[Gasification] Identifying and fixing technical and commercial roadblocks to commercial small-scale CHP gasifiers

Tom Miles tmiles at trmiles.com
Thu Jun 28 19:59:07 CDT 2012


Generally if a piece of equipment can get through commercial production for
600 hours you will have discovered most of the unanticipated problems.  It
usually takes a couple of months of round the clock production to get to
that point. Beyond that it takes another couple of thousand hours to verify
operation and increase reliability. When you're hitting over 90% production
every 24 hour day then it should get boring. With industrial biomass systems
fuel quality, fuel sizing, drying, and feeding account for about 95% of the
unintended stoppages/outages/downtime. If you are ready for commercial
production then you have already solved the downstream problems like
figuring out how to make good quality gas, gas cleaning and cooling, and gas
use, whether it is a boiler or engine.

The variety of biomass feedstocks in type, form size and availability is
usually a challenge. A device is often developed on fuels with certain
specifications. When things fail vendors complain that the fuel was
non-spec. It happens all the time but it doesn't really help anybody. As a
supplier you have to be prepared to supply or specify the fuel system along
with the reactor. 

A major challenge for development companies has less to do with the
technology and more to do with how you run a business. Some are business
failures more than technology failures.  People just have different talents
for running startup businesses. Technology developers chronically waste a
lot of money up front, delay in building and testing prototypes, have slow
turnarounds on improvements, use equipment that won't stand up to the
abrasiveness of biomass, etc. It doesn't take long before you run out of
money. As in other businesses the good strategy is probably to develop a
good product and then sell it to a company in a similar business, like a
boiler company, that can take advantage of manufacturing capabilities that
are used to produce other products. 

Sometimes the gasifier is just a "money magnet," a piece of pretty steel to
attract investors. It is assumed that you can get it to work was you burn
through the start-up funding. Sometimes it seems like we are very
inefficient at using money invested in gasification but we may be no
different than other industries.  

A common mistake is to try to export a gasification products too soon. In
other equipment we say that you need to develop a domestic market before you
try to export it. In the 1970s we saw a lot of gasifiers start out in
universities then the prototypes were exported to developing companies
before they were fully developed. Usually they rusted there unless the
engineer or scientist who developed them showed up. Then they are very
expensive to try to improve or maintain. 

We have many companies offering gasifiers have built one prototype and claim
performance well beyond their demonstrated capabilities. It's fine for the
prototypes and the first several commercial units to fail as along as the
supplier stays with it and makes things work. We tend to criticize
prototypes or initial installations that fail. We should applaud the success
of those who have recovered from the failure by identifying the problem an
designing around it in time to get back into production.   We all have
failures as we develop new systems. Sometimes developers can't continue
development because the client has failed financially. Usually the grant
money runs out before you get through commissioning.

Those are just some of the many hazards in developing gasification systems.
Add all that to a limited and fickle market and it's actually a pretty high
risk activity. As they say, to make a small fortune in gasification you need
to start with a large fortune.



-----Original Message-----
From: gasification-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org
[mailto:gasification-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] On Behalf Of David
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 5:11 PM
To: gasification at lists.bioenergylists.org
Subject: [Gasification] Identifying and fixing technical and commercial
roadblocks to commercial small-scale CHP gasifiers

Thanks, Tom.

A very useful study would be identifying at good resolution the reasons why
small-scale CHP gasifiers fail technically and/or struggle commercially.
Once that's clearly established suitable focus can be brought to bear on
what is going wrong between pilot/demonstration and commercial phases with a
view to fixing the issues. I think the same could apply to 2nd generation



> -----Oprindelig meddelelse-----
> Fra: gasification-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org 
> [mailto:gasification-bounces at lists.bioenergylists.org] P? vegne af Tom 
> Miles
> Sendt: 28. juni 2012 03:14
> Til: 'Discussion of biomass pyrolysis and gasification'
> Emne: Re: [Gasification] Which of the gasifiers Tom listed are meeting 
> Knoef's commercial criteria
> David,
> It looks like you have the makings of a survey. :-/
> Harrie's criteria are good and would be difficult for most suppliers to
meet. We want gasifiers to be as readily installed and operated as boilers.
> We should determine what needs to be done to get more suppliers over all
of these hurdles.
> Tom

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