Friday, March 1, 2013

Bionic µCTL brings microwaves to coal liquefaction

For the last few years Bionic has researched the possibilities of a fundamental change to the way coal liquefaction (CTL) is understood and has been done until today. The application of microwaves to the almost one hundred years old process of carbon hydrogenation with high pressure and a catalyst is making that change a reality. The basic process of direct coal-to-liquid conversion has been discovered first by the German scientist Friedrich Bergius, who received the Nobel prize in chemistry in 1931. The industrial application of the Bergius process supplied the German airforce during WW2 almost exclusively with much needed quality fuel from 1941.

Following is a most simple sketch of the Bergius-Pier process illustrating the logical lay out of the original coal liquefaction plants:

For more details on the principal Bergius process please check Wikipedia.

One of the microwave units used in the reactor
The Bionic microwave assisted version of the process has a number of impressive advantages compared to all earlier implementations which have been mostly abandoned for different reasons, but mainly due to the availability of cheap fossil oil (at the time) and the almost complete suspension of coal mining in Germany. As older implementations seem to come with environmental issues, with the  exception of South Africa and China even exploding oil prices did not revive interest in coal liquefaction. China however is said to invest 15 billion dollars in its current 5-year plan in liquefaction.

µCTL carbon liquefaction reactor vessel 
The Bionic process eliminates all emission problems of former plant designs. It combines a standard Bionic microfuel reactor like the mf60, which used for the production of a highly volatile carbon powder, with a patent pending liquefaction reactor designed from scratch, for synthesizing the liquid fuel products.

The highly sophisticated reactor vessel allows the application of microwaves to the reaction mass (a mix of the fine carbon powder with heavy oil recycled from the process) which is continuously rotating in a high pressure hydrogen atmosphere.

More details are revealed in this presentation:  Bionic Carbon Liquefaction Through Microwave Hydration.

Converting the char deriving from many industrial waste and biomass treatment processes using this method will maximize efficiency while further reducing overall carbon footprints.

Especially Bionic's own microfuel process is producing high quality char in addition to the liquid and gaseous fuel products. When using the microfuel process to treat waste materials like plastic waste or used tyres the char residue can today only be used as a drop-in solid fuel for the replacement of fossil coal. With biomass as feedstock the Bionic char product already has a high value as a soil amendment for carbon sequestration and top soil improvement.