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'Annex XV' targets barriers to black liquor gasification.

Black liquor gasification development is truly an international project, involving technology and sponsors from several countries. The following article discusses the latest steps forward in gasification.

In the September 2004 issue of Solutions!, an article entitled "Forest Products Biorefinery: Technology for a New Future" presented an overview of the process and product options made possible by the "Integrated Forest Products Biorefinery" (IFBR). One of the process options, entitled "New Value Streams from Residuals and Spent Pulping Liquors," addresses the opportunities to manufacture bioproducts after the pulp digester. The major thrust of the New Value Streams effort is to convert woody biomass residuals and the spent cooking liquors of the kraft pulping process into synthetic gas (syngas), which in turn can be processed into fuels, chemicals, and/or power.

The goal of a gasification process is to produce a syngas that meets the cleanliness specifications of existing fuels and chemicals synthesis and utility generation processes. Once gasification technologies are implemented, pulp and paper mills will have choices on how to use and convert their syngas for the production of clean, renewable and sustainable electric power; liquid fuels and sustainable chemical and carbon products; and replacing products now made from oil.

Black liquor gasification (BLG) is one of the key technologies that must be fully developed, demonstrated and commercialized before New Value Streams from Residuals and Spent Pulping Liquors initiatives can be fully implemented on a commercial scale. This is the reason "Annex XV" was enacted in September 2001.


Sponsored by the International Energy Agency (IEA), Annex XV is a collaborative effort between four countries: the United States, Sweden, Canada, and Finland. The Annex was established to help resolve many fundamental technical issues before BLG demonstration projects can be undertaken with full confidence. The overall objectives of the Annex are to:

* Reduce technological barriers to commercial-scale implementation of BLG and biomass technologies.

* Provide a global forum that brings together the BLG researchers, funding partners and technology providers to exchange information and disseminate knowledge gained and lessons learned.

* Encourage participants to engage in truly collaborative, value-adding research and development activities.

* Focus research efforts by regularly updating a prioritized list of research needs and knowledge gaps.


* Communicate progress to industry, government representatives and other appropriate constituencies.

These objectives are met in a number of ways. Semi-annual meetings bring key participants together to exchange information and knowledge. To date, five semi-annual meetings have been held at the following locations:

* Pitea, Sweden, Aug. 20-21, 2002

* Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Feb. 10-12, 2003

* Stockholm, Sweden, Aug. 25-27, 2003

* Atlanta, Feb. 9-11, 2004

* Turku, Finland, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, 2004


The fifth semi-annual meeting of Annex XV began with a reception at Abo Akademi University. Mikko Hupa, chairman of the University Process Chemistry Center, opened the meeting and welcomed participants. He went on to give a brief history of Abo Akademi University and described the current program.

The author gave a presentation entitled "Advancing the Forest Biorefinery in the United States," describing the status of current efforts. He concluded that BLG is a key technology, indispensable to achieving a commercial "forest biorefinery."

The meeting continued at Abo Akademi University the next two days, Tuesday, August 31 and Wednesday, September 1. Altogether, 32 researchers attended the meeting, 13 from Sweden, 9 from Finland, 7 from the U.S. and 3 from Canada. As is customary, the country representatives opened the meeting by updating their agencies' activities in support of BLG research.

Kari Saviharju, Andritz Oy, gave an excellent and thorough review and perspective on past and current BLG research activities. He concluded by articulating one of the key challenges facing BLG development today:

"As history shows, predicting the future is difficult; thus societies, companies and individuals have to have knowledge and capability to react when it is needed--research and development activities need to be funded," he said.

The providers of BLG technology gave updates on their companies' plans and progress. These updates are highly valued by researchers because they provide a line of sight from their work to the commercial reality of BLG and an opportunity to hear first hand about the practical challenges facing the developers. MTCI/StoneChem, a U.S. company, is developing the low temperature technology while Chemrec, a Swedish company, is focused on the high temperature process. The industry has recognized that these two different technologies must be made commercially available. Coupled with biomass residual gasification, these technologies ensure that the broadest range of industry and societal benefits are realized.

