27 technologies to produce lower carbon fuels from “second chance carbon” — and its practicioners. Who’s doing what, where, when, why and how?

August 20, 2018 |

Fuels produced from the fossil portion of mixed waste streams 

Most processes using municipal solid waste (MSW), commercial and industrial waste (C&I waste) or other mixed waste streams pre-process the waste tremove recyclables and some inert materials tproduce a dryer, higher calorific value fuel which does not have oversize particles. Depending on composition of the fuel this may be called refuse derived fuel (RDF) or solid recovered fuel (SRF). Fuel production from mixed waste streams produces a partially renewable fuel, only the non-renewable portion of which is within scope of this report. Nevertheless, producers generally aim tmaximise the biogenic components of the feedstock as support in Europe and the USA is primarily focussed on the renewable portion of the fuel. 

Diesel/jet by gasification + catalytic synthesis 

Refuse derived fuel (RDF) is gasified to yield syngas as intermediate product, which is processed intdiesel and jet using variations of the GtL process described in section 2.1.5. 

Case study companies: 

Fulcrum Bioenergy (USA) (TRL 6-7). 

Mixed waste stream processing plant (phase 1) is operational in Nevada. Phase 2 of the biorefinery, comprising gasification and FT units, is expected to
begin operation in 2020. Target capacity: 175,000 t/year of MSW processed into 40 ML/year of FT liquid

Velocys / British Airways (UK) TRL 6-7. 

Project with British Airways, Suez & others to gasify & produce jet fuel by FT synthesis. Stimulated by inclusion of jet within the RTFdevelopment
fuel sub-target. Investment decision tbe taken in 2019. GreenSky project was originally developed by British Airways with Solena to use an old oil refining site at Thurrock, Essex tprocess MSW via gasification and FT to jet fuel, but was aborted at the end of 2015 due tfinancing difficulties, and Solena went into liquidation.

SNG via gasification+catalytic synthesis 

In this process RDF is gasified and then tars are removed, followed by several further cleaning and conditioning steps to produce a clean syngas. The syngas can be converted tsynthetic natural gas by a catalytic methanation process. Levelised cost of SNG production in a first-of-a-kind commercial-scale gasification facility processing MSW are estimated tbe £50/MWh, with potential to fall to £21/MWh with capex reductions, improved operations, reduced hurdle rate and increased scale that are likely to come from increased deployment of the technology. These costs refer tthe combined biological and fossil portion of the SNG.

Case study example:  

Advanced Plasma Power (UK) TRL 6. 

The main focus is currently on producing bioSNG from syngas. Syngas is converted tSNG via catalytic water-gas-shift and methanation, followed by CO2 removal (and addition of some propane) before injection intthe gas grid. Pilot plant in Swindon has been running different feedstocks for a number of years. 2.7 MW demonstration plant under construction with DfT and Cadent funding, processing 10,000 t/year of waste. Biogenic SNG is supported under development fuel RTFsub-target. 

Methanol by gasification + catalytic synthesis 

In this process, wastes are gasified tproduce syngas, which is then cleaned and converted tmethanol and/or ethanol via catalytic synthesis. The process used is the same as that outlined in section 2.1.6 for the production of methanol from natural gas-derived syngas, but the process is more challenging due tthe high level of impurities in syngas from wastes. 

Case study example: 

Enerkem (Canada/Netherlands) (TRL 7-8)
Operating first commercial plant in Alberta processing >100,000 t/year of RDF, and a pilot and a demonstration facility in Westbury. Recently added back-end methanol tethanol conversion step. Developing a project at Cleantech Delta in Rotterdam in partnership with AkzoNobel 

Ethanol by gasification + microbial fermentation 

Waste gasification produces syngas, which is then cleaned and fermented using microbes developed for this purpose. 

Case study companies: 

LanzaTech (TRL5).
Pilot plant installed at MSW gasificationsi te 2.4.5 Hydrogen by gasification + water-gas-shift reaction. Waste gasification produces syngas, which can then be processed using the water-gas-shift reaction inthydrogen. The syngas-to-hydrogen step is analogous tthat used in the production of hydrogen from methane, which is globally practiced at commercial scale (section 2.1.7). However there is little experience worldwide with waste gasification to hydrogen, which remains at TRL 5. 

Case study examples:

Powerhouse Energy (UK)
TRL 6/7 for electricity generation from syngas, TRL 5 for catalytic conversion of syngas to transport fuels. Developing a waste-to-hydrogen facility, targeting hydrogen use in the transport sector.

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