The path to zero waste.
Explore the five isles of FastOx systems and the possible configurations.
Sierra Energy’s complete gasification system is an end-to-end system that incorporates the use of a FastOx gasifier in the process of producing energy from waste. A FastOx system comes with the front and back end equipment required to process waste into the desired end product, as well as the requisite gas cleaning components.
The FastOx gasifier is the central component of a FastOx system. It includes the gasifier vessel, injection lances, oxygen generation, and gas cleaning down to genset requirements.
Full FastOx systems have the ability to produce a variety of end products including electricity, diesel, hydrogen gas, ammonia, and combined heat and power (CHP).
The complete FastOx gasification system involves several processes, including feedstock preparation, gasification, syngas cooling & conditioning, and product conversion. The process flow is depicted in the diagram below.
Continue reading for a more detailed description of the complete FastOx gasification system.
After waste materials are delivered to the site, they are sent to a shredder and sized appropriately for the diameter of the gasifier (for more information, please see Feedstock). The FastOx gasifier requires minimal pre-treatment of feedstock because it can handle high-moisture contents (up to 50% by weight.) Competing technologies, such as fluidized bed gasifiers and other downdraft gasifiers, require extensive feedstock handling processes to dry the waste streams to a maximum of 10% to 20% by weight.
After the waste is shredded, it is fed into the top of the FastOx gasifier via conveyor belt. At the top of the gasifier, the waste is held in an airlock chamber prior to discharging into the vessel. The residence time of feedstock is controlled by the supply of injected oxygen and steam at the bottom of the gasifier. By injecting oxygen, FastOx gasification increases efficiencies and avoids many of the environmental impacts associated with iron-making blast furnaces, which commonly inject nitrogen-rich ambient air.
Next, the waste descends through the gasifier by gravity through four reaction zones: drying, devolatization, partial oxidation, and melting. The process produces high quality syngas, liquid metal, and inert stone. The syngas rises up to the top of the vessel and moves on to the syngas conditioning process, while the molten liquid metal and vitrified stone descend to the bottom of the gasifier.
Once it has left the gasifier, the syngas enters into a polisher that converts any trace organic compounds into additional syngas. Next, a waste-heat boiler (heat exchanger) removes excess heat from the shifted syngas and creates high-pressure steam. The steam is recycled back into the steam isle and re-injected into the gasifier. The steam is continuously controlled to provide the right ratio of hydrogen to carbon monoxide in the outlet syngas. Syngas then goes into the gas-cleaning isle that removes all particulates and gaseous contaminant matter to meet the requirements of subsequent syngas-to-product conversion processes.
At the back end of our complete FastOx gasification system, the clean syngas is further processed to produce high-value end products, such as electricity, biodiesel, hydrogen, and ammonia. To learn more about the possibilities of our back end syngas processing, visit our valuable end-products page.
The purpose of the preprocessing subsystem is to adequately condition waste in preparation for gasification. FastOx gasifiers accept nearly any kind of waste (view acceptable waste types here). Our systems can also handle upwards of 50% (by weight) moisture content in the incoming feedstock.
Sierra Energy generally aims for its gasifier feedstock to contain 20% moisture by weight and sized according to the dimensions of the gasifier. For example, feedstock for a 10 metric tons per day unit should be less than 2 inches in size. Larger systems can handle larger feedstock: less than 3 inches for a 25 metric tons per day unit, and less than 6 inches a for 1,000 metric tons per day unit.
Given that waste streams are as diverse as the regions they come from, preprocessing requirements will vary widely. However, most preprocessing systems will operate in three stages – separation/sorting, processing, and storage and metering.
The separating/sorting stage adequately sorts waste that is either recyclable, not ideal for the gasification process, or needs to be treated prior to gasification. The isolation of undesirable waste will be performed largely by human visual inspection and labor but may also require certain machinery to assist with the process. Examples of such machinery include:
The processing stage will condition the sorted feedstock to adequately prepare it for gasification. It is during this stage that waste will be physically dried to an appropriate moisture content and shredded to an appropriate size. As such, examples of equipment present in this stage of preprocessing typically include, at minimum:
However, more complicated waste streams, such as those that contain hazardous materials or medical waste, may require additional measures to ensure proper handling of these materials, which may require additional equipment. These additional measures are primarily to ensure the safety of the personnel handling the waste and are not necessarily required for the actual gasification process.
