The proposed facility comprises of three process blocks:
1. Gasification – production of synthesis gas (syngas) from biomass-rich waste-derived fuels, followed by cooling, cleaning and polishing.
2. Methanation – including water-gas shift and methanation of the clean synthesis gas – both established technologies.
3. Upgrading and distribution – ensuring product meets grid standards and injecting it into the grid.
The first step in the process is the gasification of waste, in the form of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF), to produce a syngas that can be used in the methanation process. Any recyclable material is removed from the fuel prior to arrival at the plant. The syngas which is produced by the gasification process is rich in carbon monoxide and hydrogen and very low in contaminants. Downstream of the gasifier the syngas is cooled in a heat recovery boiler and passed through a number of other stages to remove almost all remaining impurities.
The methanation reaction to produce methane (CH4) requires a CO:H2 ratio of 1:3. The syngas from the gasifier has an excess of carbon monoxide, so steam is introduced and the gas is passed through an iron catalyst “water gas shift reactor”, reducing the carbon monoxide content and increasing the hydrogen content. Different feedstocks produce syngases with different CO:H2 ratios; the shift reaction can be ‘tuned’ to cater for different feedstocks.
The gas then enters a succession of methanation reactors with nickel catalysts. In these reactors, the quantity of catalyst and the gas flow rates are carefully selected to ensure a controlled reaction.
Upgrading and distribution
The gas exiting the reactors contains significant quantities of CO2, removed using a chemical scrubbing system, to produce a product with a high methane content. Part of the product gas is compressed to 250 bar and then transported by road to Howard Tenens, a local CNG filling station. Following the addition of an odorant, the remainder of the product gas will be injected into Wales & West Utilities’ gas network where it can be transported for use in homes or transport.
The technology is being showcased at a new pilot plant that has been built at Advanced Plasma Power’s headquarters in Swindon. This test plant is designed to demonstrate the technical potential of producing green gas, and has moved the technology from concept to reality. It will also act as a test bed to optimise the overall performance of the system, to inform the design and economic viability of subsequent commercial plants (including the Commercial Demonstration plant – see below).
The plant has been developed by the distribution arm of National Grid, advanced waste to energy and fuels company Advanced Plasma Power, clean energy firm Progressive Energy and Schmack Carbotech.
The pilot plant funding and strategic backing for the project has come from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition and the European BioEnergy Securing the Future (BESTF) ERANET programme. The ERANET programme is a consortium of eight EU Member States and Associated Countries to provide funding to collaborate on innovative bioenergy demonstration projects. For more information see: eranetbestf.net
Design study completed
Project awarded funding
Final design and safety review assessment
Visitor centre build completion
Plant installation completion
Testing programme of process plant components
End to end process demonstrated
Optimisation of process and completion of testing
This project will demonstrate the gasification of waste at scale and in a commercial environment to produce pipeline-quality green gas for injection into the local gas grid and compressed green gas for supply to a road haulier for transport use. Construction will begin in 2016, and the plant will produce 22 GWh of green gas per annum. By operating over a significant period under true commercial conditions, the plant will help to remove the construction, operational and performance risks of the technology, giving confidence to potential developers and funders of even larger commercial-scale plants.
The project will benefit from a secure source of Refuse-Derived Fuel (RDF) from the local Swindon Borough Council waste facility, and from income from a local road haulier who will buy the compressed green gas for use in its haulage fleet. The green gas will also be injected into the local Wales & West Utilities gas distribution network to demonstrate the feasibility of distributing renewable gas through the existing gas network, for use in heat and transport. The project is also in partnership with CNG Services, a company which provides gas for use in vehicles.
The £23m commercial demonstration plant has been awarded over £11m of funding under the Department of Transport’s Advanced Biofuels programme and £6m of further funding from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition in 2015. The balance will be provided by private investors.
Planning, permitting, design and safety review
Delivery and installation of plant
Start of commercial operations
Project review and reporting
1. Renewable gas generation
a. Anaerobic Digestion – 40TWh max potential
b. Green gas from waste & other biomass feedstocks = 100TWh potential
2. In a highly populated country like the UK, rubbish is the biggest potential source of low carbon fuel.
3. 100TWh/year of green gas has the potential to satisfy 33% of domestic gas demand in future.
4. Green gas, delivered by a proven partnership will demonstrate the world’s first production of Green gas from waste derived feedstock.
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