“Our goal is to create a unique pilot-scale facility that will enable our faculty to be leaders in the science of using gasification to convert biomass resources into liquid fuels, high-value chemicals and electrical power,” said Steven Taylor, professor and head of bio-systems engineering and director of the Center for Bio-energy and Bio-products.
When the unit is finished, it will be the best biomass gasification unit in the Southern U.S., Taylor said.
“This laboratory will allow us to develop improved methods for creating synthesis gas from biomass,” Taylor said.
Biomass is separated into categories.
Forest biomass comes from places such as pine plantations or logging operations that contain residue from harvesting pulpwood or saw timber.
Agricultural biomass includes materials such as switch grass, peanut hulls, pecan shells and poultry litter.
Sushil Adhikari, assistant professor in bio-energy, will be conducting research for the gasification unit at the Auburn University Center for Bio-energy and Bio-products.
“I will be involved in research to understand the effect of temperatures, pressures and biomass feed-stocks such as pine wood and switch grass,” Adhikari said.
Dave Mills, manager of the bio-energy and bio-products laboratory, has been working in the lab for over a year and a half.
“We are going to be gasifying multiple feed-stocks, agricultural waste and forest waste to produce liquid fuels from the gas,” Mills said.
The gasification unit is designed for research, not for commercial sale operation, Taylor said.
“The system will consume over 100 pounds of biomass per hour and produce as much as 40 cubic feet per minute of synthesis gas,” Taylor said.
Adhikari will be researching the synthesis gas.
“Syngas, or synthesis gas, is a mixture of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, carbon dioxide and methane,” Adhikari said.
The syngas will be studied for its energy content and its cleanliness.
“Our primary focus is on the processes needed to make these fuels and their overall quality,” Taylor said. “If we end up making enough fuel, we will of course be interested in using it in some of our University vehicles.”