Biomass Syngas Cleaning

The lack of effective syngas clean-up and conditioning systems is a key technical barrier to the commercialization of biomass gasification technologies, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Southern Research directly addresses this need with our extensive experience and innovation in syngas cleaning technology, including expertise with syngas scrubbers and alternative syngas cleaning systems for tars, solids, sulfur, and CO2 removal.

Biomass syngas presents contaminant clean-up challenges, including the need to significantly and consistently reduce high concentrations of tars and other contaminants when liquid fuel conversion technologies are used. For example, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and other syngas conversion processes use catalysts that are easily rendered ineffective by the large quantities of tars contained in biomass syngas. This issue may require the use of advanced syngas cleaning systems capable of consistently providing the level of deep cleaning that catalytic conversion processes demand. Platforms that convert biomass syngas into electrical power, or that use unique gasifiers that produce low contaminants (e.g., high-temperature gasifiers), may allow for simpler syngas clean-up systems.

Advanced Technology and Innovation

For more than 10 years, Southern Research has been on the forefront of significant innovations in hot-gas filtration technology for coal gasification applications using sintered metal filter technology. Building on these accomplishments and our experience in operating biorefinery pilot plants, Southern Research has developed an effective process to deep clean biomass syngas.

The process, illustrated below, allows syngas to be cleaned hot without a primary scrubber, avoiding some liquid waste generation and tar deposition and creating the opportunity to convert tar into useful products. Additional features and benefits of this innovative system include:

  • Removes multi-contaminants in a single vessel
  • Provides more consistent low-outlet contaminant concentrations than scrubbers
  • Can be applied in a single external reactor or integrated into the freeboard area of some gasifiers
  • Downstream gas polishing may be required depending on the gasifier, feed material, and requirements of downstream catalysts and other equipment

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