New Biomass Heating System For Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Smoldering wood chips in oxygen-starved chambers will be used to generate steam heat for most of the buildings at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The new energy-efficient process also provides a market for low-grade wood that loggers would otherwise leave on the forest floor, officials said. The cutting-edge biomass gasification plant replaces four worn-out boilers that […]

Smoldering wood chips in oxygen-starved chambers will be used to generate steam heat for most of the buildings at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The new energy-efficient process also provides a market for low-grade wood that loggers would otherwise leave on the forest floor, officials said.

The cutting-edge biomass gasification plant replaces four worn-out boilers that were 64 years old and were first powered by coal and later, natural gas. The new $60 million system will create enough steam heat to power the equivalent of 18,000 homes, said Bob Baugh, director of the lab’s utilities division.

At the lab, it’ll heat about 100 buildings and serve other uses such as sterilizing autoclaves. The conversion from boilers to the gasification plant will save an estimated $3.8 million a year in energy costs, Baugh said.

“The gasification process is very clean-burning,” he said. “It’s cleaner than natural gas.” He said there’s “not a lot of particulate” in the low-oxygen environment where the hydrogen-heavy gas that is created from smoldering wood is routed to an oxidizer. That’s where that synthesis gas is mixed with oxygen and combustion takes place, Baugh said.

The emissions from that process are then filtered before they are released into the atmosphere. “Whatever pollution is generated is well below what we’re permitted for,” Baugh said.

The completed gasification plant has been turned over the Department of Energy and is now in startup mode. Ribbon-cutting is expected next month.

From KnoxvilleBiz.com: http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2012/may/04/wood-chips—tons-of-them—to-power-labs-new/

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