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June 04, 2006


Jim Baerg

If this works it would also work for turning syngas from coal into ethanol. That wouldn't have the green PR of using biomass, but it would probably be the cleanest way to use coal.


Yeah, thanks for pointing out that they use landfill gas as their feedstock. That presents a very unfair comparison with Iogen's process, which relies on biomass. Comparing their yield and expenses for biomass feedstock would be the fair comparison. I assume they don't publish those figures (which is a shame).

G Eddy

For the less knowledgeable of us, it woud be helpful if someone would define "syngas" in chemical terms. Ntural gas, for instance, is about 85% methane, and other components are ethane, propane and some lesser items.

What is the composition of syngas?


Syngas is a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases that forms the starting point for many chemical synthesises. There is no "standard" composition although it is typically created by steam reforming methane:

CH4 + H20 = CO + 3 H2

Michael Cain

Syngas is a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrogen...

That would be carbon MONOXIDE, as properly shown in the equation.

Paul F. Dietz

One advantage of syngas-based processes is the ability to extend the carbon feedstock by supplying a non-chemical source of energy. Gasification is endothermic, so there must be a source of energy to drive it. Normally, this is provided by partial oxidation of the feedstock, but it could also be provided externally. For example, a high temperature nuclear reactor could be used to provide hot steam, CO2 and/or recycled syngas. This gas would be injected into the gasifier, providing the enthalpy to drive the reaction. Not only would this increase the amount of fuel producible from the feedstock (in some cases with up to quantitative use of all the carbon) but it would also enable the gasification to be done without addition of air, so the syngas could contain much less nitrogen.

For biomass, syngas routes have the advantage of using the energy in lignin, which the fermentation approaches can't handle.

Josh Xiang

But I heared that production of ethanol by the reaction of carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas is conducted with a anaerobic bacterium, Clostridium ljungdahlii. Why don't you to develop it?


Carbon monoxide indeed. Sorry, brain not switched on.

John Huang

Which one is cheap for making ethanol?
Biomass to ethnaol
Biomass to ethanol by fermentation
Syngas to ethanol
syngas to ethanol by fermentation

Michel Jung

would somebody be able to address the economics of trapping CO2 from chimney stacks to feed microalgae which can then produce biodiesel by extrusion and ethanol by fermentation of the cake;
Plenty of possibilities maybe all it needs is a political commitment like lunar missions,

Michel Jung

in addition there is the possibility to use CO2 from chimney stacks from classical coal plants to feed microalgae which produce by photosynthesis biodiesel by extrusion and biethanol by fermentation of the remaining cake;
Is it too early to evaluate the economics of all these possibilities? Shouldnt government or DOE launch a full programme like a the time of the lunar landing?


yep POLLITICAL committment! Thats it...you have to support progressive technology with Public Policy, and now maybe we can get that! Now that Haliburton is not ruling the White House!!

We can literally gassify garbage and condense it into ethanol very easily, why not?? public policy and financial interests...guys like Exxon.

Im prepared to do it myself in my backyard!


Dear All,
I would like to know the proess of bio-syngas to ethanol.
What is the composition of syngas?


Dear All,
I would like to know the proess of bio-syngas to ethanol.
What is the composition of syngas?

Dave Duthie

Syngas is indeed the product of steam reforming. When the feedstock is pure methane the products are carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The carbon monoxide can be made to react with more steam to produce carbon dioxide and more hydrogen in a process called secondary reforming by using a different catalyst. When the feedstock is a more complicated hydrocarbon the products can also be more complicated and require additional refining steps. The gasification process is well known but what can be done with it's products depends heavily on what has been gassified. Methanol is produced from syngas produced from methane as is ammonia. Historically it has been possible to produce ethanol from methane sourced syngas but the catalysts available have produced a brew of a number of chemicals making the cost of refining the target product ethanol very expensive. More success has been had in producing gasoline or diesel fuel using the related Fischer-Tropsch process. (ie. WWII Germany and apartheid blockaded South Africa) This process gets to be viable when gasoline sells for ~$2/litre.
To produce ethanol from syngas by catalyst a more specific catalyst would need to be developed along with effective molecular sieves to remove the remaining impurities. To Produce ethanol biologically not only does the yield from the bacteria need to be enhanced you also have to remove a lot of heat from the syngas. Some of this can be used in cogen but from 150C down is wasted. I haven't found any information demonstrating that these problems have been solved. It's like the biodiesel from algae dream. It can be done but it is very difficult to separate the oil from the algae.


Hi Guys, do any of you know of an engineering firm that has scaled up pilot plants into full scale commercial projects, successfully, and on good economic terms? I'm looking at a project using syngas to mixed alcohol, and an engineering firm familiar with such process, cheers.

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