Blacka, J.M. Irvingb, R.P.Overendc B C FERCO Burlington Electric Department National Renewable Energy Laboratory 3500 Parkway Lane, Suite 440 585 Pine Street 1617 Cole Blvd. Norcross, GA 30052 Burlington, VT 05401 Golden, CO 80401


ABSTRACT: The Burlington Vermont gasifier is the first commercial scale demonstration of the Battelle / FERCO indirectly heated biomass gasification process. The plant is coupled to the McNeil station of the Burlington Electric Department and is being used to evaluate and demonstrate the gasification technology both as a producer of fuel gas in the first operational phase and in a combined cycle with a gas turbine power generation system in subsequent operations. This paper discusses recent operating results at the Burlington site and compares them with the results obtained in the Battelle pilot plant gasifier. FERCO the owner of the gasification technology has recently reorganized and been refinanced and plans to develop projects worldwide.

1. INTRODUCTION Current biomass electricity systems are almost all based on boilers fired with wood or agricultural residues. As a result these systems are limited to approximately 25 percent overall conversion efficiency to electric power. Much higher efficiencies are being achieved in natural gas combined cycle units where efficiencies approaching 60 percent are possible. Transforming solid fuels such as coal or biomass into gas so that these higher efficiencies in combined cycle systems can be achieved is a goal of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the European Union. The FERCO biomass gasification process was developed to convert biomass into such a gaseous. Unlike other biomass gasification processes, the FERCO process is not based on starved air combustion, but rather rapidly heats raw biomass in an air free environment to minimize tar formation and create a solid residue char that is used as a heat source for the biomass heating. Significantly less emissions are produced in the process because of the relative ease of treating the high energy density, medium heating value gaseous product. 2. PROCESS BACKGROUND 2.1 The FERCO Biomass Gasification Process The FERCO gasification technology underwent initial developments at Battelle’s Columbus Laboratories as a part of the DOE’s Biomass Power Program. The technology is specifically designed to take advantage of the unique properties of biomass, such as high reactivity, low ash, low sulfur, and high volatile matter. The process: • Produces a fuel gas that it can be used interchangeably with natural gas or distillate oil . • Provides efficiency gains of 60% over conventional biomass power plants and with advanced power systems such as fuel cells improvements of over 160% The flexibility of the process makes possible the production of mixtures of the above products as co-products as part of a “biorefinery” providing increased flexibility depending on the specific needs of end users. The process, shown schematically in figure 1, uses two circulating fluidized bed reactors as the primary process vessels. The process, unlike most conventional gasification processes, uses indirect heating of the biomass to generate a medium heating value (11-14 MJ/Nm3) gas rather than a low oxygen partial combustion of the biomass. In the process sand is used as a heat transfer medium to rapidly heat the incoming biomass and convey char from the gasification reactor into the process combustor. The FERCO process takes advantage of the inherently high reactivity of biomass feedstocks. In the process extremely high throughputs (in excess of 14,600 kg/hr-m2) have been Figure 1: The FERCO Biomass Gasification Process • Provides a non-diluted product gas stream suitable for synthesis applications. Potential applications include the production of Fisher Tropsch liquids, alcohols, and hydrogen Reduces greenhouse gas emissions over an order of magnitude compared with current fossil fuel based technologies and over 50% compared to direct combustion of biomass.

