[Gasification] Bad money after worse

linvent at aol.com linvent at aol.com
Mon Jan 23 05:29:30 CST 2012

Dear Listers,
     Like the myriad of efforts to gasify biomass and produce a gas 
suitable for biocatalysis, there have been lots of failed efforts. The 
microbe development effort is fairly substantial alone.
      From what I have garnered from those who have some knowledge of 
the Range Fuels' efforts, the gasifier feeding system was given to the 
lowest bidder and it was not robust enough to handle the load. I have 
also heard from this list that the tar content of the gas was 
substantial and not dealt with properly.
     From the reports of methanol and ethanol yields, the catalyst was a 
relatively conventional methanol catalyst used for ethanol production 
which in many cases, still produces lots of methanol which is not 
nearly the value of ethanol. There are catalysts which reportedly 
produce a much higher level of ethanol over methanol, but the developer 
has not shown long term performance that I am aware of.
     In my opinion, the best bet is to replace the gasifier (which 
includes the gas cleanup system) and go to a better catalyst.
     It is not unusual for failures in the synthetic chemicals' field. 
Some of note which are not well known or talked about include BP 
Amoco's GTL plant in Anchorage which couldn't keep the catalyst 
together, Qatar's GTL $12bn plant which SASOL guaranteed the catalyst 
and it fell apart, which dropped SASOL's stock 36% the day it was 
     I do admire Kholsa's perseverance and continuing works in the 
field. A lot of investors will take a hit like this and walk away for 
reasons as simple as not wanting to appear like beating a dead horse.
     As to getting paid, Ontario Hydro's technology development group 
cancelled a contract with Thermogenics after spending way too much 
money from infighting with the various engineering groups in their 
organization, created a portable unit which weighed 83,000 pounds on a 
48 ft. 2 axle trailer, which violated the trailer's guarantee, could 
not be transported over the roads, had to be lifted with a crane onto a 
flatbed and then shipped with collapsed sides by rail to Toronto, and 
allowed to rust in their parking lot. The infighting cost Thermogenics 
$180,000 and serious credibility. The design was based on an operating 
system  and the continuing demands of the various engineering group, 
changes in the contract all added up to a very expensive headache for 
everyone involved.
Leland T "Tom" Taylor
Thermogenics Inc.

-----Original Message-----
From: doug.williams <Doug.Williams at orcon.net.nz>
To: Discussion of biomass pyrolysis and gasification 
<gasification at lists.bioenergylists.org>; gasification 
<gasification at bioenergylists.org>
Sent: Mon, Jan 23, 2012 3:21 am
Subject: Re: [Gasification] lanzatech buys closed range fuels plant for 

Hi Jim and Gasification Colleagues.
You may be interested in a couple of points about this NZ Company:


>lanza tech wants to do microbes after the gasification section, vs 
>catalyst route of range fuels. 
Lanzatech use their microbes to make liquid fuels from emission CO. 
Their idea was to capture CO from steel mills, but as a NZ company, we 
have only one steelmill in the country. Have you any idea how 
complicated it is to get permission to collect CO emission gas from a 
working steel mill for experimentation? Steel mill emissions are by the 
way free from condensable hydrocarbons, so there was a lot of ignorance 
at that time of the tar issues of using producer gas from biomass.
Looking for a source of CO, they were referred to me by Canterbury 
University as a potential supplier of CO via producer gas, in the first 
order to develop enough of the microbes for commercial testing. It was 
this project that motivated me to assemble the stored Pioneer Class 
gasification system, and for the first time ever (for me), purchase a 
small compressor to pump up new LPG cylinders to 120 psi, so they could 
start their test programme. They ran into all sorts of problems of 
having gas stored in unspecified cylinders, and storing gas at a city 
laboratory without the required permits.  I reported this project to 
the Gasification List at the time, but was never given follow up 
progress reports as promised after they got the gas. Needless to say I 
never heard from them again, and they still owe me the $300 agreed to 
for all the time I spent getting them started.
> but still the gasifier needs to work,
>which was the primary problem on the frist go.  where were we again 
>understanding the problem they had with the gasifier?
 You find that most projects would not even get off the ground if 
expertise was applied to scrutinize the type of technologies involved. 
Gasifiers are presented as quite wondrous processes, and the less 
informed are swept up in an enthusiastic wave of support for something 
in which they have no clear understanding. The Range 
Fuels technologists proved no smarter than any other group claiming to 
have revolutionary processes to make liquid fuels from producer gas, 
probably described as syngas in  their successful proposals for 
funding. If my memory is correct, the gasifier is a recirculating 
fluidized bed system that does not make a tar free gas.

>lanzatech points out they do not understand gasifiers, and plant to
>spend a minimal amount to see if they can get the current gasifier
>operational, before bringing in another.
The cheaper producer gas CO made from biomass, is "not" quite so easy 
to make using inappropriate gasification technologies, and the need for 
a tar free gas for compressing in substantial quantities will be a 
challenge. Their admitted ignorance of gasification technology should 
at least wave a red flag of warning to their investors.
Having said that, hope they can make it work before someone 
else's money runs out (:-)
Doug Williams,
Fluidyne Gasification.
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