[Stoves] Wood chips for syngas energy

Tom Miles tmiles at trmiles.com
Mon Oct 10 09:34:47 PDT 2011


 

This example highlights the hazards in solid fuel gasification and combustion. We may hear the full story on the explosion eventually. There are explosions in wood dryers and boilers that you never hear about. Root causes for explosions can be in the fuel, the design of the system, or in the operation of the system, so I wouldn't condemn the supplier out of hand, but then I am not a news reporter.  

 

I heard that the plant did have a complex history. Johnson Controls was the general contractor and therefore responsible for the plant operation. There were a number of component suppliers. Nexterra supplied the gasifier and boiler. Others supplied the fuel system. Startups of this scale are never easy and sometimes can be bad. We heard of problems in construction and startup. I had understood that most of the problems had been resolved. I wouldn't expect any supplier to advertise problems on their website.

 

Nexterra has supplied some very successful plants of the same size and capacity. I have visited both their plant in Hefley, Canada, which has operated for six years, and their pilot plant in nearby Kamloops several times. I visited two, larger, gasifiers at Kruger paper mill, Kruger (Vancouver, BC) after a year of operation. I spoke last week with the manager of a new system they installed at U of Northern British Columbia. All of those owners are quite pleased. I haven't visited Dockside or USC. The housing facility at the small Dockside Green plant was only half filled when I last checked so I don't know if the low production is due to low demand, fuel prices or other causes. 

 

There is another hazard that would not be obvious if you have not done it before, and that is installing industrial solid fuel burning equipment in a non-industrial setting like a university or office building. It is a completely different environment than an industrial plant. Facilities personnel in these institutions do not have the same skills, safety training, or attitude that you require in an industrial plant. Management's approach to capital projects is completely different. Instead of looking for solutions to problems they more often "search for the guilty" or they have a variety of agendas that are often not related to building a heating system. That is why companies like Johnson Controls who build and operate plants like this get the contracts and take the responsibility. 

 

Tom

 

 

 

    

 

From: stoves-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org [mailto:stoves-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of rongretlarson at comcast.net
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2011 6:34 AM
To: Discussion of biomass cooking stoves; Alex English
Subject: Re: [Stoves] Wood chips for syngas energy

 

Alex:

    1.  Thanks for the added information on Nexterra being the actual group (not Johnson Control) behind the South Carolina project.   At their site (http://www.nexterra.ca/industry/johnson.cfm) there is no indication of any problems.  Do we know if Nexterra should take the blame for most of the down time and the accident?  What is the division of responsibility between Nexterra and Johnson for this project?  Are any of the other half-dozen Nexterra plants having the same troubles?

   2.  Maybe some of the people on this list don't know that your 99% record of being on-line includes your doing a lot to convert from a combustion unit to a pyrolysis unit - making char successfully.  Being one of the only people in the world who has made this important shift, can you say anything about the relative difficulties in combustion, gasification and pyrolysis.  Are you operating today as a char-maker?

   3.  Reading the WUWT (WattsUpWithThat) article makes me more than a little mad.  They have clearly shifted into a position where all renewables (the blog entries talk of wind and solar also) are to be slammed at every opportunity.  This is in support of a similar position by the extreme right - including many in the majority party in the US House of Representatives.  I don't see this as a Tea Party issue but wonder if anyone knows.   This is an extension of the WUWT position that there is no global warming issue.   They would probably similarly degrade any work of this list on biomass stoves.  Their position is probably that all wood stove users should shift to fossil fuels - as being safer and cheaper.  

Ron

  _____  

From: "Alex English" <english at kingston.net>
To: "Discussion of biomass cooking stoves" <stoves at lists.bioenergylists.org>
Sent: Monday, October 10, 2011 6:30:47 AM
Subject: Re: [Stoves] Wood chips for syngas energy

Crispin,
Yes they were supposed to be the beacon for biomass energy. Nexterra is often a featured presenter at Biomass energy conferences. I stopped by their Dockside Green heating plant in Victoria in June.  Johnson Controls seemed like a big player that could do thing right. 98 day out of 534 providing steam/heat, ouch. 

It would be nice to see a complete "aircrash investigation" style report on all the problems that goes beyond journalism. I could write one for our wood chip fired heating plant. There are lots of things that do go awry, but we've been online producing all our heat for over 99% of the time. Then again we could blow up tomorrow:) This summer our fuel pile was struck by lightning. 
Stuff happens but there is a strong tendency not to talk openly about it. 

"officials touted plant as the cat's meow" When my cat meows its usually be cause she is stuck up a tree.

Alex

On 10/10/2011 12:40 AM, Crispin Pemberton-Pigott wrote: 

Dear Gas-Friendly Friends

 

Not quite the result we were expecting:

 

1.)    The technology:  http://www.palletenterprise.com/articledatabase/view.asp?articleID=2841

2.)    The problems: http://www.thestate.com/2011/10/09/2001993/uscs-biomass-plant-debacle.html#ixzz1aKeVXkUU

3.)    The discussion: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/10/09/green-fail-foia-shows-dangerous-university-biomass-power-plant-frought-with-problems-closures-explosion/#more-48955 

 

It is a wood gasifier with three chambers. It is not a pyrolyser. It produces ash, not char.

 

Regards

Crispin

 

 

 

 





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