A renaissance in gasification is brewingthanks to a partnership between The University of British Columbia and Nexterra Systems Corp.
By Roberta Staley
During the 18th century’s chemical revolution, chemists first realized that air was not merely an element but a mixture of many gases. It followed that the gases could be captured, manufactured, purified and used for a variety of purposes, morphing quickly from scientific discovery into a utility. By the 19th century, combustible gases such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen and ethylene were in wide use as a source of energy for heating and illumination, casting somber pools of light not only on the fictional exploits of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson but the real-life horror of Jack the Ripper’s murderous rampage upon the demimonde of London.
The source of combustible materials for manufacturing gas during the Victorian era and into the early 20th century was diverse and included biomass such as wood, coal and oil. Wood gasification was embraced by farmers to run their internal combustion engines, especially during the fuel shortages of the early 20th century and, later, the Second World War. But a heady era of cheap oil and gas followed and gasification, except for some specialized applications, was relegated to the back burner. Now, however, with the spectre of peak oil looming, a renaissance in gasification is brewing. And the epicentre of this redux is — perhaps not surprisingly — Canada’s West Coast, with its seemingly endless supply of biomass from vast forests and British Columbia’s lumber and pulp and paper industries. This includes huge amounts of wood waste: bark, sawdust and tree trimmings, as well as about 17.5 million hectares of dead timber killed by pine beetles. ...
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