The Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) has selected seven projects to receive funding through NETL’s Gasification System Program. This program supports a wide range of research and development activities aimed at improving fuel and product versatility, efficiency, and economics of gasification processes.

The projects conducted through this program are geared toward reducing the cost of coal conversion and mitigating the environmental impacts of fossil-fueled power generation. Advances in gasification technology are an important facet of unlocking the full potential of domestic coal resources, which both improves U.S. economic competitiveness and contributes to the protection of the global environment.

The funded research projects fall under two subtopic areas: development of gasification technologies applicable to in situ bio-gasification of coal to methane and the development of low cost advanced air separation technologies that can produce oxygen for use in coal gasification processes.

Project descriptions follow.

Topic Area: Bio-gasification of Coal to Methane

Optimization, Scale-up, and Design of Coal-Dependent Methanogenesis in Preparation for In Situ Field Demonstration

Montana State University (Bozeman, MT) in cooperation with their partners will focus on refining bio-gasification approaches for the conversion of coal to methane. The team's research is expected to provide significant contributions toward in situ microbial coal conversion leading to the development of a commercially competitive coal to gas process. Technologies developed in this project will set the stage for further validation in future field testing.

Cost: DOE: $650,000/Non DOE: $162,500/Total Funding: $812,500 (20% cost share)

A Scaling Study of Microbially-Enhanced Methane Production from Coal: Optimizing Nutrient Delivery for Maximized Methane Production

The Pennsylvania State University (University Park, PA) working with their university collaborators will conduct an experimental program to optimize nutrient formulations leading to improved microbially-derived coal to methane production. In addition, the team will develop novel hydraulic fracturing methods to maximize nutrient delivery and product recovery. The results of this project will be instrumental in designing near-term field demonstration projects.

Cost: DOE: $564,201/Non DOE: $141,148/Total Funding: $705,349 (20% cost share)

Topic Area: Development of Advanced Air Separation Technologies

Development of Two-Phase Dense Fluid Expander for Advanced Cryogenic Air Separation and Low-Grade Heat Recovery

Air Products and Chemicals, Inc. (Allentown, PA) will conduct applied research to evaluate a novel two-phase dense fluid expander (DFE) for the cryogenic separation of oxygen from air. The team will apply the knowledge derived from this work to construct a prototype device to further evaluate two-phase DFE while also conducting a techno-economic analysis of the technology. The successful implementation of two-phase DFE is expected to result in improved separation efficiency and reduced operating costs for cryogenic air separation.

Cost: DOE: $876,293/Non DOE: $219,074/Total Funding: $1,095,367 (20% cost share)

Lifetime Enhancement of Modules for Low-Cost Oxygen for Gasification

Ceramatec, Inc. (Salt Lake City, UT) researchers and their strategic collaborator will focus on improving the service lifespan of ceramic membrane modules used to separate oxygen from air. Improvements in module materials and design will be incorporated into full-scale module manufacturing with minimal impact on fabrication costs. Overall, this work aims to show the economic benefits of ion transport membrane technology for use in gasification processes.

Cost: DOE: $1,498,865/Non DOE: $376,118/Total Funding: $1,874,983 (20% cost share)

Chemical Looping Coal Gasification Sub-Pilot Unit Demonstration and Economic Assessment for IGCC Applications

The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH) and their partners will continue development of a chemical looping gasification (CLG) technology—an advanced air separation process that can be applied to produce electricity and/or chemicals. Project success will lead to the development of a scalable CLG process and confirm the economic advantages of this technology, enabling the development of a pilot-scale demonstration unit.

Cost: DOE: $1,500,000/Non DOE: $686,000/Total Funding: $2,186,000 (31% cost share)

Improving Energy Efficiency of Air Separation via Hollow Fiber Sorbents

Praxair, Inc. (Danbury, CT) in collaboration with their university partner will conduct bench-scale testing of a sub-ambient temperature air separation process based on a rapidly cycled pressure swing adsorption (RCPSA), an air separation process that can be up to five times more productive than traditional PSA processes. The team will fabricate and test hollow fiber-based sorbent materials for oxygen separation efficiency using the RCPSA system. Prototype modules will be developed and tested to provide insight into module scale-up. It is anticipated that combining the advantages of a hollow fiber RCPSA system with sub-ambient temperature separation will result in improved system performance, making large-scale adsorptive air separation technology economically attractive.

Cost: DOE: $1,199,959/ Non DOE: $514,268/ Total Funding: $1,174,227 (30% cost share)

Low Cost Air Separation Process for Gasification Applications

TDA Research, Inc. (Wheat Ridge, CO) in collaboration with other research teams will continue development of a new chemical absorbent-based air separation process that can deliver low-cost oxygen to integrated gasification combined cycle power plants. The team will design, construct, and demonstrate continuous oxygen generation using the prototype test system. The results of this work will position this highly efficient oxygen separation system for larger pilot-scale demonstration.

Cost: DOE: $1,280,000/Non DOE: $320,000/Total Funding: $1,600,000 (20% cost share)