to determine regional variation in LCOE for several different energy sources. The results
from that report can be seen in table 5.4.

Table 5.4: Regional variation in levelized cost of energy for different generation
resources [4]
$
Plant LCOE Range M W h
Type minimum average maximum
Conventional Coal 85.5 94.8 110.8
Advanced Coal 100.7 109.4 122.1
Conventional Natural Gas CC 60.0 66.1 74.1
Natural Gas Turbine 99.2 124.5 144.2
Nuclear 109.7 113.9 121.4
Wind 81.9 97.0 115.0
Wind-Offshore 186.7 243.2 349.4
Solar PV 158.7 210.7 323.9
Solar Thermal 191.7 311.8 641.6
Geothermal 91.8 101.7 115.7
Biomass 99.5 112.5 133.4
Hydro 58.5 86.4 121.4

There were several key assumptions made to calculate the values in the previous table. First, each
source represented a peak capacity plant scale system. Second, no government based incentives
were incorporated into the calculations. Third, an assumed system life of 30 years was used for all
sources. Finally, a nominal discount rate of 7% based on market rates and weighted average cost of
capital was used.
For comparative purposes, the feedstock based LCOE for the experimental system was computed
as close as possible to the methods and assumptions used in the DOE report. The same system
life and discount rate from the DOE report were used for this systems calculations. The remaining
terms in equation 5.1 needed to be determined. For the experimental system used, It is a first
year only expenditure of $25,0000. Mt is the yearly operation and maintenance cost which was
estimated at 5% of the initial cost or $1,250. Ft and Et are feedstock specific values constant for
each year(neglecting system degradation) and can be seen in table 5.5.

50
Table 5.5: Cost and energy output expected for all feedstocks [7], [28], [11], [5]

Source Cost Pellet Operating Electrical Combined


$ $ $
Feedstock tonne Cost tonne Cost year Energy MyrWh
Energy MyrWh

Verge Grass 22 55 7178.82 86.7 221.6


Wood-waste 26 65 8484.06 102.5 261.9
Common Sludges 25 62.5 8157.75 98.6 251.9
Cardboard 22 55 7178.82 86.7 221.6
Dry Manure 30 75 9789.30 118.3 302.2
Prunings 75 187.5 24473.25 295.7 755.6
Straw 93 232.5 30346.83 366.6 936.9
Sunflower 200 500 65262.00 788.4 2014.8
Rapeseed 405 1012.5 132155.55 1596.5 4080.0
Arundo Donax (P) 90 90 11747.16 141.9 362.7
Alfalfa 320 800 104419.20 1261.4 3223.7
Algae (P) 600 900 117471.60 1419.1 3626.6
Field Grass 25 62.5 8157.75 98.6 251.9
Hemp 140 350 45683.40 551.9 1410.4
Miscanthus 90 225 29367.90 354.8 906.7
Peanut Shells (P) 205 205 26757.42 323.2 826.1
Pine (P) 65 65 8484.06 102.5 261.9
Municpal Waste 20 50 6526.20 78.8 201.5

In the previous table, the feedstocks denoted with (P) had their original costs referenced to a
pelletized value. This is the prefered method for use in this system. Therefore, it was found that for
typical biomass pelletization the raw biomass costs make up roughly 40% of the final pellet cost [26].
The needed costs were adjusted in the pellet cost column of the table. The yearly operating cost
is based off the pellet cost and typical consumption rate at continuous operation. The data from
table 5.5 was used with other defined costs in equation 5.1 to compute the LCOE for each feedstock
to produce electricity and combined heat and power. The results of these calculations can be seen
in table 5.6.

51
Table 5.6: Levelized cost of energy for electrical and total system operation by feedstock

Pelletized Electrical Total Combined


$ $
Feedstock LCOE M W h LCOE M W h
Verge Grass 118.9 46.5
Wood-waste 113.3 44.4
Common Sludges 114.6 44.8
Cardboard 118.9 46.5
Dry Manure 109.3 42.8
Prunings 93.4 36.5
Straw 91.3 35.7
Sunflower 86.8 33.9
Rapeseed 84.7 33.2
Arundo Donax 104.9 41.0
Alfalfa 85.3 33.4
Algae 85.0 33.3
Field Grass 114.6 44.8
Hemp 88.5 34.6
Miscanthus 91.6 35.8
Peanut Shells 92.5 36.2
Pine 113.3 44.4
Municpal Waste 122.5 47.9
Average Error % 7.9 8.2
Maximum 122.5 47.9
Minimum 84.7 33.2
Average 101.6 39.8

The range of electricity based LCOE values calculated for the different feedstocks is slightly less
than the range of values reported by the DOE report for plant scale biomass. Generally, it would
be expected that small scale distributed energy would have a higher LCOE than plant scale. This
discrepancy is probably due to several reasons. The biomass plant referenced in the DOE report
is a direct combustion biomass plant, which has a lower efficiency than gasification for electricity.
Also, the initial investment cost in this gasifier was much lower than the $5,500 per kW estimated
by NREL because of its manufacture in India. The initial cost for the biomass plant in the DOE
report is based on US costs. If the NREL price is used for this size gasifier the initial cost jumps to
$66,0000, which drives the average electrical LCOE up to 120.2 M W $ . However, the cost of building
h
grid infrastructure to accommodate low use rural areas is not included in the DOE report either.
Even if a high initial cost is assumed and without the cost of the grid it can be seen from table 5.6
that range of electrical LCOE of small scale gasification for just electrical power falls below the range
of most of the other sources. If the engines waste heat is also used for combined heat and power,
the LCOE falls below every source seen in table 5.4. The heated water from the engines exhaust
heat could have many uses for rural developing areas. At the energy and sustainability center at
FSU, there is research being conducted into saltwater desalination and purification using waste heat.
However, heated water can have many other uses.

