Florida Syngas receives grant to research glycerin

By Erin Voegele
Web exclusive posted August 20, 2008 at 11:33 a.m. CST

Florida Syngas LLC has been awarded $3,000 through the state's Phase Zero program to create a Phase I USDA Small Business Innovation Research Program proposal. The Phase Zero program was created to help small businesses offset the costs of creating a full Phase I USDA SBIR proposal.

Florida Syngas has developed and patented a technology that converts glycerin from biodiesel production into a clean-burning synthesis gas. The company's proposal includes studying the effects of British thermal unit (BTU) manipulating on its synthesis gas by reducing the nitrogen dilution effects caused by air.

According to John Sessa, chief operating officer of Florida Syngas, the process involves creating plasma out of the glycerol. The plasma is not combusted, but is put through a process that creates partial oxidation. A catalyst is then added. Sessa said the process is exothermic and creates extra heat that is recovered and used in subsequent processes. According to Lawrence Bell, the company's vice president of marketing, the synthesis gas is integrated with a micro-turbine engine to create electricity.

Albin Czernichowski, who holds a master's degree in chemistry and a doctorate in plasma technology, created the process, which has been trademarked as GlidArc. According to a company presentation, the process is estimated to be 90 percent energy efficient.

"There is a glut of glycerol on the market today and it will only grow exponentially as the biodiesel industry matures," Bell said. The process could potentially allow biodiesel producers to produce enough electrical power to run their biodiesel facilities and sell excess power back to the grid. According to Bell, the technology could allow biodiesel producers in developing countries to both power their facilities and help provide power to local communities.

Bell said the process has been proven effective in the lab. The company's next step is to secure funding for a pilot-scale project. Florida Syngas is also working on research that would use a similar process and available catalysts to create methanol and transform it into dimethyl ether.