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DOE to Fund Projects That Gasify a Mix of Coal Biomass



By Erin Voegele

May 22, 2020
- The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy on May 18 announced plans to offer funding for new projects that gasify a mix of coal and biomass to generate electric power and a carbon-free hydrogen coproduct.

The announcement is part of a larger $81 million draft funding opportunity announcement (FOA) titled Design Development and System Integrated Design Studies for Coal FIRST Concepts. The DOE said the draft FOA has been issued so that interested parties are aware of DOE’s intention to issue the finalized FOA later this summer.

Projects resulting from the finalized FOA will support DOE’s Coal FIRST (Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small, Transformative) intiative, which aims to develop the coal plant of the future. According to the DOE, Coal FIRST plants will be capable of flexible operations to meet the emerging needs of the grid and transportation sector; use innovative and cutting-edge components that improve efficiency and reduce emissions; provide resilient energy to Americans; be small compared to today’s conventional utility-scale coal-fired plants; and transform how coal technologies are designed and manufactured. Some designs will also provide hydrogen to support transportation and industrial applications.

Selected projects will complete design development; host site evaluation and environmental information volume; an investment case analysis; and a system integration design study for an engineering-scale prototype under one of four Coal FIRST power plant concepts. The first concept is a flexible ultra supercritical (USC) coal-fired power plant. The second is a pressurized fluidized bed combustor with supercritical steam cycle power plant. The third is a hybrid natural gas turbine or USC coal boiler power plant. Finally, the fourth is a flexible gasification of coal and biomass to generate electric power and a carbon-free hydrogen coproduct.

According to the draft FOA, projects developed under the fourth concept will leverage innovative application of largely established technology components to gasify coal, biomass, and possibly other feedstocks to generate electric power with one or more carbon-free hydrogen coproducts with zero or near-zero emissions, including net negative emissions of carbon dioxide. Carbon-free hydrogen coproducts include pure hydrogen, ammonia or another carbon-free fuel or chemical.

The DOE said some unique aspects of this power plant design include a flexible coal gasifier and syngas processing and carbon capture systems. The concept uses a coal gasifier capable of cofiring biomass in amounts leading to overall net-negative carbon emissions. The gasifier could also be designed to utilize additional co-feedstocks, such as plastics. The syngas processing and carbon capture systems must be compatible with constituents in the syngas produced by the flexible coal gasifier.

The DOE also said that applicants submitting projects under the coal and biomass gasification concept are permitted the discretion to innovate on plant design as long as it still addresses all mandatory Coal FIRST plant attributes and processes the major plant characteristics of for the Coal FIRST plant concept described in the FOA.

The DOE is expected to issue a final FOA in mid-June, with the deadline for full applications expected in mid-August. Selected projects are expected to be notified in October, with awards made in December. Additional information is available on the DOE website.