Waste and biomass for gasification could reduce cost of meeting UK carbon targets

Using waste and biomass for gasification can produce low carbon power efficiently, potentially reducing the cost of meeting the UK’s 2050 carbon targets by more than 1% of GDP, according to a new report from the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

Titled ‘Targeting new and cleaner uses for wastes and biomass using gasification,’ the ETI report sets out why it believes gasification technology could be so important to a future low carbon UK energy system, what the current UK landscape looks like along with analysis of earlier ETI research into waste gasification technologies.

Able to use a variety of feedstocks, gasification is a key technology for delivering low carbon energy as electricity, heat and power as well as chemicals and other materials. This is because it converts the energy held within a difficult to use solid fuel into an easier to use gas which can then go on to be used as a building block to make, for example, electricity, hydrogen or jet fuel.

The ETI report found that gasification is particularly useful on a ‘town-scale’, because the waste heat generated can be used in district heat networks to provide heat and power for commercial operations. However, the technology and commercial risks are currently too great for typical investors and developers. For that reason, the ETI is investing £5m in the construction of a 1.5MWe waste gasification demonstration incorporating an engine fuelled by “ultra-clean” tar free syngas.

The demonstration facility being built in Wednesbury in the West Midlands will produce enough electrical power to supply 2,500 homes and will use gasification technology to produce power at high efficiency and high reliability from sorted and processed municipal waste.

Geraint Evans, ETI Bioenergy Programme Manager and the report’s author said: “Our analysis work has shown that gasification projects with integrated syngas clean-up have the potential to be competitive with other sources of renewable power, but support will be required to enable their early deployment.

“That is why we are investing £5m in the 1.5MWe gasification project incorporating syngas cleaning and tar removal in the West Midlands to help accelerate the development of the technology, build confidence in it and bring it to market earlier than it otherwise would.

“The plant will be more compact than many other energy from waste designs currently available and this new compact design could be suitable for providing heat and power to factories, hospitals as well as being suitable to integrate with heat networks in towns and cities.”

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