[Gasification] lanzatech buys closed range fuels plant, for , 5.1mil

Peter & Kerry realpowersystems at gmail.com
Sun Jan 29 22:10:12 CST 2012

Hi  All,

Sorry for the slightly tardy response as I have been indisposed.

Doug has asked some specific questions of me which I will attempt to 
respond as well as giving some additional information, I have cut 
surplus text out simply to reduce clutter, so if the context is unclear 
you will need to refer to the original message.

Firstly however I would like to make very clear that we _are not_ 
looking for opportunities to promote our technology for commercial 
purposes at this time. We are fully occupied and not taking on 
additional projects till existing ones are completed.

We are only too aware that people can be disappointed when we cannot 
supply services on demand. This is why we do not have a website.

Seeking wider credibility is not a priority of ours, we have nationally 
and globally significant companies seeking us out of their own accord 
and projects developing with some of these, often preceded by 2 years of 
due diligence on their part. Commercial success if and when these 
private companies decide to release their findings is the ultimate arbiter.

The company who performed the independent testing is Benzaco Scientific 
Pty Ltd based in Wollongong NSW Australia, the chief scientist is Chris 
Owen who has over 40 years of practical industry experience as an 
industrial chemist.  I don't post other peoples email details on open 
forums but if anyone wants to contact him I am happy to pass your 
details along.

Yes we are familiar with both indirect and direct gasification. We refer 
to our gas as syngas simply because in quality it is a closer 
description of it even though it is from a naturally aspirated gasifier. 
We use the 6.5Mj figure because this is a conservative average of what 
has been measured from our system across a range of feed stocks with 
reasonable moisture contents. For clean  wood chips at around 25% mc the 
figure is over 7Mj/m3. We have a lab certificate showing this, which I 
have already passed on to Doug.

The original aim when we built this system was to obtain consistent 
output using ordinary, readily available, wood chips and indeed we 
achieved this 4 years ago with similar results to Doug's  "linear 1" 
posted recently. The result was within the upper bounds of the 
literature and we were quite satisfied.

The subsequent gas quality improvement came as a result of a happy 
accident following observations of anomalies in the form of unexplained 
" hot spots" which we initially blamed on poor craftsmanship and the use 
of second hand materials. if we had used new professionally fabricated  
materials from the outset we might never have noticed these or made the 
discoveries that followed, and would have gone on accepting the 
literature as being the limit of what could be achieved.

Doug asks about specifications for producer gas to liquid fuel 
conversion.  The only practical requirements I have been informed of is 
the need for starting with very low tar gas with a CO/H2 ratio as close 
to 1:1 as possible. From such a starting point most things can be 
adjusted with readily available ancillary equipment to suit the application.

I understand that 4 years ago Lanzatech was granted the whole NZ 
biofuels research budget of $12 million, so a $300 bill might have been 
overlooked. My main point is even with this sum of money they  still did 
not set up any successful commercial scale pilot plant that I am aware 
of. Though one would assume they must have something since they seem to 
have attracted tens of millions of $ more since.

As someone who has been directly involved in steel industry research I 
do not accept the argument that this industry was too difficult to get 
the CO from, more so once a couple of million in research dollars is on 
the table.

As an example in order to offset a realistic portion of the the fossil 
carbon used directly in smelting just for the Australian steel industry 
(<1% of the global production) requires some 2 million tonnes of organic 
charcoal per year (@>85% fixed carbon so low temp biochar makers need 
not apply) . The industry itself has an urgent need to clean up its 
emissions and the idea of doing so whilst generating an additional 
desirable product (liquid fuels) without needing to alter other aspects 
of its "business as usual" and resorting to felling a billion tonnes of 
forest is a powerful driver.  If a company cannot leverage multi million 
dollar grants being given to it to set up a pilot plant with a willing 
customer then there is something we are not being told.

Doug, your observations of pictures from an old presentation that the 
flare shown contains tars are quite correct, and I had a good laugh at 
myself over this as I knew it was inevitable that some knowledgeable 
person would pick it up, and I thank you for recognising and giving the 
opportunity to put these in context. The gas analysis referred to was 
not taken from the flare you have seen in these photo's.

