[Gasification] The Enigma of Gasification

Thomas Koch TK at tke.dk
Sun Jan 2 16:12:58 CST 2011

Thank you very much for a well balanced picture of the commercial and technical reality for gasification. 
To your comment about Biosynergi I think your judgement is correct - but too cynical and not very optimistic.  Biosynergi has MANY MANY challenges ahead - and if Henrik does not build on others effort he is 99 % sure he will fail. And even if he uses as much inspiration as he can get he still have a fair risk of failing - but he really trying and if he wins hes succes will shine on all of us!!
I invented a new gasifier and a gas cleaning system and biomass dryer and feeding system - operated for approx 12000 hours in total and decided to build a 2,3 MW gasifier.
http://igs.nigc.ir/IGS/ARTIC/NG-39.PDF - slide 19-20 or for neerds http://noest.ecoundco.at/news/docs/1278_TK_Energi_ebs_DK.pdf and from a university lecturer http://redenacionaldecombustao.org/escoladecombustao/arquivos/EDC2007/palestras/Thomas_Koch-Staged_Gasification.pdf
This approach cost me approx 2 mio EUR before i left a not working gasifier - cut view of the 2,3 MW gasifier is shown in the last presentation. 
Henrik from Biosynergi evaluated my project for Danish Energy Agency and estimated that there was still 2,5 MEUR to go which i did not have - my own estimation was maybe the double - thus it was decided to stop this project and start with an other design. I really hope that Henrik as a minimum will make new mistakes and not repeat what i did - and feel free to copy all details he wishes to.
Your last comment about the business culture round gasifiers are very correct - that is why business opportunities run away from gasifier - people and organisations that can manage all three things can earn more money in other businesses.  
Best regrads


Fra: gasification-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org på vegne af Tom Miles
Sendt: sø 02-01-2011 18:53
Til: 'Discussion of biomass pyrolysis and gasification'
Emne: Re: [Gasification] The Enigma of Gasification



Your point that successful gasification projects encourage investor confidence is well stated. There are many gasifiers that are doing useful work. Most are in direct heat applications. Many were built several years ago but some have been built just within the last six years. The confidence that they can work reliably pushes us on to find ways to improve them. 


Failures in large scale refuse gasifiers in the US during the 1970s killed any confidence in gasification for many years. Few projects could not be financed. Nonetheless several subsidized plants were built starting in about 1985. A few remain in operation today. Not much was achieved as far as businesses created and equipment sold. The subsidies of the 1980s did improve small boiler sales when boiler suppliers found they could sell "staged combustion" in a boiler as "gasification" and get a tax credit. Subsidies did get some systems in operation that provided experience with gasification. They do not appear to have substantially improved gasifier sales over the long term.  


There are fewer examples of gasifiers commercially operating in small scale power generation or CHP. As you suggest,  no one seems to have tested operating systems against their proforma performance targets in their business plans to see if they measure up to their own expectations. Gasifier suppliers studiously avoid questions about operating hours and capacity factor. (For years I have said that we can amortize them only on their entertainment value.) Hopefully that is beginning to change.  We wish Biosynergi success. As far as I can tell they have built on the efforts of many others and have taken five years to get this far. 


We need to recognize that many bioenergy projects, not just gasification, involve starting a new business or starting a new business activity, like generating heat and power, that is different from a company's normal business activity. The gasifier "business" involves successfully managing the fuels, the gasifier and the operation and application of the gasifier. You have to get all three right for the business to succeed. Technology developers have to learn how to successfully start and run manufacturing businesses. Operating companies have to develop, learn, and dominate a new technology before it can be accepted as another process in their overall business. Management is as important an ingredient as the technology. Many companies are not successful at the business part of bioenergy projects but nobody will admit it. One gasifier company took six years and $20 million to stabilize. Another has taken 20 years and $100 million. 


Does gasification work? There are commercial direct heat applications. Gasification has improved direct combustion. There are subsidized CHP applications. I know of only a couple of pilot gasifier systems making syngas for liquid fuels that have met their proforma performance targets measured in liquid fuel produced per unit of biomass input. No commercial plants have been built yet.  


We still have many challenges. 


Tom Miles   

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