The storage and metering stage physically transports waste from storage containers into the gasifier and accurately monitors the feed rate. Waste will be stored appropriately in a manner that is safe, adequately sized given the waste acceptance and processing capacities, and does not subject waste to conditions that would require additional pretreatment. The exact capacity of the storage will be dependent on the size of the system as well as the nature and frequency of waste being received onsite. Examples of waste storage equipment include:
Typically, a good rule of thumb for continual operation is to size feedstock storage for at least two days of inventory. This is to ensure continual operation in case the feedstock supplier cannot deliver the waste in two consecutive days, during atypical business hours, or during the weekend.
Waste will be moved from the storage section into the gasifier by use of conveyor belts and the feed rate of waste will be closely monitored to ensure proper and optimized operation of the gasifier and back-end processes.
Given the possible variations in the preprocessing component of a FastOx gasification system, Sierra Energy works with waste specialists and experts to determine the most appropriate and optimal technology.
The FastOx gasification isle consists of the following:
The purpose of the charging system is to feed waste into the gasifier. As the feedstock ascends the conveyor belt from the preprocessing section to the gasifier, it first enters a weigh hopper that collects waste up to a certain quantity. Once that quantity is reached, the weigh hopper releases waste into the airlock on top of the gasifier vessel. This airlock has three valves to monitor and govern the addition of waste into the gasifier, as well as the escape of syngas out of the gasifier vessel. The “flap” valve, which is the closest to the gasifier, is the ultimate gateway for feedstock into the actual vessel. The top-most valve, known as the upper slide gate, seals off the waste from the ambient environment. In-between these is the lower slide gate valve, which acts as a fail-safe precaution.
The flap valve is closed while the weigh hopper fills. Once the weigh hopper is full of feedstock, the conveyor stops and the lower slide gate opens. Once the lower slide gate is confirmed to be open, the upper slide gate opens, and the weigh hopper releases waste into the airlock. The upper and lower slide gates then close and seal the feedstock off from the ambient environment.
Once the gates are confirmed to be closed, the airlock is purged with nitrogen gas. Next, the flap valve opens and the feedstock is released into the gasifier. As the feed leaves the airlock, syngas flows into it before the flap valve is closed. In order to prevent the syngas from escaping to the atmosphere upon the next opening of the upper slide gate, the airlock is purged with nitrogen gas. During this process, the flap valve is closed so that all syngas present flows to the onsite flare. Once the airlock is free of syngas and full of nitrogen, the upper slide gate opens to receive the next load of feedstock.
Typical blast furnace vessels are designed for tuyere zone temperatures of over 2,200°C (4,000°F) using technologies that have been optimized over the past century (e.g. copper, water-cooled apparatus, sonic injection of gases for better penetration, Inconel welded overlays, and high temperature refractory materials). The FastOx gasifier was directly modeled after the blast furnace but for the exclusion of the tuyere and its replacement with a FastOx gasifier injection lance.
By injecting an endothermic material (steam or CO2), the temperatures can be maintained at the furnace design specifications, minimizing costly modifications. The additional benefits of the endothermic material injection are an increase in overall syngas volume (for a given solid waste feedstock) and a reduction of CO2 emissions for electrical applications.
The gasifier vessel’s structural components are predominately composed of the metal shell, refractory, cooling plates, and taphole. The exterior shell is comprised of carbon steel. The shell’s interior is lined with refractory. The refractory is split into three sections to accommodate the various temperatures and operating conditions seen throughout the vessel. Refractory type of each zone is chosen based on that zone’s requirements.
The cooling plates are present to help regulate the gasifier vessel temperature, providing one of two temperature control methods. The second cooling method employed is steam injection, which can moderate temperature gains caused by the oxygen injection.