52
5.5 Environmental Impacts and Sustainability
The environmental impacts of using biomass as a fuel for gasification to heat and power could
be large unless mitigated with care. It is a carbon neutral process as long as carbon release from
the process is matched with biomass carbon intake. If dedicated energy crops are used this carbon
matching is relatively simple as the carbon used for plant growth will match or be less than the
carbon release. Agricultural and forestry waste streams will need to ensure replanting of equal
biomass to meet the carbon neutrality. Animal, municpal and industrial waste streams would not
necessarily be considered carbon neutral unless new plants or carbon sequestration was used to
offset the release, but using waste streams for fuel solves other waste disposal problems. Another
environmental advantage of using biomass as fuel is that the dry ash remaining after gasification has
shown positive results for use as fertilizer for soil. Soil de-nutrification could be a possible negative
impact if dedicated energy crops are used as the fuel source. As long as care is taken to address
the possible negative impacts, small scale biomass gasification for power generation can be a cost
effective and more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional energy sources.

53
CHAPTER 6

CONCLUSION

6.1 Relevant Contributions


This study provided several unique contributions to the understanding of biomass gasification
for power generation. First, the characterization of the gasifier system was an all encompassing
experiment that allowed for a sound understanding of the system. The experimental testing of the
various feedstocks provided a set of data compiled in a single study. There are many downdraft
gasification experiments available in literature, but many are focused on a single feedstock. The
variety of experimental tests compiled in this study could be a valuable source for future researchers
looking to determine the comparative values of different regionally available fuels. Finally, the
experimentally determined adjustments to the thermodynamic model are unique to this study. The
adjustments provide a more accurate model for syngas prediction of different feedstocks. This is
important because anyone looking to implement a system similar to this can make relatively accurate
predictions as to the power generation and cost of the system. This allows for informed decisions to
be made to bring cost effective and sustainable power to limited access areas.

6.2 Overview and Final Remarks


This study began with the testing of a commercial 50 kWth downdraft gasifier providing fuel
to an internal combustion engine/generator. A comprehensive characterization based on averaged
experimental data from several pine pellet runs was performed. Various feedstocks were also tested in
the system to determine performance based on fuel composition. The data from these experiments
was used to develop a model to predict system performance based feedstock compositional data.
The experimental data and the model were used to determine the expected system performance
for a variety of other researched feedstocks with known compositional data. The levelized cost of
energy(LCOE) for this and similar systems was determined for each feedstock in the study.
The general characterization yielded several important parameters. The gasifier efficiency was
found to be 80%. The total system electrical efficiency and total system combined heat and power
efficiency were found to be 14% and 36% respectively. The baseline composition of the syngas pro-
vided a comparative starting point for feedstock testing. The feedstock tests provided experimental
values for gasifier efficiency and syngas composition for different fuel sources. The experimental
data from these tests formed the basis for a model to estimate the system performance for other
feedstocks. The model was tested against experimental data from literature and found to have an
average error of 8.5% for composition and 5.7% for heating value.
Other researched feedstocks were analysed with the model to determine their expected syngas
composition and heating value. The experimental data characterizing system operation was used
to predict the expected total system operation based on the modelled syngas values. All feedstocks

54
from the experiment and literature were then used in LCOE analysis to determine expected lifetime
based energy cost for each feedstock. The average LCOEs of all feedstocks tested was found to be
101.60 M W$ $
h and 39.80 M W h for electricity and combined heat and power respectively.
The LCOE values computed showed that small scale gasification for power with a regional fuel
supply is cheaper than traditional power sources. If the waste heat from the engine exhaust can
be used as heated water, the LCOE is by far cheaper than any other source. Even without the
waste heat, it is significantly cheaper than most other renewable energy sources. It can also be far
more environmentally friendly than traditional sources if care is taken to mitigate possible negative
environmental impacts. With the very low power requirement needed for basic healthy functioning
in rural developing areas, small scale downdraft gasification with regional feedstock sources has the
potential to be a very valuable resource for the large number of people living in these locations.

6.3 Future Work


The experiments and model developed in this study leave open the option for some future
development. First, the experimental data set used to develop the model could be expanded. A
wider variety of experimental data to develop the model would lead to a more robust model for
extended analysis. This would serve to validate the statistical correlations between error sources
and the model adjustment formulas. The experimental data is all unique to this gasifier system.
Further experiments with different scale gasifiers would provide valuable data about how the different
feedstocks perform in different gasifiers. Another possible extension of the experiments would be
to use the experimentally produced syngas with different methods of power generation. Syngas
turbines and fuel cells have begun to gain popularity relatively recently. This could lead to efficiency
increases for the use of biomass as a power source. There also exists the possibility for extended
syngas processing after gasification. If the nitrogen from air gasification could be passively removed
from the syngas stream, the main disadvantage of this technology could be averted. Overall, there
exists a large possibility for future study of this old, but re-emerging technology.

55
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57
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Hans Roesch

The author was born in Pensacola, Florida on November 8, 1984. He completed his
Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Florida in the Spring of
2009. Under the advisement of Professor Anjaneyulu Krothapalli he hopes to complete his
Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at Florida State University in the Fall of 2011.
Hans research interests include renewable energy, power generation, thermodynamics, and
thermal-fluid sciences.

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