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Frontline BioEnergy achieves breakthrough no-tar gasification technology


Image: Frontline BioEnergy

Frontline BioEnergy announced Oct. 9 that it has achieved a breakthrough in syngas quality for biomass gasification at its new pilot facility located in Nevada, Iowa.



The innovative technology, called TarFreeGas®, has achieved the ultimate goal of biomass gasification: ultra-clean biomass-derived synthesis gas.




Biomass gasification is a process that takes organic material, from corn stover to wood waste, and converts it to synthesis gas using high temperatures without combustion.




Gasification of biomass was discovered more than 400 years ago, but syngas from gasified biomass contains numerous hydrocarbons, also called tars, which are detrimental to process equipment and can be hazardous to human health.




Although research has tested a wide variety of methods from filters to absorbers to exotic systems involving plasma, a practical solution to managing these tars has remained elusive, according to Frontline BioEnergy.




“My thought was—‘we did it,’” said T. J. Paskach, Frontline’s chief technology officer. “We were thrilled when our results began to show nondetectable levels of all tars leaving the catalytic gas converter. We insisted that our solution be economic, scalable, reliable and practical, and we wouldn’t settle for anything less than meeting each and every goal. It has required a lot of resources and effort over the last 15-plus years, but we did it. This technology has the potential to revolutionize the energy industry.”




Frontline engineers started working on the tar problem at the company’s inception more than 15 years ago as part of their mission: to be a global leader in waste- and biomass-gasification solutions for renewable energy, renewable fuels and products.




“Our TarFreeGas® technology makes synthesis gas without harmful tars, and that promises to unlock the absolutely huge potential in the biomass-conversion sector,” Paskach said.




Biomass holds lots of carbon, which is made from atmospheric CO2 by photosynthesis.




Not only do farms produce crops and forests produce wood products, but the plants and trees act as millions of free, natural solar cells that store energy while at the same time capturing CO2 from the atmosphere as carbohydrates, fat and protein that make up the plant matter.




Paskach also shared his vision for the technology’s potential.




“Up until now, that stored energy has been lost to decomposition,” Paskach said. “Now we have a practical and super-clean way to convert that wasted potential into renewable fuels and chemicals. The U.S. creates more than 1 billion tons of biomass annually that could be converted through our TarFreeGas® process. That’s enough energy to replace 50 percent of our country’s natural gas usage.”

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