Each gasifier is equipped with a taphole for the purpose of removing molten vitrified stone from the gasifier base. Simply opening the taphole allows for the inert stone to flow out due to the low viscosity of the molten vitrified stone as well as the slightly higher pressure inside the gasifier. The metals and inorganic materials separate in the collector due the comparatively higher density of the metal.
In some cases, it may be strategic to employ the use of a continuous tapper, which allows for a constant, steady state flow of inert stone from the system. The continuous tapper would attach to the taphole, and the molten inert stone products and metals would flow into a water bath for cooling. Alternatively, they could be air cooled. The best method to use will depend upon the exact nature of the project in question.
FastOx gasifiers inject oxygen and steam to fuel the process of waste conversion. Pure oxygen, as opposed to nitrogen-rich air, is generated on-site using a cryogenic air shift unit (ASU).
Unlike conventional gasification, which typically injects atmospheric air (composed of 78% nitrogen) that dilutes and impedes the system, oxygen and steam are the only injectants of the FastOx gasifier. This has several favorable effects on the gasification process:
Oxygen is generated from atmospheric air using a cryogenic air separation unit (ASU), which is conventionally co-located with blast furnaces at integrated steel mills. The tuyeres of a blast furnace are replaced with FastOx gasifier lances, which are used to inject the oxygen and steam. Unlike the plasma arc gasification technology, FastOx gasifiers release energy from the reaction between the oxygen and residual char. Thus, the only electricity required is that to power the ASU.
The purity of the oxygen depends on specific project goals such as the desired end product for the syngas produced. If the project is focused on the production of electricity, the purity of the oxygen only needs to be above 60% by volume. If renewable fuel is chosen as the end-product, the purity of the oxygen should be above 90% by volume because FT catalysts work better with minimal nitrogen or diluents in the syngas.
The water used to produce steam will, in the early stages of FastOx gasification development, need to be pulled from the grid to provide an adequate source. Steam is generated on-site using waste heat from the process.
However, it is possible to temper the quantity of water being pulled from the grid by the recovery of moisture from the waste stream.
Steam can be self-sufficiently generated by the FastOx system by utilizing both recovered water and recovered sensible heat from hot syngas. The recovered water (moisture) is removed from the incoming waste streams in the “drying” zone. Water is separated from the syngas in the gas cleaning isle, and recycled back to the FastOx gasifier’s steam feed.
The extent of the impact of these steam-recycling methods will be highly dependent on the initial moisture content of the feedstock in question. It is most likely that the steam recycling will help reduce the amount of water being pulled from the grid, rather than replacing it all together.
The oxygen and steam is injected into the gasifier using Sierra Energy’s proprietary nozzles.
The FastOx gasifier lances are located where the blast furnace’s tuyere cooler apparatus is. The environment where the injectors operate is well-understood, and proven to be maintained by conventional water-cooled copper tuyeres (used in air-blown blast furnace for iron production).
As the lance is in contact with the hot face of the gasifier, the gasifier requires external cooling to keep the lance from deforming or melting. This is accomplished using forced water circulation–a technology shared by blast furnaces. There are ports in the front plate of the lance for the injection of oxygen and steam as well as ports for the injection of syngas/fuel gas. This allows for the recycle of syngas to improve gas composition and reduce the need for fossil fuels to sustain the system.
The traditional blast furnace tuyeres use a converging nozzle to help increase the velocity of the injectants which allows for greater injectant penetration into the vessel. Greater penetration means more thorough mixing and more reactions. The increased reaction rate results in increased efficiency and a larger syngas yield. FastOx gasifier lances are constructed with a convergent-divergent nozzle configuration to allow for supersonic injection speeds, further increasing the penetration distance and the resulting yield.
In addition to increasing yield and efficiency, this injection approach helps to increase furnace life as it pushes the primary reaction sites into the center of the vessel and away from the vessel walls. With this configuration, heat near the vessel walls is reduced, which slows the natural degradation of the vessel. Pushing the reaction sites into the center also reduces the thermal load on the injection lances leading to longer lance life.
In a FastOx system syngas flows directly from the gasifier into the polisher unit.
