DOE Awards $30 Million to Develop Technologies to Enable Industrial Use of Alternative Fuels

January 23, 2009

The U.S. Department of Energy Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) recently awarded a total of $30 million over 4 years for cost-shared research and development of industrial systems capable of using alternative fuels. The goal of this solicitation is to support innovative technologies that provide fuel flexibility options for manufacturers, thereby reducing natural gas requirements and emissions.

The U.S. industrial sector is the largest user of energy domestically, and is chiefly dependent on natural gas as a single major source of fuel. Volatile natural gas prices and environmental concerns are motivating end-users to explore the feasibility of using alternative fuels for industrial processes. Through this solicitation, ITP is promoting technologies based on alternatives to natural gas, such as gasified fuels, landfill and digester gas, and other opportunity fuels.

Pending Congressional approval, the $30.7 million provided by DOE will leverage an additional $42.1 million in cost-shared funds provided by the award recipients and their industry partners. The following seven projects have been selected for funding within the current appropriation:

Fuel-Flexible Combustion Systems for High-Efficiency Utilization of Opportunity Fuels in Gas Turbines
Estimated Funding: $2,856,686 total ($1,999,680 DOE)
Partners and Project Description:  General Electric Global Research will define, develop, and test new fuel nozzle technology concepts for gas turbine operation on a wide spectrum of opportunity fuels and/or fuel blends. This will enable gas turbine operation on ultra-low Btu fuel streams such as very weak natural gas, highly-diluted industrial process gases, or gasified waste streams that are out of the capability range of current turbine systems.  

Fuel-Flexible Combustion System for Refinery and Chemical Plant Process
Estimated Funding: $2,739,336 total ($1,560,165 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: ENVIRON International Corporation, in collaboration with Callidus Technologies and Shell Global Solutions, will develop and demonstrate a full-scale fuel handling and combustion system. This will allow a broad range of opportunity gas fuels (including renewable gas fuels) to be safely, cost-effectively, and efficiently utilized while generating minimal emissions of criteria pollutants. The project will develop a commercial technology for application in refinery and chemical plant process heaters where opportunity fuels are used.  

Development of a Low NOx Medium-sized Industrial Gas Turbine Operating on Hydrogen-Rich Renewable and Opportunity Fuels
Estimated Funding: $1,922,152 total ($1,171,334 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Solar Turbines Inc, in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University and the University of Southern California, will develop injector technologies for gas turbine use of high-hydrogen content renewable and opportunity fuels derived from coal, biomass, industrial process waste, or byproducts. This project will develop low-emission technology for alternate fuels with high-hydrogen content, thereby reducing natural gas requirements and lowering carbon intensity.  

Fuel-Flexible, Low Emissions Catalytic Combustor for Opportunity Fuel Applications
Estimated Funding: $718,132 total ($501,871 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Precision Combustion, Inc. will develop a fuel-flexible Rich Catalytic Lean-Burn (RCL®) injector capable of enabling ultra-low nitrogen oxide-lean premixed combustion of a wide range of gaseous opportunity fuels. The combustor fuel flexibility will be demonstrated for low Btu gases, such as digester and low value associated gas and fuels containing reactive species, such as refinery gas and some associated gas.  

Fiscalini Farms Renewable Energy Power Generation Project
Estimated Funding: $1,558,600 total ($779,300 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Fiscalini Farms L.P., in collaboration with University of the Pacific, Biogas Energy, Inc., and the University of California at Berkeley will measure and analyze the efficiency and regulatory compliance of a renewable energy system for power generation. The system will utilize digester gas from an anaerobic digester located at the Fiscalini Farms dairy for power generation with a reciprocating engine. The project will provide power, efficiency, emissions, and cost/benefit analysis for the system and evaluate its compliance with federal and California emissions standards.  

Research, Development, and Demonstration of Biomass Boiler Applications for the Food Processing Industry
Estimated Funding: $12,673,172 total ($1,999,963 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, in collaboration with Frito-Lay, Inc., Oak Ridge National Laboratory, CPL Systems, Inc., Alpha Boilers, and Kansas State University will demonstrate use of a biomass boiler in the food processing industry. The 60,000 lb/hr innovative biomass boiler system utilizing a combination of wood waste and tire-derived fuel (TDF) waste will offset all natural gas consumption at Frito-Lay’s Topeka, Kansas, processing facility.  

Development and Testing of the Advanced CHP System Utilizing the Off-gas from the Innovative Green Coke Calcining Process in Fluidized Bed
Estimated Funding: $1,497,061 total ($1,047,727 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: The Gas Technology Institute, in collaboration with Superior Graphite Company, the University of Southern California, and Solex Thermal Science, Inc., will develop an energy-efficient process of petroleum coke calcination in a fluidized bed with an advanced combined heat and power (CHP) system using the off-gases and the waste heat from the calcined coke. The total amount of recycled heat from the newly developed coke calcination process has sufficient heat for the CHP to produce process stream and generate most of the electricity used by the fluidized bed.  

The following 10 projects have been selected, contingent on sufficient appropriations for fiscal year 2009 and beyond:

Battleground Energy Recovery Project
Estimated Funding: $21,356,020 total ($1,963,410 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Houston Advanced Research Center, in collaboration with Integral Power, LLP, Clean Harbors, Inc., and TOTAL Petrochemicals USA, Inc., will demonstrate a commercial-scale hazardous waste incinerator (co-located with a polypropylene facility) with state-of-the-art waste heat recovery technology. This will advance waste heat recovery solutions into the hazardous waste incineration market, an area that has seen little adoption of heat recovery. The project will accelerate the use of energy-efficient, waste heat recovery technology as an alternative means to produce steam for industrial processes.  

