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The feasability of electricity production from biomass by pressurized gasification systems


Interest in biomass based electricity production is increasing in Europe. In the field of electricity production, gasification seems to be the most promising.

The objective is to evaluate the potential of advanced power production systems based on biomass gasification; to study the technical and economical feasibility of these new processes with different types of biomass feedstocks.

Deliverables : Final report containing :
1. Biomass database.
2. General process evaluation results.
3. Summaries of the two case studies.

- Papers at biomass conferences and in scientific journals.
- Status reports and other material required by the Joule Programme. ??

The main achievements from the study were the financial and economic evaluation of different biomass gasification systems in different capacity ranges. Systems based on pressurised gasification and gas turbine cycles were found to be economically feasible only in the range 30-40 MWe. Small capacity gasifier/diesel engines (5-10 MWe) achieved higher efficiencies than fluidised bed boilers/steam turbines. However, the high costs of drying the feedstock for a gasifier/diesel engine made this equipment prohibitively expensive. Where dry fuels can be used, the economics of this system improve considerably. Finally, a fixed-bed downdraft gasification system, in combination with an internal combustion engine, is technically feasible on a "farm scale" (i.e. below 500 kWe) as long as suitable low priced biomass fuels and cheap labour are available.

The project found that the structure and logistics of Italian agriculture acted against large-scale gasification. However, a range of smaller power production plants (i.e. 500 kWe to 15 MWe) were feasible, although "farm size" and small-scale projects were extremely sensitive to labour costs and capital costs respectively. Medium-scale applications showed robust feasibility over the whole applied sensitivity range. Finnish case studies concentrated on process evaluation and economic analysis of two district heating power plants using biomass as a fuel in a special gasification process (the IVOSDIG process). Although results showed that very high power to heat ratios could be obtained using IVOSDIG, the cost of producing electricity in this way was more expensive than the average.
The evaluation will utilise published information
facilities and process simulation tools to address:

(1) The potential of biomass based electricity in different parts of Europe

(2) The suitability of available and future biomass feedstocks for advanced gasification processes

(3) The technical and economical performance of different power production concepts

(4) The feasibility of selected process concepts in South and North European energy economy

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts
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Ente Nazionale per l'Energia Elettrica SpA (ENEL)
Via G.b. Martini 3
00198 Roma

Participants (3)

Deutsche Montan Technologie-Gesellschaft für Forschung und Prüfung mbH
45307 Essen
Imatran Voima OY

01601 Vantaa
Technical Research Centre of Finland
02150 Espoo