West Biofuels and its partners have a strong development program with advanced technologies to convert biomass to energy and other products. Our core technology is based on proven systems that have had commercial success in other parts of the world. West Biofuels is now executing commercial projects that are built upon this solid base.
Each year, California’s almond industry produces approximately 1,000,000 bone-dry tons of recoverable woody biomass residues such as almond shells and orchard removals and prunings. To address this under-utilized resource, West Biofuel's researchers successfully designed and constructed a pilot-scale biomass combined heat and power system in Woodland, California that can be commercially deployed in the agricultural processing sector. The pilot-scale system is capable of processing up to six tons of biomass into 250 kilowatts (kW) of electricity and 625 kW of heat for industrial use and demonstrated 65% cold gas efficiency (not including the embedded energy due to the temperature of the gas). The pilot-scale facility, using a fast internally circulating fluidized bed gasifier, successfully demonstrated that a synthetic bed material could produce a catalytic tar reduction similar to that of natural sand bed material (the primary heat transfer mechanism within the gasification system) while eliminating the transfer of chromium to the ash byproduct. Catalytic tar reduction is important for high-quality gas production and the elimination of chromium allows the ash byproduct to become a valuable soil amendment. Also, the research team was able to substantially reduce emissions from the pilot-scale system by 75-95% by using activated carbon for gas filtration and selective catalytic reduction for engine emission control. Using computer modeling, they determined that commercial-scale facilities would cost less than $4,000 per kW to build and would operate with 28% electrical efficiency and 80% combined heat and power efficiency. Based on the modeled parameters, a commercial-scale facility would be economically viable with a power contract of $124 per megawatt-hour (MWh) with available grants and tax credits, or $165 per MWh without them. The team estimates that commercial-scale biomass combined heat and power system can reduce global warming potential by up to 70% when compared to California’s current electricity portfolio.
This project was funded by the California Energy Commission. The Research Team included West Biofules, UC San Diego, Colorado State University, UC Davis, Vienna Technical University, Gussing Renewable Energy, GmbH, and Consultectra, GmbH
This project will develop a modular system that can be rapidly deployed to communities across California to promote and support fire-safe management activities. The project team proposes to develop a pilot-scale modular biomass gasification system integrated with a high-efficiency Caterpillar G3500 series lean-burn engine in order to convert forest residues into renewable grid power to reduce the cost and increase the benefits of forest fuel reduction projects in California’s high fire-risk regions.
West Biofuels has constructed the patented CircleDraft© gasification with Italian partner INSER, S.P.A. at their facility in Woodland, CA. The purpose of this project is to identify the appropriate supporting equipment for the pilot-scale thermochemical conversion of wood feedstock to syngas and syngas to electricity. Unlike biomass gasification in the agricultural settings, forest biomass feedstock is more costly to recover and is comprised of tops, limbs, branches, and sub-merchantable timber (as opposed to whole tree removal of orchard wood).
To address the changes in feedstock sources and the greater need for efficiency, the project will:
Configure a processing line to prepare feedstock for optimal feedstock uniformity;
Test the CircleDraft© gasification system with forest sourced feedstock to identify optimal feedstock characteristics and operating conditions;
Configure and test state-of-the-art lean-burn engine-generator to characterize performance and efficiency;
Assess cost effective interconnection opportunities of synchronous and inverter-based configurations; and
Identify preferred areas of implementation accounting for grid infrastructure, forest-sourced feedstock availability, and project economics.
This research project is funded by the California Energy Commission. The research team consists of West Biofuels, UC San Diego, and TSS Consultants.
This project will develop and validate a pilot-scale mixed alcohol synthesis (MAS) system to convert woody biomass residue to renewable fuel ethanol. The proposed project will utilize a Fast Internally Circulating Fluidized Bed (FICFB) pilot-scale gasifier that has been constructed and is operating at the Woodland Biomass Research Center in Woodland, California, a commercial-scale FICFB gasifier in Güssing, Austria, and a commercially-available MAS catalyst produced by Albemarle. The unique match of highly efficient gasification technology with MAS catalyst and methanol recycling promises to open a pathway to low-carbon renewable fuel ethanol, substituting out-of-state corn ethanol with in-state biomass to ethanol pathways that are over four times less carbon intensive.