The purpose of the polisher is to further react condensable hydrocarbons present in the syngas into additional syngas. This not only removes the possibility of the compounds condensing out in low-velocity and/or low-temperature zones (which could lead to a build up) but also increases the volume of usable syngas available for conversion to end products.
The polisher will be heated primarily by three main burners, located near the syngas entrance. These burners are placed strategically within the polisher so that the gas swirls at it enters to better mix the syngas.
There are three additional burners within the polisher as well – two located in the inlet pipes and one in the lower section of the polisher.
Like the gasifier, the polisher is lined with refractory materials and encased in a metal shell made of steel. The polisher is also equipped with a tapping system to remove the inert stone that will collect at its base. The burner placed in the lower section will keep the collected inert stone products in its molten state.
Breaking down condensable hydrocarbons requires exposure to temperatures a minimum of 800°C (1,470°F) for one second. The polisher in a FastOx system is designed to process the syngas at 1,000°C (1,830°F) for two seconds to ensure the complete break down of these condensable hydrocarbons into syngas components. Steam is also injected to provide reaction radicals that assist with the break down.
Syngas is expected to exit the polisher at roughly 950-1,100°C (1,740-2,000°F) prior to entering the recuperators.
Running the gasifier at a reduced feedrate may affect the operation of the polisher.
There are three recuperators present in the recuperator sub-system. They essentially function as heat exchangers. Their purpose is to remove heat from the high temperature syngas coming from the polisher and prepare it for the gas cleaning and conditioning components. These recuperators will be air-cooled for the demonstration system at Fort Hunter Liggett.
The first recuperator will reduce the temperature of the syngas enough to make the use of high-temperature materials in the second recuperator unnecessary (roughly 500°C/930°F). The purpose of the second recuperator is to cool the syngas even further so that all the salts will condense out. Syngas will leave the second recuperator at roughly 280°C (530°F). The third recuperator will cool the syngas to the point where a jet venturi can handle the gas temperature (roughly 80°C/175°F).
The sections of the second and thirds recuperator will be easily removable for cleaning.
The recuperator assembly is potentially the component of the system where heat recovery can take place.
The gas cleaning and conditioning stage contains all of the equipment and subsystems to adequately clean and prepare the syngas to meet the specifications for the genset (electricity production equipment). The following are typical components of the gas cleaning and conditioning stage:
Additional gas conditioning and preparation is required only for the production of hydrogen, Fischer-Tropsch (FT) liquids, and certain chemicals. This equipment is not required for the production of electricity via gas turbines or reciprocating internal combustion engines, which are already included in the system. Each end product requires specific conditions of syngas in order to process it. For example, the Fischer-Tropsch process does not permit even trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide present in the syngas stream because it will cause rapid degradation of the catalyst.
For most end products, a specific amount of hydrogen is required. To meet this requirement, syngas is moved to the gas conditioning and preparation unit after cleanup where it is compressed and mixed with high-pressure saturated steam and fed into the Water-Gas Shift (WGS) reactor where the following reaction takes place:
The amount of steam injected into the WGS reactor is continuously controlled to provide optimal hydrogen to carbon monoxide ratios (H2/CO) in the outlet syngas. The WGS reaction is a mildly exothermic reaction and excess heat is removed from the shifted syngas with a waste-heat boiler (heat exchanger) that makes high-pressure steam.
Excess hydrogen from the post-WGS is removed via a hydrogen membrane module. The hydrogen is then transferred to a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) module for purification.
After cleanup, syngas can be converted into numerous renewable energy products through the following syngas utilization technologies:
A combined-cycle power plant utilizes a gas turbine to produce electricity from a generator attached to the gas turbine shaft. This first ‘Brayton Cycle’ gas turbine recovers approximately 25–30% of the chemical energy in the syngas as electricity with a large volume of high temperature exhaust.
Installing an additional ‘Rankine Cycle’ Heat Recovery Steam Generator (HRSG) can recover and additional 15–20% of the chemical energy in the syngas to produce high-pressure steam from the gas turbine exhaust. A steam turbine attached to another generator produces a second electrical product stream. The combination of both the gas turbine and HRSG gives the combined cycle close to 45% efficiency. This is significantly more electricity per tonne of waste compared to a conventional IC engine generation set.