Burlington Electric Department’s McNeil station was selected as the site for this demonstration plant. Thermal gasification of biomass provides flexibility for the production of a complete slate of products as described above in a virtual “biomass refinery”. On the contrary. Battelle engineers invented the process and conducted the initial developments under contract to the US DOE in the early 1980's.5 x 14. Figure 2. Construction began in 1996 and was completed late in 1997. biomass feeding and handling. The scale selected is sufficient ly large so that commercial scale process equipment could be utilized to eliminate so called “pilot plant compromises” in the design.3 Development Partners The partners in the development of the process at the McNeil site are Future Energy Resources (FERCO). and a gas turbine power generation system. These are: • • • • • Develop a reliable technology Develop detailed commercial design information Demonstrate power production systems Demonstrate synthesis applications Establish the Burlington site as a developmental platform processing results in cost competitive products from renewable biomass resources. bringing in additional shareholders including the Turner foundation. Battelle. Each of these supporting technologies are being evaluated as a part of the current program. This results in a gasifier operating schedule of approximately 3 . no problems with the process have been encountered. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The first operation of the plant in full steam gasification occurred in August of 1999.1 An Extended Startup Period Startup operations in the plant have extended beyond the original schedule for the plant leading to an impression that there has been some “problem” with the technology. but are anticipated to be expanded to encompass additional technologies after the initial operating data has been generated. 3. These situations have included: These technical goals parallel the Department of Energy’s goals for bioenergy. The US DOE and NREL provide valuable technical support to the program along with program management. gas compression. but rather “non-related” situations have combined to extend the startup period. The progress made by the Vermont Gasification project establishes its role as a key element for future development of biomass derived products. The first wood was fed to the unit in December of 1997. BED hopes to improve its generating efficiency by implementing a gasification combined cycle system. A photograph of the facility is shown in Figure 2. These projects will build on the operations at Burlington. construction and initial operation firing the product gas in the McNeil boiler. BED has a long history with biomass based power generation. 2. 2. The program has a number of established technical goals. the facility has demonstrated itself to have application beyond the direct development of the FERCO technology and will be used as a Development and Applications Testing Platform (DATP) for other supporting technologies such as gas cleanup. 2. The McNeil Gasifier Startup testing of the process began in earnest in 1998 and continued into 1999. Operating Results in Vermont 3. the US DOE. and drying. McNeil must operate for the gasifier to operate. The McNeil station. of the FERCO gasification process. In 1992. and the third phase adding additional gas cleanup. The program has been conducted in three phases.5 m.achieved.5 Design of the McNeil Gasifier Plant design was initiated in 1994. Burlington Electric.5 m completes the facility. FERCO purchased the rights to the technology from Battelle and is now the owner of the worldwide rights. design. As the program has progressed. The gasifier structure is 34 m in height and has a rather compact footprint of 10. The favorable size and processing methods characteristic of thermochemical • The McNeil station is a dispatched plant and does not operate 7 days a week. at commercial scale. In 1999.2 The Vermont Development Program The successful operation in the Battelle pilot plant led to the decision to scale up the process to commercial scale.5 x 10. 2. The plant is designed for 182 dry tonnes per day of biomass feed. FERCO was reorganized and refinanced. FERCO is developing renewable energy projects based on the gasification technology worldwide.4 Program Goals and Objectives The development program at McNeil has as its primary objective the demonstration. at 50 MW is one of the world’s largest wood fired power stations. An additional scrubber building of 10. gas compressing. The compact size of the FERCO gasifier increases its utility for industrial applications and helps to lower overall capital cost of the process.

1 • • As can be seen.2 Program Accomplishments As operations have progressed. Comparison of Conversions in PRU and Burlington Gasifiers Figure 3 illustrates the gas production rates expressed as a fraction of the incoming wood carbon found in the product gas.3 • • • • • • 14. continuous. Process design improvements have been identified that will improve efficiency of the process and reduce capital cost. operating periods have been extended and system operability has increased. operations at the plant have continued and positive operating results have been obtained.0 47. Multiple changes in design engineering staff were made due to organizational changes with the EPC contractor. and product gas scrubbing. . A series of equipment modifications has recently been completed that will further improve system operability and allow further process data to be generated. F • Figure 3. and the generation of power from biomass gasification. but the operational availability has now increased to the point where detailed process evaluations are underway.0 1. Other key accomplishments include: • Product gas has been generated by the process and supplied to the McNeil station demonstrating the use of the gas as a co-firing fuel.1 McNeil Data 18. Poor performance of the process cyclone separators and impacts of the increased solids loading on the scrubber. Primary among these accomplishments is the demonstration of the production of a product gas with essentially the same composition and production rates as the projections made based on pilot scale data generated at Battelle. some equipment modifications continue at the Burlington site. This difference was due to a small air flow that remained in one of the sand circulation loops during the test resulting in combustion of a small portion of the product gas. Despite these difficulties.5 6. Table 1. Diagnostic tests on the sand circulation system have been performed that have guided the design of circulation system improvements.0 9. reflects this improved operation and has as one of the milestones. solids separation. 100 Comparison of Burlington Data to PRU • Carbon Conversion. around-the-clock operation in the McNeil gasifier in early July. Comparision of McNeil Gasifier Gas Composition to Battelle Pilot Data Pilot Data H2 CO CO2 CH4 C2H4 C2H6 HHV MJ/Nm3 Btu/scf 18.. a number of support systems have required significant modifications. The following table illustrates the composition of the product gas generated in the Battelle PRU compared to the gas currently being generated in the McNeil gasifier.8 455 17.5 499 16.days a week.0 14. % Although core process systems have performed as expected. As is the case with all development scale projects. 3. Wood feed system reliability has been increased providing feed rates in excess of “design rates” to the process Startup operations have been improved reducing startup periods from 12 to 24 hours down to 4 to 6 hours Improvements in the scrubber system have been made to aid in the handling of tars generated in the process. Understanding of process response allowing improvements to the process control system to be made Improvements in wood handling operations have been made to provide consistent biomass properties to the plant.9 4. 2000.7 1. These include materials handling. The current program schedule developed by FERCO.4 15. a number of significant accomplishments have been achieved.5 50. The McNeil gasifier data fall well within the data set previously generated in the Battelle pilot plant even though initial operating temperatures are below the design operating point of about 800C (1450 to 1500F). As additional operating experience has been gained in the facility. Demonstration that char can be transferred between the process vessels and therefore provide the driving force for the process. the compositions are essentially the same differing only in the carbon dioxide content of the gas. 80 60 40 • 20 0 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000 Gasifier Temperature.

