Final Report: Fuel Flexible Low Emissions Burner for Waste-to-Energy Systems

EPA Contract Number: EPD13031
Title: Fuel Flexible Low Emissions Burner for Waste-to-Energy Systems
Investigators: Alavandi, Sandeep
Small Business: Precision Combustion, Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Phase: I
Project Period: May 15, 2013 through November 14, 2013
Project Amount: $79,895
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Sustainabile Utilization of Biomass


Precision Combustion, Inc. (PCI) is developing and demonstrating low emissions, fuel-flexible burner for biomass-to-energy systems to increase U.S. energy independence and achieve a reduction in greenhouse emissions through expansion of the economic utilization of biomass gasification systems. Biomass gasification has the potential to produce renewable, carbon neutral energy, while reducing the greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. However, the biomass feedstock acquired is highly dependent on location, season, availability and cost. Due to these factors, the producer gas entering the burner has variable moisture content and energy density. This leads to challenges for stable combustion requiring either substantial drying or co-firing, adding cost and complexity. It would be very helpful for biomass economics and the environment to have a burner that could readily burn a wide range of gases, handle high moisture content and contaminants and with lowered nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The proof-of-concept was to demonstrate a low emissions, fuel flexible, wide turndown burner solution capable of burning a range of biomass gasification derived fuels from ultra-low to high Btu fuels with varying, high moisture content.

Summary/Accomplishments (Outputs/Outcomes):

A subscale catalytically-stabilized burner was designed, fabricated and instrumented for performance testing to validate fuel flexibility and robustness of the burner. A subscale test rig for burner testing with variations in fuel components and contaminants was set up to simulate conditions in the actual biomass gasification unit. A wide range of fuels consisting of multiple components and including tar contaminants were tested. The Phase I results demonstrated stable operation of the catalytic burner for a range of fuels from high to ultra-low Btu fuels from various biomass gasification fuel feed stocks and with varying moisture. Testing showed wide turndown and ultra-low NOx emissions, with NOx emissions from the catalytic burner being significantly lower than those of the current burners. Robustness of the burner capable of handling tar and other contaminants also was demonstrated. The technical and economic viability of a robust, ultra-low NOx emissions, fuel flexible burner for biomass systems was successfully demonstrated, with conceptual burner design ready for Phase II demonstration.


All Phase I objectives were successfully met, and some exceeded. The technical and economic viability of our robust, ultra-low NOx emissions, fuel flexible burner for biomass systems was successfully demonstrated, with conceptual burner design ready for Phase II demonstration. The technology will enable biomass-to-energy systems to become more cost competitive, as a single burner can with ultra-low emissions handle a variety of biomass feedstocks including low and varying Btu streams and varying moisture streams, providing a viable, economic and environmentally friendly solution. The Phase I results successfully showed increased and improved applicability of a renewable, carbon-neutral energy resource for power generation and combined heat and power applications.
This fuel-flexible, scalable and modular burner could be used in systems to make heat or electricity. It has wide applicability for use in biomass gasification plants as it deals with key current challenges facing such plants. The technology will be field demonstrated in Phase II and further expanded to larger scale units in Phase III. This new fuel flexible low emissions technology also will spur industry creativity and lower barriers-to-entry for new plants, encouraging increased use of biofuels including fuels that are currently wasted through venting and/or flaring to be used as an energy resource. The capability for low Btu and/or high moisture content combustion with low emissions also offers value for landfill and digester gas markets.

Supplemental Keywords:

emissions, waste-to-energy, biomass, burner, greenhouse gas, GHG, nitrogen oxide, NOx, carbon dioxide, CO 2