During a ceremony held at the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC), a commercial-scale gasification technology developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Inc. was commissioned. The commercial-scale dry solids pump is a feed system that can be integrated with a compact gasifier to more efficiently gasify solid fuels such as coal, petcoke (a byproduct of oil production), and coal-biomass blends.

The technology allows 400 tons/day of fuel to be fed into a high-pressure system without first adding water to create a slurry, resulting in higher efficiency and better reliability.

The April 10 ceremony was led by Dr. Gerald Groenewold, EERC director, and by Dr. Robert Kelley, president of the University of North Dakota at the Grand Forks, N.D., facility. It was attended by dignitaries including Governor Jack Dalrymple; U.S. Senator John Hoeven; U.S. Representative Rick Berg; Dr. Michael Brown, the mayor of Grand Forks; Dr. Anthony Cugini, director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL); and Jim Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

This technology, when coupled with PWR's compact gasifier design, would reduce capital costs for construction of a commercial-scale system by 20 percent compared to conventional systems and provide a 10 percent reduction in carbon emissions, says the company.

"This project stems from interest on the part of DOE and NETL to commercialize gasification as a strategic energy platform," says Tim Saunders, integrated process team leader at PWR. "This is an opportunity for us to utilize our natural resources efficiently and, most importantly, cleanly, which is what the whole gasification process is expected to provide," he said.

Saunders added that the system is designed to align with the needs of a commercial-scale plant, so testing it at the EERC is a perfect fit. "The fact that the EERC is experienced in coal and coal handling and has the facilities to accommodate a commercial-scale unit prototype makes the EERC an ideal location for verifying performance characteristics on the pump."

The pump will be made commercially available to U.S. companies in support of several gasification technologies. A variety of coal feedstocks will be tested with the pump over the next 12 months