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A Low-Cost Mobile Power Generation Unit from Carbonaceous Feedstocks

November 18, 2015

There is an increasing demand for low cost, small-scale, portable power generation units that utilize local carbonaceous feedstocks. According to Dr. Ajay Kumar, Associate Professor in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), Oklahoma State University (OSU), these mobile units could be deployed in remote or energy deficit locales in the U.S. and overseas, utilizing local biomass feedstocks. Kumar’s research team hopes to use these units as stand-alone or supplemental in providing electricity especially in areas destroyed by natural disasters. These units would be a good alternative to conventional diesel or gasoline generators, since these units could be fueled by locally available biomass resources.

Dr. Kumar collaborated with Dr. Ray Huhnke, Professor in BAE, to scale-up the OSU patented gasifier, which is the “heart” of the mobile electricity generation system, and is currently supported Gasifier3by OSU Research Foundation and OSU Technology Development Center. Biomass gasification technology provides an opportunity to utilize biomass and waste carbonaceous material while simultaneously generating electric power at decentralized and isolated locations. Primary tests, using switchgrass as feedstock, showed that the commercial scale downdraft gasifier system operation was stable and consistent. In addition, a slipstream of syngas was routed through a gas cleaning system to remove the impurities before introducing to internal combustion (IC) engine to produce electricity. Major engine exhaust emissions were well below the federal limits.

In August 2015, the research teamGasifier press release2 successfully demonstrated the operation of the scaled-up unit to representatives of the military, congressional staffers, Central Rural Electric Cooperative (CREC), National Energy Solutions Institute-Smart Energy Source (NESI-SES), OSU-DASNR administrators, Renewable Energy: Power on Demand System (RE:PODS), and potential investors of the mobile electricity generation technology.

The scaled-up version, which is licensed to RE:PODS and designed by Prakash Bhoi (BAE post-doctoral fellow), is based on a patented laboratory-scale downdraft gasifier invented by former BAE Researcher Dr. Krushna Patil and two other current BAE faculty, Drs. Ray Huhnke and Danielle Bellmer and funded by U.S. DOT through the South Central Sun Grant Program.