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Monday, September 3, 2018

Saving $1 million allocated to reinvent the wheel

The Australian Government announced it was allocating another $1 million for research into ways to make something useful from brown coal reserves in Victoria.

Coal has a future in Victoria: Matt Canavan

Senator the Hon Matt Canavan
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia

Investing in brown coal research and development

31 August 2018

The Coalition Government continues to focus on harnessing the economic benefits that can come from the nation’s vast brown coal resources by making $1 million in funding available to Brown Coal Innovation Australia (BCIA).

BCIA will use the funding to focus on advancing Australia’s economic prosperity by researching low emissions technologies for both electricity generation and products derived from brown coal.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said BCIA was at the forefront of research into low-emissions, low-cost, coal technologies and novel, high-value products derived from brown coal. Since 2009, the Government has provided more than $7 million to BCIA through the Commonwealth’s funding of the Australian National Low Emissions Coal Research and Development initiative.
This funding comes on top of the $620 million already being administered by the Australian Government to accelerate the deployment of low emission fossil fuel technologies.

Australian Governments have been "investing" in "harnessing the economic benefits that can come from the nation's vast brown coal resources" long before 2009.

For over thirty years no progress has been made.

Victoria's brown coal in the Latrobe Valley still has a moisture content of more than 50%:
Moisture content of raw coal Wt(%)

Research is still fixated with the presumption that before any value can be made of this vast resource that "coal drying is essential":
Coal drying is essential...

In 2012 the US granted a patent for converting 'wet carbonaceous material' (such as "brown coal") to methane:

Method and apparatus for steam hydro-gasification with increased conversion times

 Patent: US8143319B2


A method and apparatus for converting carbonaceous material to a stream of carbon rich gas, comprising heating a slurry feed containing the carbonaceous material in a hydrogasification process using hydrogen and steam, at a temperature and pressure sufficient to generate a methane and carbon monoxide rich stream in which the conversion time in the process is between 5 and 45 seconds.

It could be applied in a plant with a design such as the following, or one that uses hydrogen produced by electrolysis from renewable energy in place of the steam reforming unit, or one that produces any combination of hydrogen and/or synthetic natural gas:
Converting brown coal - without drying - to methane (and/or hydrogen)
Converting brown coal - without drying - to methane (and/or hydrogen)

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Energy transition

Final Report Summary - HELMETH (Integrated High-Temperature Electrolysis and Methanation for Effective Power to Gas Conversion), 25 July 2018

A highly efficient Power-to-Gas process has been realized by the European research project HELMETH. It has the potential to be the most efficient storage solution for renewable energy utilizing the existing natural gas grid without capacity limitations and to be a source for “green” Substitute Natural Gas (SNG) to avoid fossil carbon dioxide emissions.

The objective of the HELMETH project is the proof of concept of a highly efficient Power-to-Gas process by realizing the first prototype that combines a pressurized high temperature steam electrolysis with a CO2-methanation module.

The demonstration plant was assembled at the sunfire facility in Dresden. The methanation unit, developed and built by KIT in Karlsruhe, was set up inside a container and transported to sunfire to perform combined operational tests.

The steam outlet from the methanation cooling circuit is fed to the electrolyser and the hydrogen output from the electrolyser is fed to the methanation unit. The steam is converted to hydrogen in the electrolyser.
Coupled Power-to-Gas plant (left container: methanation; right container: electrolyser)
Coupled Power-to-Gas plant (left container: methanation; right container: electrolyser)

The efficiency is significantly increased by using the heat of reaction from the exothermic methanation reaction to produce steam for the high temperature electrolysis.

Since the produced SNG is fully compatible with the existing natural gas grid and storage infrastructure, practically no capacity limitations apply to store energy from fluctuating renewable energy sources.

Steam Hydrogasification

By replacing the CO2 methanation module in the Power-to-Gas process realized by the HELMETH research project with a lignite methanation module, Australia can manufacture 50% renewable methane. That is, synthetic natural gas containing 50% renewable energy (as hydrogen) and 50% fossil fuel (from low-cost wet lignite).

This can fuel dispatchable generators in conjunction with renewable intermittent generators to provide 100% reliable electricity generation: the intermittent renewable generators supplying 50% of electricity and dispatchable generators powered by 50% renewable methane providing the other 50%.

The lignite methanation module has been developed in the U.S.

Steam Hydrogasification in a hydrogen environment

Making synthetic natural gas from hydrogen and a variety of waste streams and coal has been researched for some time.

For example:

UC Riverside researchers receive two grants to advance steam hydrogasification reaction for waste-to-fuels, 15 September 2011

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research and Technology (CERT) at the Bourns College of Engineering have received two grants to further explore a steam hydrogasification process they developed...

A $650,000 grant from the California Energy Commission (CEC) extends its commitment to $2 million to CERT for the patented steam hydrogasification reaction (SHR), which can turn any carbonaceous material into transportation fuels or natural gas. The CEC grant will allow for the completion of a process demonstration unit at CERT that will provide data needed before a proposed pilot plant is built at the city of Riverside’s waste water treatment facility.

Synthetic natural gas made from wet carbonaceous feedstock such as lignite
Synthetic natural gas made from wet carbonaceous feedstock such as lignite