The clean syngas produced by the FastOx® gasifier results in electricity production with lower specific emissions when compared with typical fossil fuel electricity generation. Syngas from FastOx gasification combusts more-completely than atomized-liquids, thereby producing less CO, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and particulate matter (PM). Oxides of sulfur (SOx) emissions are also reduced as FastOx syngas, after cleaning, contains virtually no sulfur compounds to produce SOx. To learn more about the production and economics of electricity generation through FastOx gasification, click here.
The Fischer-Tropsch or FT system converts syngas through a series of chemical reactions over a catalyst (typically cobalt and iron) to produce sulfur-free and aromatic-free renewable diesel. The diesel we produce is twenty times cleaner than the ultra-low sulfur diesel standards in California.
When aiming for long-chain products such as renewable diesel, FT synthesis requires typical operating conditions of temperatures of 200–250°C (400-480°F) and pressures of 25–60 bar. The polymerization-like chain growth reaction results in a range of products comprising light hydrocarbons, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, diesel, and wax fractions. The distribution of the products depends on the catalyst composition and the process operation conditions.
In general, the discharge of the FT reactor contains byproduct water (pressurized to stay in the liquid form), low molecular weight hydrocarbons (gases), and a wide range of liquid hydrocarbons that include naphtha, diesel, and wax cuts. A three-phase separator on the discharge end of the FT reactor separates the gases, the liquid hydrocarbons, and the water. The tail-gas can be recycled to the FastOx gasifier or used to generate additional electricity on site. The almost-pure water is cooled and used within the plant and the liquid hydrocarbons continue on to the fractionator. The fractionator then separates appropriate fractions of the liquid hydrocarbons leaving the final desired product in the proper quantities.To learn more about the production and economics of diesel through FastOx gasification, click here.
The production of hydrogen from syngas is one of the easiest renewable products to be formed with a FastOx gasifier as our syngas typically contains over 25% by volume of hydrogen even before the WGS reactions. To learn more about the production and economics of hydrogen through FastOx gasification, click here.
The production of ammonia utilizes hydrogen, nitrogen, and the Haber-Bosch Reaction. After cleaning, syngas is treated in the same manner as it would be to produce hydrogen. Once it has run through the WGS reactor and the appropriate purity has been obtained, nitrogen is introduced and the following catalytic reaction takes place:
This reaction requires pressures of approximately 5,000 PSI. The nitrogen would be obtained from the Air Separation Unit once it has been separated from air.
To learn more about the production of ammonia and its potential impact in your community, click here.
Many technology providers exist with proven technologies to produce fuels from syngas using catalysts. An emerging technology set is to produce transportation fuels using fermentation processes. Companies such as INEOS-Bio, LanzaTech, Coskata and Kiverdi all have platforms for such fermentation processes.
Syngas produced by the FastOx gasifier flows to a bioreactor where anaerobic microorganisms consume it as a food source and produce ethanol. Microorganisms convert syngas to predominately one fuel under low temperature and pressure – a conversion that cannot be achieved via chemical catalysis. Microorganisms extract the energy value available in the incoming syngas stream and transfer it into the ethanol production. Once the conversion is reached the fuel is separated from water through standard distillation and dehydration to recover the final product.
This subsystem reflects the ancillary utilities that support FastOx gasifiers. A complete FastOx gasification system may require ancillary utilities to facilitate the conversions and reactions in each isle/module. FastOx systems require the ability to place heat into specific components of the system and remove heat from others.
The following are examples of ancillary utilities that would be required at a waste processing facility, note that some of these may already exist onsite if the FastOx system were to be placed at an existing industrial site:
Ancillary utility items included in the complete FastOx gasification system will be delivered in pre-packaged modules with associated piping, instrumentation, and controls. The pre-assembled modules are then drop-shipped to the project site from the fabrication shop. This approach allows for fast installation and considerably decreases the on-site field fabrication, erection, and installation costs which are a significant percentage of the total project cost. If your project site already has some of these utilities on site, Sierra Energy provides custom engineering services to utilize existing infrastructure.
To learn more about building a FastOx system, please contact us.