This research project is funded by the California Energy Commission. The research team includes West Biofuels, UC San Diego, Bioenergy and Sustainable Technologies (BEST), and Albemarle.
West Biofuels has designed, built, and operates the third CircleDraft gasifier ever built. West Biofuels began construction in the summer of 2014 and is in the process of modifying the design to better fit the needs associated with traditional feedstock in North America (primarily ground wood material). This installation is an 11 dry ton per day Circle Draft system. It is running tests under a contract to the California Energy Commission, with the dominant feedstocks being forest wastes, as part of California's policy to improve forest health and reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions associated with forest management activities.
West Biofuels is designing and constructing a rice-hull-fueled powerplant at a Northern California rice mill. The new plant will generate heated thermal oil and biochar from the mill's rice hull waste stream. The heated thermal oil will be used to produce renewable electricity and heat. The facility utilizes a 4.0 megawatt (MW) capacity Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) system that will use up to 1000 kilowatts (kW) of renewable electricity onsite and export 3,000 kW of renewable electricity to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), an investor-owned utility, through the Bioenergy Market Adjusting Tariff (BioMAT) program. The facility has secured a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with PG&E, which represents a new revenue stream for the mill with additional market potential in biochar sales. Additionally, renewable heat will be available for onsite capture and utilization for process heating. West Biofuels is the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contractor for the project.
West Biofuels and Hat Creek Construction & Materials partnered in 2018 to develop a 3 MW gasification facility, consistent with SB 1122’s BioMAT program to convert biomass residue from sustainable forest management into renewable electricity. The facility, located outside of Burney, California, will utilize approximately 22,000 bone dry tons of wood residue annually, diverting feedstock away from open pile burning.
The facility will be collocated with Hat Creek Construction & Materials and is scheduled for operation in 2022.
Thermal conversion of biomass to syngas and upgrading by methanation to Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) for pipeline injection would have a significant impact on the state's renewables portfolio, with a potential to replace 10-20% of our current fossil fuel derived natural gas usage. This technological approach has been demonstrated in Europe, but the cost has outweighed the production of an economical natural gas replacement, particularly given relatively low natural gas prices in California.
This project focuses on key technical constraints driving the high cost of the current RNG process. Using an existing biomass gasification process (and working facility at the Woodland Biomass Research Center) that produces high-quality syngas, the effort is to demonstrate the steps for reduced cost RNG production. Because the syngas needs to be very clean before the methanation step, the objective is to focus on cost reduction and technical performance of the gas cleanup after biomass gasification. The project also investigates methanation in a fluidized-bed reactor, which would reduce the amount of contaminants and allow for superior thermal management of the exothermic methanation reactions. The innovations proposed in these two areas would bring down the overall cost for commercial methanation, enabling our vast biomass resource to be utilized to generate RNG. The technical and economical performance of the system will be analyzed in order to support a commercial demonstration project capable of producing 60 MW of RNG for pipeline distribution and renewable power production in a high efficiency gas power-plant facility. This research project is funded by the California Energy Commission. The research team consists of West Biofuels, UC San Diego, and TSS Consultants.
This project is funded by the California Energy Commission. The research team consists of UC San Diego, UC Davis, West Biofuels, and Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
A 6 ton per day Fast Internally Circulating Fluidized Bed (FICFB) gasifier demonstration plant commenced operating in 2014 at Woodland California. Co-funded by the California Energy Commission, the system was specified in partnership between West Biofuels, Güssing and partner universities, who will share in using the system for further research.
The system implements changes to the original advanced gasifier design and is now a fully commercial design with improved refractory insulation; heat exchangers; internal recycling systems for bed material, tars and contaminated scrubber fluid; super heated steam generator; and a new custom designed control system. In addition, the new design uses a manufactured bed material with improved heat transfer characteristics and longer life expectancy.
The demonstration plant allows different feedstock options to be tested, thus providing early confirmation of feedstock suitability and product gas stability. West Biofuels is currently undergoing research on wood biomass residue to ethanol and to pipeline quality methane using syngas from this gasifier.