Major investment in gasification will provide renewable fuels

Published: 5 June 2013

The funding of 234 MSEK for the second phase of the Swedish Gasification Centre is now complete. During the period 2013 to 1017 the Swedish Energy Agency contributes with 78 MSEK, the academy invests the same amount, and also the industry where 25 companies jointly invest 78 MSEK.

The director of SFC, Professor Rikard Gebart at Luleå University of Technology, talks about the goal for the next four years:

– Our focus is very much on education. We will educate new PhD:s and we will maintain a high scientific level with many publications in recognized journals. There is also a technical requirement to continue to develop and refine the various gasification technologies. The projects will be guided by these technical requirements, together with high class research.

The Swedish Gasification Centre (SFC) was established in 2011 with the aim of becoming a national platform for the research, development and training in the field of biomass gasification. SFC is composed of the three research nodes LTU, KTH and Chalmers, where each node focus on a specific gasification technology. Together, these nodes will cover the techniques required for a future expansion of full-scale gasification plants. These will then be able to produce renewable fuels for vehicles in Sweden.

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Director of the Swedish Gasification Centre is Professor Rikard Gebart at Luleå University of Technology. Photo: Thomas Bergman

The question is how far away these full-scale plants are? The government has already set a target for the Swedish fleet to be independent of fossil fuels by 2030.

– Right now there is an ongoing investigation by Thomas B. Johansson that will result in recommendations for long-term rules for renewable fuels. Before the recommendations and decisions are in place, no one will invest billions. But once they are there, and if the instruments are strong enough, then it could go quickly. Say we have prospects ready in two years, then it might take another six months to make investment decisions. The construction will take about two years. So to sum up, we may have plants running in about 5 years. It is up to the politicians to act to bring about a change, says Rikard Gebart.

Is there no difficulty that remains technically, would it be possible to build large-scale installations for the gasification of biomass already?

– The technology is partially developed but needs refinement. We need to do further testing on a larger scale. We want to ensure that there are no hidden phenomenon that can have significant effects. One of the challenges we have is to get a complete conversion of the fuel, that it will not be a carbon residue from the gasifier. We also need to solve a problem with tar in the gas, which destroys the catalysts. The tar must be converted to syngas, which is called reformation, and it needs to be done in a more energy efficient manner than currently is the case, explains Rikard Gebart.