Proposing co-processing coal and biomass isn’t new but The Energy Group at the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has a unique approach.
Scientists here suggest using the two materials to make liquid fuels and a huge amount of electricity at the same time--this is what separates their proposals from the others.
Some of the scientists at the Institute also work at the Carbon Mitigation Initiative, a joint research project with British-based BP, Ford, and Princeton University.
BP committed to a long-term joint research partnership with the Initiative, a collaboration that has produced new practical approaches to managing the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming. Research also focuses on expanding efforts to understand the facilities where carbon dioxide emissions are captured from fossil fuels used in electricity, hydrogen and synthetic fuel production. And the Initiative assesses unconventional methods of lessening the impact of climate change, such as evaluating the direct capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
According to PEI’s spring/summer 2009 newsletter [pdf], in their unique design the liquid fuels can be made about as efficiently as in a system designed to produce liquid fuels only, but the co-product, electricity, is made with an efficiency that far exceeds what can be achieved in a plant generating only electricity.
This approach improves the economic profile of the coal/biomass-to-liquid (CBTL) process making it superior to the alternative of producing liquid fuels and electricity in separate installations.
Robert Williams, a senior research scientist at PEI, says the electricity generated by these poly-generation plants will “beat the economic pants off the big, old dirties”, referring to traditional coal-burning power plants.
Williams believes the success of this technology would have “far-reaching” impacts for the structure of the energy industry in the future.
The Energy Group’s future plans? Explorations into the synergisms between fossil energy and renewable energy. In case you don’t know what a synergisim is…the term may be defined as two or more agents working together to produce a result not obtainable by any of the agents independently.
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