Fuel-Flexible Turbine System
Estimated Funding: $3,660,000 total ($2,000,000 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Capstone Turbine Corporation, in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, Packer Engineering, and the University of California (Irvine) will develop technologies for gas turbine operation with opportunity fuels. Capstone will build and demonstrate a prototype turbine system, integrate it with an existing gasifier, and evaluate the system for performance and emissions.  

Enabling Technology for High Temperature Opportunity Fuel Driven Power Generation
Estimated Funding: $2,786,820 total ($1,950,000 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Wilson TurboPower, Inc., in collaboration with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Energy Industries of Ohio, Multisolutions, and Industrial Ceramic Solutions, will develop and demonstrate a microturbine system powered by a high-temperature waste heat stream. The system will be able to use high-temperature heat from a variety of opportunity fuels, including biomass combustion, to replace natural gas as the fuel for small-scale, on-site power generation, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  

Feasibility of Direct Carbon Fuel Cell Operating on Biomass and Industrial Process Waste Fuels
Estimated Funding: $1,202,553 total ($1,000,345 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: SRI International, in collaboration with Satcon, the University of Hawaii, and the Illinois Institute of Technology will demonstrate operation of their direct carbon fuel cell for power generation from alternative fuels. These fuels will include biomass (crop residues, farm waste, food processing waste, municipal solid waste, sludge waste, and wood/wood waste) and industrial process waste (coke, petroleum coke, and textile waste).  

Low Emissions Burner Technology for Metal Processing Industry using Byproducts and Biomass-Derived Liquid Fuels
Estimated Funding: $831,626 total ($501,823 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: The University of Alabama, in collaboration with Wise Alloy, will develop commercial level, low-emission burners to produce combust byproducts and biomass-derived liquid fuels. The opportunity fuels targeted for this effort are crude glycerin and fatty acids, which are waste byproducts from biodiesel production. This project will develop burners that will allow efficient combustion of these viscous fuels.  

Novel Sorbent to Clean Up Biogas for CHP
Estimated Funding:  $1,303,165 total ($896,115 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: TDA Research, in collaboration with Fuel Cell Energy, will develop a low-cost, high-capacity expendable sorbent that can remove both hydrogen sulfide and organic sulfur species in biogas to parts-per-billion levels. The sorbent bed would operate downstream of a bulk desulfurization system as a polishing bed to provide an essentially sulfur-free gas to the fuel cell. This will enable small-scale fuel cell-based CHP systems to operate on biogas feedstocks as an alternative to natural gas.  

Novel Fuel Cells Enabling Efficient and Cost Effective Coke/Biomass Power Generation
Estimated Funding: $956,982 total ($668,761 DOE)
Partners and Project Description:  Northwestern University will explore the characteristics of solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC) with a carbon monoxide rich syngas with hydrogen sulfide contamination. These tests will simulate the syngas from gasification of solid opportunity fuels, including solid biomass, coke, and petcoke for heating and power generation. Northwestern will build and test a bench-scale gasifier and SOFC with the opportunity fuels for feasibility assessment.  

Accelerate Industrial Adoption of Natural Gas Alternative for Metals Heat Treating and Industrial Power Generation
Estimated Funding: $6,920,916 total ($6,920,916 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: Intrinergy Coshocton, LLC, in collaboration with Mississippi State University, Idaho National Laboratory, CLOW Water Systems, Bricmont Engineers, GE Energy, and Ingersoll Rand Energy Systems will verify the technical performance, economic feasibility, and environmental benefits of converting select opportunity fuels into substitute natural gas (SNG) for industrial process heating and power generation. An existing gasifier will be used to verify SNG combustion in an industrial-scale gas-fired burner and power generation using both a GE-Jenbacher reciprocating engine and an Ingersoll-Rand microturbine. Assessment of fuel conversion efficiency, SNG properties and quality, emissions rates and efficiency, and cost analysis will provide data necessary to evaluate the commercial-scale viability of the technology.  

The Flex Powerstation: Converting Opportunity Fuels to Clean Power
Estimated Funding: $3,748,912 total ($1,855,973 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: FlexEnergy, LLC, in collaboration with the University of California will demonstrate operation of Flex Powerstation (a thermal oxidizer and gas turbine) with several fuels, including high Btu gas, low Btu gas, ethanol, kerosene, and a combination of gas and liquid fuel. If successful, such a flexible power plant can act as a clean-up device, destroying waste while generating power.  

Determining Optimal Performance in Adapting Onsite Electrical Generation Platforms to Operate on Producer Gas from Fuels of Opportunity
Estimated Funding: $1,685,613 total ($1,179,478 DOE)
Partners and Project Description: The University of Minnesota, in collaboration with Cummins Energy Systems and HGA Architects and Engineering, will test optimal performance of internal combustion generators using producer gas created from readily available fuels of opportunity for onsite electrical generation. The research will focus on integration of the gasification platform with commercial onsite electrical generators. The targeted industries for commercialization are retail distribution centers, municipal utilities, and public institutions.

Learn more about ITP's Fuel and Feedstock Flexibility program. For more information and resources to improve industrial energy efficiency, contact the EERE Information Center at (877) 337-3463.