Researchers demonstrate coal/biomass mixture feeder prototype

By Anna Austin | May 13, 2011

The Southern Research Institute’s Clean Energy Technology Development Center based in Durham, N.C., believes it has overcome one of the primary challenges related to biomass utilization in coal-fired Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle power plants.

The project was one of six selected for funding by the U.S. DOE in September 2008 to address challenges facing the large-scale production of hydrogen from coal and coal/biomass mixtures.

As a result of the project, SRI and Denmark-based project partner TK Energi have developed a prototype feeder that creates a highly-compressed plug of coal and biomass. The plug is so dense that the high pressure inside commercial-scale gasifiers is held back as the material pushed into gasifier, solving the challenge of reliably feeding biomass feedstocks mixed with coal into the gasifier.

Project leader Santosh Gangal said the researchers were able to reach 450 pounds per square inch of pressure and the feeder was still holding back pressure and increasing the feed-in rate. The prototype, a piston-driven plug feed system, was demonstrated using both bituminous and lignite coal with woody biomass, prairie grass and corn stover. 

“They key innovation in this project is the integration of existing technologies that complement one another very well,” Gangal said.