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Gasification and pyrolysis processes are supported by thermal (gasification) or non-thermal (pyrolysis) plasma, which either provide energy or induce catalytic decomposition reactions for conversion of biomass or municipal waste into hydrogen and other hydrocarbons as value-added chemical materials.


Technology

What is it?

Gasification and pyrolysis processes are supported by thermal (gasification) or non-thermal (pyrolysis) plasma, which either provide energy or induce catalytic decomposition reactions for conversion of biomass or municipal waste into hydrogen and other hydrocarbons as value-added chemical materials.

In the gasification process, thermal plasma can be used to provide sufficient energy (at temperatures greater than 3000K) to break down complex hydrocarbons into simple gases, including CO and H2. In the pyrolysis process, input biomass or municipal waste can be converted into a range of output hydrocarbon gases and oils, in addition to solid char. This occurs at much lower temperatures (1000-2000K) than plasma gasification.

Why is it important?

Biomass is plentiful, regenerative and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, making this process carbon neutral. Coupling the process with CCS has the potential to make it carbon negative. Simultaneous treatment of municipal waste is also possible.

Characteristics

  • Inputs: Biomass or municipal solid waste, water, electricity
  • By-products: Gasification = CO, pyrolysis = hydrocarbons, char
  • Operating temperature: Gasification = >3000°C, pyrolysis = ~1000 to 2500°C
  • Energy efficiency: ~42% for plasma gasification

Benefits

  • Portable, small and low cost
  • Allows variable inputs - Can be used for the conversion of biomass or municipal solid waste
  • Highly selective catalyst
  • Safe elimination of toxic products

Limitations

  • Gasification – high energy requirement to create the plasma, reducing efficiency. Efficiency has been calculated to be 42% for plasma compared to 72% for conventional gasification.
  • High capital cost

RD&D priorities

  • Develop catalysts and optimise their structures to promote H2 formation
  • Investigate the effects of rapid heating on decomposition of feedstocks
  • Develop CCUS technologies

Known active organisations

  • Queensland University of Technology
  • The University of Newcastle
  • The University of Western Australia

Other opportunities like this

  • Biogas is mixed with steam in the presence of a catalyst at high temperatures (~750°C) and moderate pressure to produce syngas.

  • Biomass gasification for hydrogen production involves the thermochemical conversion of biomass (such as crop and forest residues) with a controlled amount of steam and oxygen, to syngas at temperatures over ~700°C. This is followed by the water-gas shift reaction to increase the yield and concentration of hydrogen.

  • Biogas is reacted with steam and/or CO2 in a non-thermal plasma reactor integrating with a suitable catalyst to produce hydrogen rich syngas and/or liquid short chain oxygenates (e.g. MeOH).

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