The company that makes a portable gasification power system designed to devour mountains of scrap tires and convert them to electricity plans to add a host of new fuels to its menu.
Emery Energy Co. of Salt Lake City is ready to move into the construction phase to put a 140-kilowatt gasification power system on a 48-foot trailer.
The portable technology will be used for rural and distributed power applications where tires, biomass and other waste fuels are readily available, President Benjamin Phillips said.
``We did significant engineering after our former pilot plant was operating that resulted in a new, novel vessel configuration,'' Mr. Phillips said. ``This new vessel has certain technological advantages over our past work and other gasification processes in the market. It uses novel geometries that control the rate of gasification and the destruction of tars and oils.''
Parts of the process have been patented or have patents pending, Mr. Phillips said.
Gasification involves heating a solid fuel, such as waste tires or biomass, and using thermochemical reactions to convert the material into a fuel.
Mr. Phillips said the portable system will generate power for about 100 homes.
The U.S. Department of Energy helped fund the design phase of the project and is also covering half of the expected $350,000 needed to build the gasifier, Mr. Phillips said.
``This specific application is being funded in half by the DOE to mitigate scrap tires along the border region of the U.S. and Mexico,'' Mr. Phillips said. ``We have identified other biomass and tire-related projects in the United Kingdom and domestically.''
Renewable energy providers, project developers and municipalities are among Emery Energy's targeted customers.
The gasifier, which is just over 5 feet tall, will convert 2 tons of tires per day or 4 tons of biomass per day under normal atmospheric pressure, and the rate will increase if the unit is pressurized, Mr. Phillips said.
After contractors in Idaho and Utah complete construction later this year, the gasifier will be tested at the Department of Energy's Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls.
Demonstrations of the technology are planned for various spots along the U.S.-Mexico border in January 2004, and Mr. Phillips said he anticipates units being made available for sale after the first quarter of 2004.
The portable systems may also be scaled up to meet the needs of larger customers, Mr. Phillips said.
``What Ben [Phillips] is looking at for this technology is to create a very fuel-flexible gasifier,'' said Robert Carrington, a project engineer with Bechtel BWXT Idaho L.L.C., which operates the laboratory for the Department of Energy. ``The technology should be adaptable to handle a wide variety of fuel input. This system is configured in such a manner that it allows you to capture the benefits of a fixed-bed and drained-bed gasifier, and that gives you a little better control.''
Emery Energy's method recycles the tar and oil that tends to break down the fuel, gasifying the material before it reaches the reactor and creating a cleaner gas, said Mr. Carrington, who along with colleague Richard Boardman is providing technical support to Emery Energy.
Thomas Reed, a physical chemist and head of the Biomass Energy Foundation in Golden, Colo., envisions the wood industry and forestry service as potential clients.
``Biomass includes wood waste material and municipal waste, and this constitutes an enormous potential source of energy,'' said Mr. Reed, who has published 21 books about gasification and has worked as a consultant with Emergy Energy on this and other projects. ``However, nothing can compete yet with low-cost oil out of the ground.''
In 1996 and 1997, Mr. Reed developed a process for working with shredded tires and had a pilot plant. Emery Energy saw the potential and hired him as a consultant.
``Rather than make just a larger tire machine, they are making a go for a general gasification machine,'' Mr. Reed said. ``They've got a grant from the DOE, and this is the second phase.''
The idea is innovative because it would be able to use both municipal waste and forest material, Mr. Reed said. But he cautioned that it hasn't been tried in practice yet.