Biomass Gasification - Process analysis and dimensioning aspects for downdraft units and gas cleaning lines

Stoppiello, Giovanni (2010) Biomass Gasification - Process analysis and dimensioning aspects for downdraft units and gas cleaning lines, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Ingegneria agraria, 22 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/2694.
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In such territories where food production is mostly scattered in several small / medium size or even domestic farms, a lot of heterogeneous residues are produced yearly, since farmers usually carry out different activities in their properties. The amount and composition of farm residues, therefore, widely change during year, according to the single production process periodically achieved. Coupling high efficiency micro-cogeneration energy units with easy handling biomass conversion equipments, suitable to treat different materials, would provide many important advantages to the farmers and to the community as well, so that the increase in feedstock flexibility of gasification units is nowadays seen as a further paramount step towards their wide spreading in rural areas and as a real necessity for their utilization at small scale. Two main research topics were thought to be of main concern at this purpose, and they were therefore discussed in this work: the investigation of fuels properties impact on gasification process development and the technical feasibility of small scale gasification units integration with cogeneration systems. According to these two main aspects, the present work was thus divided in two main parts. The first one is focused on the biomass gasification process, that was investigated in its theoretical aspects and then analytically modelled in order to simulate thermo-chemical conversion of different biomass fuels, such as wood (park waste wood and softwood), wheat straw, sewage sludge and refuse derived fuels. The main idea is to correlate the results of reactor design procedures with the physical properties of biomasses and the corresponding working conditions of gasifiers (temperature profile, above all), in order to point out the main differences which prevent the use of the same conversion unit for different materials. At this scope, a gasification kinetic free model was initially developed in Excel sheets, considering different values of air to biomass ratio and the downdraft gasification technology as particular examined application. The differences in syngas production and working conditions (process temperatures, above all) among the considered fuels were tried to be connected to some biomass properties, such elementary composition, ash and water contents. The novelty of this analytical approach was the use of kinetic constants ratio in order to determine oxygen distribution among the different oxidation reactions (regarding volatile matter only) while equilibrium of water gas shift reaction was considered in gasification zone, by which the energy and mass balances involved in the process algorithm were linked together, as well. Moreover, the main advantage of this analytical tool is the easiness by which the input data corresponding to the particular biomass materials can be inserted into the model, so that a rapid evaluation on their own thermo-chemical conversion properties is possible to be obtained, mainly based on their chemical composition A good conformity of the model results with the other literature and experimental data was detected for almost all the considered materials (except for refuse derived fuels, because of their unfitting chemical composition with the model assumptions). Successively, a dimensioning procedure for open core downdraft gasifiers was set up, by the analysis on the fundamental thermo-physical and thermo-chemical mechanisms which are supposed to regulate the main solid conversion steps involved in the gasification process. Gasification units were schematically subdivided in four reaction zones, respectively corresponding to biomass heating, solids drying, pyrolysis and char gasification processes, and the time required for the full development of each of these steps was correlated to the kinetics rates (for pyrolysis and char gasification processes only) and to the heat and mass transfer phenomena from gas to solid phase. On the basis of this analysis and according to the kinetic free model results and biomass physical properties (particles size, above all) it was achieved that for all the considered materials char gasification step is kinetically limited and therefore temperature is the main working parameter controlling this step. Solids drying is mainly regulated by heat transfer from bulk gas to the inner layers of particles and the corresponding time especially depends on particle size. Biomass heating is almost totally achieved by the radiative heat transfer from the hot walls of reactor to the bed of material. For pyrolysis, instead, working temperature, particles size and the same nature of biomass (through its own pyrolysis heat) have all comparable weights on the process development, so that the corresponding time can be differently depending on one of these factors according to the particular fuel is gasified and the particular conditions are established inside the gasifier. The same analysis also led to the estimation of reaction zone volumes for each biomass fuel, so as a comparison among the dimensions of the differently fed gasification units was finally accomplished. Each biomass material showed a different volumes distribution, so that any dimensioned gasification unit does not seem to be suitable for more than one biomass species. Nevertheless, since reactors diameters were found out quite similar for all the examined materials, it could be envisaged to design a single units for all of them by adopting the largest diameter and by combining together the maximum heights of each reaction zone, as they were calculated for the different biomasses. A total height of gasifier as around 