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Optimizing Bioenergy Feedstock Preparation and Formats for Use in Small-Scale Gasification Systems

Company Name: Cogent Energy Systems, Inc.
Program Office: Bioenergy
Location: Merrifield, VA & Idaho Falls, ID
Email: Dr. Abraham Haspel, CEO;  
Award Amount: $200,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Idaho National Laboratory


Cogent's small-scale HelioStorm gasification units will meet the needs of many critical waste-to-energy markets, including: generating clean electricity for small-scale users such as industrial parks, remote communities, ports, resorts, and forward military bases; producing biofuels locally; generating baseload electricity for use in mini- and micro-grid scenarios; and recovering energy from currently unprocessed energy-rich materials, such as discarded tires and end-of-life plastics. The HelioStorm Gasifier will extend the reach of renewable energy, reduce reliance on expensive and dirty fossil fuels, protect the environment, reduce customer waste disposal costs, and extend landfill lifespans.

Cogent has designed, constructed, and successfully demonstrated the HelioStorm Gasifier at full scale in its research and development facilities in Idaho Falls, confirming the characteristics of its energy-rich, fully-processed syngas. Cogent's prior introductions of feedstock, while ultimately successful, have involved numerous technical challenges during testing. 

Optimizing feedstock handling and feeding is key to delivering a reliable, efficient product to market. Working with Idaho National Laboratory will help Cogent address the challenges of waste materials preparation and formatting, help the company improve how it handles feedstock particles and pellets in different sizes and aspect ratios, and inform potential pre-processing methods that can be implemented in the field. With a reliable feedstock handling subsystem capable of managing real-world feedstock processing requirements, Cogent will be positioned to deliver its groundbreaking small-scale gasification system to market segments never before able to access the benefits of waste-to-energy conversion.    


The HelioStorm gasifier uses Cogent's licensed, and patent-pending breakthrough process of ionic gasification. In this direct-contact method of processing of feedstock in an active plasma field at temperatures of 3,000°C to 10,000°C, molecules are completely broken down within a single processing vessel. The resulting clean, completely converted, high-energy syngas can then be used with little or no further processing to make many profitable end-use products, including electricity, hydrogen, carbon monoxide, liquid fuels, or chemical precursors, depending on customer requirements. The HelioStorm does this at a smaller and more cost-competitive scale than other available systems, while providing start-up and shut-down times counted in minutes rather than hours. In contrast, competitors' systems are much larger, and use lower-temperature, indirect heating processes that result in incomplete feedstock conversion. The resulting impurities require additional secondary processing, and these extra steps reduce efficiency and reliability.


Cogent will use the results of this project to deliver a waste-to-energy gasification system capable of handling real-world feedstock supplies of biomass and municipal solid waste. This project addresses the challenge of introducing feedstock into the gasifier so that syngas can be created. Most waste-to-energy (WTE) systems fail not due to the conversion technology, but rather due to the inability to properly "feed" the system.

A WTE system of this scale encourages distributed generation, and can be an integral, dispatchable part of a microgrid, thereby enhancing grid security.

It can also significantly reduce the volume of waste going to landfills, reducing environmental and health impacts associated with that waste.

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