The Energy Department's Office of Fossil Energy has been working on coal gasifier advances that enhance efficiency, environmental performance, and reliability as well as expand the gasifier's flexibility to process a variety of coals and other feedstocks (including biomass and municipal/industrial wastes). Currently, the Office of Fossil Energy is focusing on the development of advanced technologies that will foster early adoption of small-scale modular coal gasification, which may open new market opportunities for domestic coal in economically depressed regions and in strategic or targeted high-value applications.
Despite advances in gasification technologies over the past several decades, costs of gasification systems remain high. Historically, industry has lowered prices via “economies of scale”, but the huge capital investment required for large plants and the accompanying financial risk have become significant barriers to market penetration. It is envisioned that new gasification systems could take advantage of this principle of mass production with improved designs and use advanced methods of manufacture to further reduce costs. Keeping size small would not only keep costs low, but would also enable mass production without oversaturating market demand. The new focus on modular gasification systems will play an important role in the Office of Fossil Energy Advanced Energy Systems Program. Advanced energy conversion systems are designed to enable efficient, low-cost, near-zero emission energy from existing and new fossil fuel power plants. Advances in modular gasification technology are an important facet of unlocking the full potential of domestic coal resources, which both improve U.S. economic competitiveness and contribute to the protection of the global environment.