2400mm would be obtained in this case. Besides, by arranging air injecting nozzles at different levels along the reactor, gasification zone could be properly set up according to the particular material is in turn gasified. Finally, since gasification and pyrolysis times were found to considerably change according to even short temperature variations, it could be also envisaged to regulate air feeding rate for each gasified material (which process temperatures depend on), so as the available reactor volumes would be suitable for the complete development of solid conversion in each case, without even changing fluid dynamics behaviour of the unit as well as air/biomass ratio in noticeable measure. The second part of this work dealt with the gas cleaning systems to be adopted downstream the gasifiers in order to run high efficiency CHP units (i.e. internal engines and micro-turbines). Especially in the case multi–fuel gasifiers are assumed to be used, weightier gas cleaning lines need to be envisaged in order to reach the standard gas quality degree required to fuel cogeneration units. Indeed, as the more heterogeneous feed to the gasification unit, several contaminant species can simultaneously be present in the exit gas stream and, as a consequence, suitable gas cleaning systems have to be designed. In this work, an overall study on gas cleaning lines assessment is carried out. Differently from the other research efforts carried out in the same field, the main scope is to define general arrangements for gas cleaning lines suitable to remove several contaminants from the gas stream, independently on the feedstock material and the energy plant size The gas contaminant species taken into account in this analysis were: particulate, tars, sulphur (in H2S form), alkali metals, nitrogen (in NH3 form) and acid gases (in HCl form). For each of these species, alternative cleaning devices were designed according to three different plant sizes, respectively corresponding with 8Nm3/h, 125Nm3/h and 350Nm3/h gas flows. Their performances were examined on the basis of their optimal working conditions (efficiency, temperature and pressure drops, above all) and their own consumption of energy and materials. Successively, the designed units were combined together in different overall gas cleaning line arrangements, paths, by following some technical constraints which were mainly determined from the same performance analysis on the cleaning units and from the presumable synergic effects by contaminants on the right working of some of them (filters clogging, catalysts deactivation, etc.). One of the main issues to be stated in paths design accomplishment was the tars removal from the gas stream, preventing filters plugging and/or line pipes clogging At this scope, a catalytic tars cracking unit was envisaged as the only solution to be adopted, and, therefore, a catalytic material which is able to work at relatively low temperatures was chosen. Nevertheless, a rapid drop in tars cracking efficiency was also estimated for this same material, so that an high frequency of catalysts regeneration and a consequent relevant air consumption for this operation were calculated in all of the cases. Other difficulties had to be overcome in the abatement of alkali metals, which condense at temperatures lower than tars, but they also need to be removed in the first sections of gas cleaning line in order to avoid corrosion of materials. In this case a dry scrubber technology was envisaged, by using the same fine particles filter units and by choosing for them corrosion resistant materials, like ceramic ones. Besides these two solutions which seem to be unavoidable in gas cleaning line design, high temperature gas cleaning lines were not possible to be achieved for the two larger plant sizes, as well. Indeed, as the use of temperature control devices was precluded in the adopted design procedure, ammonia partial oxidation units (as the only considered methods for the abatement of ammonia at high temperature) were not suitable for the large scale units, because of the high increase of reactors temperature by the exothermic reactions involved in the process. In spite of these limitations, yet, overall arrangements for each considered plant size were finally designed, so that the possibility to clean the gas up to the required standard degree was technically demonstrated, even in the case several contaminants are simultaneously present in the gas stream. Moreover, all the possible paths defined for the different plant sizes were compared each others on the basis of some defined operational parameters, among which total pressure drops, total energy losses, number of units and secondary materials consumption. On the basis of this analysis, dry gas cleaning methods proved preferable to the ones including water scrubber technology in al of the cases, especially because of the high water consumption provided by water scrubber units in ammonia adsorption process. This result is yet connected to the possibility to use activated carbon units for ammonia removal and Nahcolite adsorber for chloride acid. The very high efficiency of this latter material is also remarkable. Finally, as an estimation of the overall energy loss pertaining the gas cleaning process, the total enthalpy losses estimated for the three plant sizes were compared with the respective gas streams energy contents, these latter obtained on the basis of low heating value of gas only. This overall study on gas cleaning systems is thus proposed as an analytical tool by which different gas cleaning line configurations can be evaluated, according to the particular practical application they are adopted for and the size of cogeneration unit they are connected to.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Stoppiello, Giovanni
Dottorato di ricerca
Scuola di dottorato
Scienze agrarie
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
biomass gasification, gas cleaning systems
Data di discussione
31 Maggio 2010

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