Progress 05/22/08 to 05/21/11
OUTPUTS: QUANTIFIABLE PROGRESS TOWARD PROJECT OBJECTIVES All project objectives have been met. Starting with basic R&D, Our team built and tested both a biomass-to-energy conversion system, and a non-fossil fuel based system to produce nitrogen fertilizer. Milestone 1 and Milestone 2 were both accomplished on time. PROBLEMS, OBSTACLES OR NEW DEVELOPMENTS The biomass gasifier is a novel approach, classified as indirectly-heated pyrolytic gasifier, and is the subject of four patents pending. The nitrogen fertilizer generator is also a novel approach, and has one patent pending. Progress on the fertilizer portion of the project lagged the biomass portion, but all activities are completed ahead of the expiration date of the contract, including a live demonstration creating nitrogen fertilizer, and a split plot test on corn crops. PARTICIPANTS: Work was performed by engineers at Packer Engineering, by students, staff and faculty from Northern Illinois University, and by scientists and technicians from N-Ovations (Savanna, IL). TARGET AUDIENCES: Grain farmers, dairy farms, grain elevators, and farm operations with dedicated energy crops can all benefit by converting biomass into heat, electric power, and nitrogen fertilizer. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Not relevant to this project.
DESCRIPTION OF ESTIMATED IMPACT New technologies developed under this grant now offer farmers the opportunity to become more self-sufficient in energy and chemicals, while at the same time reducing their carbon emissions. These technologies also reduce American dependence on imported petrochemicals. Distributed worldwide, these inventions can reduce poverty, and increase the standard of living in developing nations in an environmentally-friendly way. DESCRIPTION OF IMPACT TO PRINCIPAL DISCIPLINE Energy conversion technology has been advanced through five patents pending, which will proceed into the public record. Four technical and business conference presentations were made, and an article was published in Biomass magazine. A reciprocating internal combustion engine was modified to start and run on low-methane syngas, which may be an industry first. An air emissions "stack" test was conducted by a third-party service, and this data was submitted to the Illinois EPA. IMPACT ON OTHER DISCIPLINES This project spawned five other grants, including four from state agencies to cover the stack test, and a DOE grant to develop a microturbine capable of operating with low-methane syngas, with Capstone Turbine Co as the prime, with subcontractors UC-Irvine, Argonne National Lab, and Packer. IMPACT ON INFRASTRUCTURE Distributed generation of electrical power can be disruptive of established transmission grids and distribution stations, at least until smart grid technology is available. We have encountered significant resistance to netmetering and biomass conversion in Illinois. On-farm generation of nitrogen fertilizer could, if widely used, affect distribution channels and regional production of anhydrous ammonia. While this brings benefits to society and to the farm, through reduced greenhouse gas emissions, reduced imports, less hazardous chemicals, and more stable, and lower prices, it can be disruptive to those invested in the status quo. IMPACT ON SOCIETY America has 2 million farms which are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, such as diesel for engines, propane for heating, coal-based power for fans and pumps, and natural gas-derived fertilizer. By replacing a portion of these uses with renewable sources, there should be an easing of prices on petrochemical products such as gasoline, plastics, and fabrics, and indirect prices on shipping and travel, and especially on food. By displacing greenhouse gas generating processes with green technology, society stands to gain by averting further deterioration of the environment pollution caused by traditional sources. ECONOMIC IMPACT AFTER COMMERCIALIZATION Farmers should realize a 3 to 5 year payback for a biomass-to-energy system that should last for 15 years. Distributed generation is even more compelling in developing nations, so export of these products could help the US balance of trade.
- "Plasma Torch for Biomass Pyrolysis" Peter J. Schubert, Am. Soc. of Engineering Educators, Annual Conference, Pittsburgh, PA, June 2008.
- "Mass and Moisture Monitoring of Biomass Feedstocks for Gasification" Peter J. Schubert, M. Pareek, International Biomass Conference & Expo Portland, Oregon, 29 April 2009.
- "Removing Crop Residues without Hurting Soil," Peter J. Schubert, Biomass Magazine v3, No.11 Nov. 2009.
- "Dual Use Technologies for Self-Sufficient Settlements: From the Ground Up," Peter J. Schubert, Intl Space Development Conf. 19-22 May, 2011, Huntsville, AL.