Coal, a globally used fuel source, is also the reason behind most of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. GreatPoint Energy has developed an alternative method to getting the energy from coal with reduced manufacturing cost, almost no emissions, and less complicated production steps.
Traditional methane production facilities house numerous components: First, coal is burned into syngas (a carbon monoxide and hydrogen mix) inside a gasifier at 2,500F. Other machines feed oxygen into the gasifies to facilitate the process. The resulting syngas is then placed into a reactor where it is transformed into methane. GreatPoint facilities do not require the extra step in the reactor since the whole production to create their patented “bluegas” occurs in the gasifier.
GreatPoint describes the general methanation process on their homepage: “The first step in the “bluegas” process is to feed the coal or biomass and the catalyst into the methanation reactor. Inside the reactor, pressurized steam is injected to “fluidize” the mixture and ensure constant contact between the catalyst and the carbon particles. In this environment the catalyst facilitates multiple chemical reactions between the carbon and the steam on the surface of the coal or biomass. These reactions catalyzed in a single reactor generate a mixture predominately composed of methane and CO2.” The end result of the process yields 99.5% pure methane.
More details and a diagram of the process are found here.
The catalyst is the key behind the whole process: By using a catalyst to start the coal-gasification system, the temperatures needed to burn the methane out of the coal are reduced. In fact, the natural heat released by the methanation of syngas is sufficient. This is a benefit for facilities who may want to adopt GreatPoint’s methane production process since cheaper reactor components (not needing to withstand so much heat) are no problem. An added benefit is that less expensive feedstocks like tar sands and petroleum coke produce pipeline grade methane in these unique conditions.
This low cost, clean fuel source is an environmentally friendly alternative. In fact, blugas production facilities recover almost all the contaminants and “, roughly half the carbon in the coal is captured as a pure CO2 stream suitable for sequestration,” explains GreatPoint.
The Cambridge, Massachusettes company’s most recent success story involves sealing a deal with the Datang Huayin Electric Power Company, Ltd. to build and operate a natural gas production facility in Guangdong Province, China capable of processing 1500 tons of feedstock daily. Not a bad start.
Coal is still easily accessible and incredibly cheap-especially when compared to natural gas drilling. In a 2007 in-depth article written by Technology Review, CEO Andrew Perlman is quoted saying that “We can take coal out of the ground and put it in a natural-gas pipeline for less than the cost of new natural-gas drilling and exploration activities.” Clearly, methane is an attractive fuel source. If not for the environemntal benefit, then for the price.
|COAL RESERVES IN THE UNITED STATES|
Approximately 1,146 million tons of coal was mined in the USA in 2007, enough
to provide about 23 quadrillion BTUs, or (coincidentally) 23% of the total energy
consumed in the USA in that year. One “short” (metric) ton of coal, on average,
contains 20 million BTUs of energy, or nearly 6.0 megawatt-hours. This figure must
be adjusted downwards when calculating actual megawatt-hours recoverable from
coal due to efficiency losses.
(Source: Energy Information Administration)