SynGest: Biofuels Digest’s 5-Minute Guide

January 30, 2013 |

Company description: Production of specialty chemicals using proprietary biomass gasification to produce anhydrous ammonia/urea (nitrogen fertilizer), methanol, dimethyl ether, polypropylene.

Address: 310 Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94133

Year founded: 2008

Major Investors: Founder financed.

Type of Processing Technology(ies) : The heart of the SynGest process involves a pressurized oxygen-blown biomass gasifier designed for operation in an expanding bed fluidized mode. The HarvestGas™ system converts the biomass into a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and is optimized to minimize the formation of methane. After the gas stream is cleaned, the carbon monoxide is “shifted” to maximize hydrogen. The hydrogen is purified and catalytically reacted with nitrogen to make ammonia. The plant includes an air separation system to provide oxygen for the gasifier and pure nitrogen for ammonia synthesis. Waste heat is recovered, thereby minimizing the need for external energy supplies.

Products: A range of products although primary focus has been on the production of anhydrous ammonia and/or urea to be used as nitrogen fertilizer. Engineering has been completed for projects that would produce methanol, DME and propylene.

Feedstocks: Untreated plant-based biomass of any quality. Decommisioned railroad ties.

Product Cost:  At available feedstock prices of $25/T cash flow break-even production of anhydrous ammonia at $300/T.

Co-products: Biochar.

Past Milestones

  • Signed contracts with the entire execution team including (a) Weitz Industrial Services as EPC, (b) Ambitech Engineering, (c) Alion Science and Technology for gasifier optimization [major: guaranteeing the performance of the gasifier unit operations] and (d) Unitel Technologies for process design.
  • Completed contract with the State of Iowa Power Fund for a grant of $2.5 million to support the pre-construction engineering of the forts commercial scale facility to be built in Iowa.
  • Establishment of matching long term feedstock and offtake agreements that meet project finance requirements.
  • In July 2012, MATHESON ( and SynGest Inc. ( announced that the two companies have agreed to enter into a strategic agreement for MATHESON to supply 100% of the oxygen and nitrogen for SynGest’s worldwide BioAmmonia and BioUrea projects. Under the intended arrangement, MATHESON will produce the oxygen and nitrogen required by each SynGest plant.
  • In June 2011, Honeywell was selected to help SynGest design a proposed first-of-its-kind processing facility that will produce ammonia from biomass. The southwest-Iowa plant will process as much as 400 tons of biomass each day to produce nitrogen fertilizer, which helps reduce fossil fuel emissions and will be sold to U.S. agricultural companies and farms.
  • Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) has agreed to provide front-end engineering (FEED) support and technology to comprise the plant’s fully integrated control system. Additionally, the proposed facility will use a pressure swing adsorption technology developed by Honeywell UOP to purify hydrogen used in the plant’s processes.
  • Experion is HPS’ primary process control and automation platform that helps streamline operations by integrating various subsystems throughout a facility, including process control, safety systems and instrumentation. The UOP technology will purify hydrogen processed in the plant’s two-stage gasification system.

Future Milestones

Complete FEED
Financial close for first commercial scale project
Begin commercial production

Business Model: Technology licensing, project development, facility management, minority owner.

Competitive Edge(s): Patent-pending 2-stage biomass gasifier technology, fertilizer industry expertise, deep project development and execution skills.

Stage:  FEED/Pre-construction engineering leading up to construction of first commercial scale facility.


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Category: 5-Minute Guide

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