Skip to content

Reducing risks for gasification development

Provincial grants were used for the successful development/commercialization of existing Alberta gasification systems.

Provincial grants were used for the successful development/commercialization of existing Alberta gasification systems. The process of obtaining the provincial funding required demonstration of the technical feasibility in a pilot plant, that the appropriate engineering and development expertise was available, that they had capable maintenance expertise as well as plant management and financial management capabilities. They had to demonstrate they had access for development capital and a commitment for a site with the appropriate municipal and environmental permits. They had to demonstrate the necessary infrastructure (power, water, natural gas, waste disposal) for their plant. They also had to demonstrate the financial viability including a business development plan. That was how we minimized the risks of developing new gasification technologies – by ensuring they had the capabilities to proceed successfully.

They also had to demonstrate they had access to sufficient and reliable amounts of feedstock of the appropriate quality to proceed with their development. Items in unsorted municipal waste can contaminate the operations; stopping operations, resulting in heavy maintenance costs. But St. Albert has sorted garbage; that provides a very clean feedstock, which will not contaminate the system and will provide a high quality fly ash (as a by product) which is desired as a feedstock by the cement industry.

The adoption of the newer second generation gasification technologies that produce a higher BTU and cleaner syngas with higher concentrations of hydrogen will increase the benefits obtained. The higher quality syngas can be injected into our natural gas infrastructure or produce synfuels that can be used in our existing vehicles. It can also be used to produce very high value synthetic chemicals.

I trust our St. Albert Council will take a similar approach to minimize risks. I hope they select gasification technologies that enable the use of their higher quality waste feedstocks and select an opportunity to maximize benefits. Original gasifiers (WWII) were developed to produce synfuels from coal at a very large scale. The new second generation gasifiers use biomass (demolition wood, logging waste, sawmill waste, black liquor, residential yard waste, corn stover, bagasse, paper, cardboard) and other wastes that contain carbon and hydrogen (plastics, waste petroleum products). However Expander Energy has developed a process to produce synfuels at a smaller scale (100,000 tonnes feedstock/year); but they require the higher hydrogen content syngas produced by water phase shift gasifiers or ones that use steam reformation.

There are additional benefits that can be achieved; in addition to reducing landfill costs and reducing transportation costs of the waste. First generation gasification technologies mainly produce thermal and electrical energy from the lower BTU syngas produced from the gasification. Second generation gasification technologies; produces a higher quality syngas, enabling the production of more of the higher value transportation fuels and chemicals. Plus earn additional carbon credits.

The second generation gasification systems do not need additional energy like electricity, natural gas or petroleum fuels to maintain their process. In addition to their feedstock they only need to inject air or water to control their process.

I am sure St. Albert Council will maximize the benefits that can be derived from their high quality sorted waste, while continuing to minimize risks for the development of any business venture, in addition to the verification of the gasification technology selected.

Dave Patterson, St. Albert