Gasification is an old technology which was widely used during World War II for running vehicles. After World War II, this technology remained dormant for a longer period. Serious R&D efforts were made only during the last 15 years to achieve some breakthrough. Small scale power generation is the main advantage of gasification technology, where steam turbine technology is not viable for a capacity less than 1 MW.
Gasification for power generation is often attractive when compared to diesel based electricity generation. Gasification technology is used for several applications such as water pumping, thermal usage and power generation.
Indian and Chinese equipment suppliers are successful in reducing the equipment cost compared to steam thermal technology. Although there are several suppliers who claim that their technology is the best in the market, only very few suppliers have mastered the technology. Today, it remains a great challenge for the buyers to identify the right suppliers who have really mastered the technology.
We have done extensive study on small scale power generation using gasification. Though several gasification plants for electricity generation are in operation in Asia, not all projects are successful. Several suppliers are still doing some R&D efforts to further fine tune their systems to increase the reliability and availability and
reduce tar removal problems. Some engine manufacturers are also working on their engines to handle tar. There are different types of gasifiers available in the market and the selection of the technology mainly depends on the type of fuel used. Significant R & D efforts in this field are also going on in countries like USA, India, Japan, and China and Europe. In the coming years this technology is going to be a big boon for industries, which requires a low power demand from 100 kW – 1 MW, where steam thermal technology is not feasible. Proven gasification technology with good reliability and availability is ideal for rural electrification.
It is advisable to do a proper feasibility study through a knowledgeable, non-biased gasification expert with realistic assumptions in financial models before implementing gasification plants for power generation.
Gasification based on large scale power generation has also progressed to an advanced stage of commercialization. Several such plants have been installed in developed countries. Efforts are being made to reduce the investment cost, which is presently on the higher side.
For power generation either a gas engine or modified diesel generator is used. With gas engine, it is possible to use producer gas alone (100%) to generate electricity but good quality engines are costly. Constant gas engine cleaning is required to remove tar deposits. However if modified diesel generator is used, then 15 to 20% diesel can also be used along with producer gas to generate electricity. In wrongly designed plants, diesel consumption can even be higher.
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