Both technologies are beginning to be commercialized. A Chemrec atmospheric, high-temperature unit is operating at Weyerhaeuser's New Bern, North Carolina, USA mill, processing 400,000 pounds/day of kraft black liquor. Another BL unit (a low-temperature unit produced by MTCI/StoneChem, a U.S. company) has started up at G-P's Big Island, Virginia, facility. Another low-temperature MTCI/StoneChem unit is operating at Norampac's Trenton, Ontario, Canada, facility. Chemrec is building a pilot unit expected to start-up in February 2005. Based on the results from this pilot unit, commercial scale units are planned in Sweden to demonstrate the syngas to BLGCC and syngas to biofuels routes, at different mills, in the 2008-2010 timeframe. Similarly, the MTCI/StoneChem companies are supporting on-going BLG research projects.

ThermoChem personnel are participating in a European demonstration project for biomass to energy, have completed trials for INEEL with sodium bearing waste and have run a pilot trial producing ethanol from biomass. They are also providing technical assistance to the commercial startups at Trenton, Ontario for Norampac, and Georgia-Pacific, Big Island, Virginia.


The Annex XV scope of work is organized into three subtasks. The subtask leaders and principal investigators for these projects are all experts in their fields.

Subtask A: Fuels Chemistry, Kinetics, Reactor Design and Optimization: Christian Mueller, Abo Akademi University and subtask co-leader, led the review of three projects funded by Sweden, one project funded by the U.S. and one project funded by Finland. These five projects are developing a better understanding of the parameters needed to control and optimize the gasification reaction and its impact on downstream unit operations. The modeling projects are providing increased knowledge and the ability to simulate varied combustion conditions, fluid dynamics, particle kinetics, and the impact of unique reactor geometry, all of which are necessary to the development of commercial-scale systems.

Subtask B: Containment: The Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has a significant effort in this area and Jim Keiser, ORNL, led the review of the research program, consisting of four projects funded by the U.S. and three sub-projects co-funded by Canada and the United States. This program is aimed at improving the performance of refractory and metallic components by identifying materials that have adequate stability and durability under gasification conditions. Progress was reported in improving:

* The resistance of refractory materials to molten salts, especially the sodium-rich components that cause degradation of the refractory material's mechanical and thermal properties at an unacceptably high rate.

* The performance of metallic components when used as refractory supports, such as in the transition piece between the gasification and quench areas and in the green liquor tank.


Subtask C: Mill Integration--Steam, Power, Pulping, Causticizing: Adrian van Heiningen, University of Maine, and subtask co-leader summarized progress of the two projects funded by the United States in this subtask. These projects are helping to resolve several important issues to effectively integrate BLG technologies within the pulp and paper mill infrastructure. This program seeks to find innovative approaches to the problem of increased load on causticizing, which must either be minimized or eliminated altogether to make gasification processes viable. Sweden added three new projects to the subtask, substantially boosting the research effort in this important area. These projects will address the causticizing issue, seeking to optimize the pulping process with gasification liquors and to deal with troublesome non-process elements.


All five Annex meetings have provided useful forums to focus research efforts and exchange information, providing researchers with the opportunity for informal, face-to-face interaction. By pooling resources and sharing information, the participating countries are removing the barriers to BLG faster and more cost-effectively than by doing it alone. This is accelerated as new means to increase international collaboration are implemented.

Forest products industry representatives have clearly stated their support of Annex XV; they see its value as the only forum that brings together BLG researchers, funding partners and technology providers from participating countries on a regular basis and maintains a focus on BLG research.

Authorized through September 2006, the Annex will continue its role in a critical period during which remaining barriers to commercializing BLG technologies must be dismantled. The next Annex XV meeting is scheduled for Feb. 14-16, 2005 in the United States.


* The international research efforts supporting black liquor gasification.

* Results from the latest "Annex XV" meeting.

* The Future of Annex XV.


* "Self-generated fuels: Pathways to change," by Paul Tucker, Solutions!, January 2002. To access this article, enter the following Product Code in the search engine on 02JANSO67.

* "Forest Products Biorefinery: Technology for a New Future," by Del Raymond and Gerard Closset, Solutions!, September 2004. Product Code: 04SEPSO49.


Gerard Closset is a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of the Biomass Program and Coordinator for Annex XV. He was also the session chairman for "Value from Spent Pulping Liquors," Agenda 2020, Technology Summit II. Contact him by email at:

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Author:Closset, Gerard P.
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Nov 1, 2004
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