“Biomass Gasification for Power Generation”.. Drying has been identified as an areas that can have significant impact on the overall capital requirements of biomass gasification systems. FERCO refinancing and reorganization has added significant momentum to implementation of commercial projects utilizing the technology. Pergamon-Elsevier Science: Oxford. J.. M. These studies will also demonstrate the ability of the Burlington gasifier to provide smaller quantities of representative product gas for evaluation of other technologies at the site including chemical synthesis..A. Black. M. Proceedings of the Third Biomass Conference of the Americas.. 1998.. R.M. Irving.” 4th Biomass Conference of the Americas.. These activities will move the program into its third phase. G. Paisley. Irving. 5. These studies will initially focus on a proprietary gas cleanup system developed by FERCO and Battelle but will also include other commercial and developing gas cleanup systems as well.. as an intermediate step in the testing program. “Commercial Development of the Battelle/FERCO Biomass Gasification Process – Initial Operation of the McNeil Gasifier”. FERCO is in active discussions regarding a number of projects worldwide as both technology provider and equity participant. M. High biomass throughputs can be achieved in compact reactors [2] • • No environmental problems exist with the technology. W. Slack. Future Plans • 4.. and power generation.P. Engineering. U. Development partners will be added to the program team to provide the necessary expertise in gas compression... wood moisture. M. or hydrogen generation..A. REFERENCES [1] Paisley.A. Detailed evaluation of biomass drying options are planned as a part of the McNeil efforts. pp 579588. [3] [4] • .. installation and operation of a gas turbine power generation system.1 Parametric Testing A detailed parametric testing program has been established that will provide operating data on a range of process parameters including steam rates. Conclusions Operation at the McNeil site has validated the expected performance of the FERCO gasification process and has shown that: • A medium heating value product gas can be produced from biomass without the use of pure oxygen. As discussed above. advanced power systems. and turnup and turndown ratios. U. Paisley.2 Equipment Modifications Modifications have been identified that will significantly improve the operation of the sand circulation system. 4. Additional improvements are planned to the process scrubber system.P. and Overend. These operations will provide an accurate picture of the process operation and provide additional inputs to subsequent process design activities.3 Further Investigations Later in 2000 and through 2001. “The Battelle/FERCO Biomass Gasification Process: Design. 1997..K. Seminar on Power Production from Biomass III. FERCO will be evaluating gas conditioning. J. 4. and Overend. and Irving. Farris.C. and Startup Phase”. FERCO has established a corporate goal of achieving 24 hours of sustained operating in full gasification at design conditions by early July. 1999.. M.A. Farris. pp 1061-1066 Farris. FERCO’s development plans also include the design and implementation of advanced power generation at the site..W.• 4.. 1994. J. “Commercial Development of the Battelle/FERCO Biomass Gasification Process: Startup and Initial Operating Experience.P. R. Minor modifications to the gasifier and combustor vessels are planned to improve gas distribution in the reactors. Espo Finland.K. The modifications will result allow for increased sand circulation rates and improved performance of the process cyclones. EPRI 13th Conference on Gasification Power Plants. Construction.. J. No extensive preparation of the biomass feedstocks is necessary for the process. Pergamon-Elsevier Science: Oxford. R. M. Paisley. and Overend.

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