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Technology Behind Biomass Gasification

Biomass gasification converts biomass, which includes many agricultural residues (such as corn stover, wood waste, wheat straw), into an energy-rich vapor called "Producer Gas" that can be burned much like natural gas. By heating biomass with very little oxygen, a solid (such as corn stover) can be converted into a gas composed of mostly carbon monoxide and hydrogen. When this combination is mixed with oxygen, it burns to yield a high amount of energy.

These producer gases can be used in a variety of applications including fuel for internal combustion engines, direct heating, and in production of the chemical fuel methanol. The char and ash can often be used as a fertilizer.

Biomass Gasification at UMM

At UMM, the producer gas is intended to be used in three different ways:

  1. Steam for District Heating
  2. Chilled Water for District Cooling through use of an absorption chiller (tentatively to be installed fall of 2008)
  3. Electrical Generation through use of a back pressure steam turbine (tentatively to be installed in 2008-2009)

The intention is to use biomass gasification in a multi-faceted renewable energy effort -- not just for its most obvious use (heating).