Diversified Energy receives DOE funding

By Bryan Sims
Web exclusive posted August 20, 2008 at 4:10 p.m. CST

Gilbert, Ariz.-based Diversified Energy Corp. has received $945,000 of additional funding from the U.S. DOE's Small Business Innovation Research Program to advance its proprietary HydroMax gasification technology. Diversified Energy received the Phase II funding after a competitive solicitation from the DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory and successful completion of its 24-month Phase I development project.

According to Jeff Hassannia, vice president of business development for Diversified Energy, the company's HydroMax gasification technology possesses a couple key advantages over traditional gasifiers. The HydroMax gasification system uses a unique patented molten-metals approach to produce high quality syngas critical to offsetting energy costs for heating applications in industrial markets such as the paper and pulp industry, food processing industry, biofuels industry and the cement industry.

According to the company, one of the advantages of the HydroMax over the conventional gasifiers is that it can take in a virtually any type of hydrocarbon inputs. Although the syngas has an inherently low British thermal unit content, the syngas can be upgraded to a higher Btu content similar to that of natural gas, according to Hassannia.

"It's essentially a smelter," he said, emphasizing that the system doesn't utilize a fast pyrolysis process. "Because it uses a molten bath of iron and tin at 1,300 degrees Celsius, it can really handle any carbon source you can think of. Whether you put in coal, petroleum coke, municipal solid waste or scrap tires, the gasifier is very resilient to that and that's very unique."

Additionally, the HydroMax system doesn't reject biomass feedstocks that are high in moisture content. Because the HydroMax operates at such a hot temperature, it has the ability to use the heat that's inherent in the hot gas to pre-dry incoming feedstocks.

"So, we're basically using free heat," Hassannia said. "We're not taking any of the syngas away from the output. With our architecture, we can handle very high moisture content about 60 percent to 70 percent."

A second advantage is that because of the temperature at which it operates, the production of syngas is relatively free of tars and oils, which requires less downstream clean-up equipment. "What that means is that there isn't as much back-end clean-up requirements as compared to some of the traditional gasifiers," Hassannia said. "There's still clean-up required of course, but not to the degree that a traditional gasifier is going to require."

The third key advantage, Hassannia said, is that the HydroMax has a design that can economically scale down to fit virtually any type of industrial environment for industrial scale process heating applications.

During phase I of the SBIR, a technical team that included Pittsburgh Mineral and Environmental Technology Inc. built and operated Diversified Energy's HydroMax gasification reactor testing multiple coal types to characterize syngas output composition and measure overall system performance and efficiency. In phase 2, the objectives are to scale up and conduct more rigorous testing with longer test runs, Hassannia said.

"It's a very easy transition," he said. "We're also now going to be introducing biomass-coal blends into the gasifier, which we didn't do in phase I. There's going to be more instrumentation associated with the reactor so we're going to be able to better understand the performance and output capabilities."

The DOE SBIR Phase II award, coupled with on-going research and development sponsored by the California Energy Commission and U.S. Department of Defense, solidifies the commercial potential for the HydroMax gasification technology. Diversified Energy intends to leverage government awards and industry partnerships to introduce the first HydroMax commercial pilot-scale plant after the two-year project is complete, Hassannia said.

"It won't be a full-scale system, but it will be a pilot facility where we will actually be able to put [the HydroMax] into some real world environment scenarios and produce operational syngas," he said. "This is a nice step towards commercializing this for us."