We don't seek speaking opportunities, but have been asked on a number of 
occasions to give public updates on our work by others who are familiar 
with us, and consider what we are doing to be important.  The problem I 
found was that when you put in a photo of a transparent flare in a 
presentation people don't accept it is anything other than a mechanical 
image of the flare head, just part of the equipment...coloured gas 
flares have more impact since they clearly show combustible gas whilst 
giving a good indication of gas volumes at the same time.  Some of these 
images are from early testing, some from quite problematic materials 
that in ordinary gasifiers don't work at all.  It is compounded by a 
simple "one size fits all" flare head that is inefficient at fuel/air 
mixing so sometimes gives off secondary colour as combustion products 
get converted to other forms inside the flame zone and then combust at 
its edges when they again meet free oxygen.  Also until  recently we 
never had any form of filtering other than a crude drum cooler so carbon 
black and entrained fine ash can add variety to the flame depending on 
fan pressure, the new particulate cyclones we have now fitted have 
largely addressed the latter.

The gas quality referred to is from clean wood chips after the system 
reached stable operating temperature, at a fixed gas flow rate, 
generally reached within 30 minutes from a cold start, the flare is 
usually transparent in daylight at this point, and is then maintained as 
long as wood fuel is kept up to the system. Though gas that can self 
sustain a flare is normally produced within a couple of minutes. There 
were no easily detectable tars present during this phase  on this type 
of woody material and the energy content reported _does not_ include any 
condensable fractions.

Our gasifier can produce condensates on start-up or with sub optimal 
fuels such as high moisture >30%,  (we have successfully gasified up to 
40%mc, albeit resulting in low btu gas and a condensate)  or whole tree 
chips including bark and leaves. Very fine particle sizes or high 
moisture adversely affects flow and heat transfer inside the hearth. 
Even so condensates are not usually particularly excessive, 1 to 2 
litres per 100kg of wood chips in a repeated stop and start mode when 
testing various chip types, even when it is raining.

Take a look at:

There is a video link on the page  to the right of the first photo 
(labelled Biochar video) which has a shot within it of one of our 
development units being flared ten minutes after start up on whole tree 
chips (including leaves). We did not produce this video and had no 
editorial control over content, beyond a general approval to use footage 
they took on our site during their visit. During this testing 20 biomass 
samples were run over 3 days and 30 hours of operation. Gas samples were 
taken at 30 minutes after each restart. Not all had transparent flares, 
particularly those with a high percentage of fines in the feed stocks as 
in this case, but for the purpose of the video it is dramatic for the 
average viewer, and leads to an immediate understanding that potential 
energy is present.

We are not hiding and have never done so, we don't have investors and so 
have no need to issue press releases to satisfy them. The research 
organisations over here are well aware of our presence and capacity, and 
offers to collaborate were given them well before they set any research 
priorities. We have now moved on.

We have in the past received nasty phone calls from unidentified people 
and been accused of threatening millions of dollars of research funds 
and that we should "pull our heads in" as "we don't know how the real 
world works". My personal favourite comment came from a government 
bureaucrat "Your problem is you are 5 years ahead of where policy and 
industry wants you to be..."!

The issue I mentioned where a prominent research institution "... 
weren't allowed to help us" is not fixable by naming the scientist 
involved, and it is not about being game, it is about respect for the 
situation of other people. The statement was given without malice or 
arrogance, it is the system that is the problem and damaging the careers 
of otherwise dedicated people is not going to fix it.

I do reserve the right to vent occasionally, even if ineffectual or not 
agreed with. You might forgive my cynicism  when I see  millions from 
the public purse and ill informed investors being wasted in the process 
of "wealth redistribution", and at least here in OZ often involving the 
same handful of people who keep re-badging themselves after failures in 
order to get their snouts back in the trough.

At the end of the day though we recognise that ultimately the problems 
of small scale gasification are much less to do with machinations of 
some professional researchers and corporate s and more to do with the 
difficulties of building safe, easily replicated and reliable systems 
matched to biomass resource and local skills.  Solving the real problem 
is our main focus.

Peter Davies

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