Gasification of Biomass
: An Investigation of Key Challenges to Advance Acceptance of the Technology

  • Chien Dinh Le

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Although the general principles of biomass gasification are broadly understood, at a larger scale of operation (e.g. > 200 kg/h) there is a lack of confidence in the translation of the basic scientific concepts into a financially viable operation that satisfies regulatory requirements. Looking in particular at the operation of a down-draft type of gasifier, a number of challenges were identified and studied in greater detail.Gasification experiments were performed on wood and straw pellets in a small scale, 21 mm i.d. quartz-tube reactor. These provided useful insight into what was occurring inside the gasifier, and the complexity and roles of the various reaction zones. In order to perform on-line gas analysis measurements in real time, a method was developed which enabled a quadrupole mass spectrometer (QMS) to be used. This was tested in a laboratory environment, and then used on a commercial pilot-plant gasifier (150 to 250 kg/h). This enabled the composition of the gas to be monitored while the plant was started up, and then operated at various levels of gas flow through the plant. In general the concentrations measured during a stable operation were as follows: CO = 16.0 vol.%, H2 = 11.9 vol.%, CO2 = 15.8 vol.%, N2 = 54.1 vol.%, CH4 = 1.9 vol.%, O2 = 0.3 vol.%. Measurements of O2 concentrations in the gas stream on start-up provide useful information on conditions when a flammable atmosphere could exist in the lines/vessels.To help with the development of suitable gas clean-up strategies, the presence of two key sulphur species, H2S and carbonyl sulphide (COS), was studied in more detail. Experimental measurements were taken on the laboratory reactor (e.g. H2S = 286 ppmv, COS = 28 ppmv for gasification of refuse-derived fuel (RDF) pellets), and the commercial pilot-scale gasifier (e.g. H2S = 332 ppmv, COS = 12 ppmv). This data was also compared with theoretical thermodynamic predictions.The steam gasification of char was also studied in a laboratory 9.5 mm i.d. reactor, and kinetic expressions were determined for RDF-derived char. It was shown that high concentrations of H2 (20 vol.%) and CO (15 vol.%) can be achieved, and the temperature at which reactions were initiated was > 700 ºC, and significant at 900 ºC. Interestingly, the RDF-derived char (at carbon conversion from 10 to 70 %) appears to be more reactive than other biochars reported in the literature. However, at high conversion (> 50 %), its apparent reactivity decreases with carbon conversion, behaving in a similar manner to coal chars.
Date of Award13 Jun 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorStan Kolaczkowski (Supervisor)


  • gasification
  • biomass
  • char
  • QMS
  • clean-up
  • analysis
  • kinetics
  • quartz-tube

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