Bioenergy and waste gasification in the UK report: Barriers and research needs

The Supergen Bioenergy Hub has published a state-of the-art report on the UK’s current waste gasification capability and research. This builds on industrial and policy needs identified by a number of stakeholders.

Biomass and waste gasification is a versatile technology with the potential to supply low-carbon hydrogen, biomethane and the building blocks for a range of other fuels and chemical feedstocks. However, despite this potential, it has yet to see widespread use in the UK.

Findings from the report may be used to determine the most effective ways to make gasification a plausible option for large-scale implementation, where future funding could be targeted, and to help develop roadmaps for energy policy.

The aim of the study was to draw together consensus on these issues as a reference point for academics, policymakers and industrialists. The study included around 40 interviews with a range of stakeholders from industry, academia and other groups. It also incorporates a literature, study and workshop review, with key points summarised.

Key findings

The report identifies certain areas where further research is needed. However, a common theme in the report is that challenges in waste gasification in the UK often result from the combination of constrained available finance, non-technical barriers and technical difficulties. Problems in one of these areas can have an impact on the others, while, conversely, improving capability in any of these aspects will also provide more scope to resolve difficulties in the others.

To date, this has led to slow progress in the development of commercial gasification sites. However, it suggests that building on experience could result in rapid expansion of this technology once it is demonstrated at scale. Developing appropriate demonstrators and exploiting the experience gained could unlock the potential for this technology. This was a key need emphasised by the full range of stakeholders consulted.

The report recommends improvements in funding mechanisms to better support demonstrations; for example, lower-risk support in the form of grants or loans is more appropriate for early development projects than revenue support such as contracts for difference.

Evolutionary improvements in technology to overcome challenges such as tar content, gas quality, feedstock handling, real-time control and downstream integration will contribute significantly towards the progress of gasification. These are practical engineering challenges, but academic research still has an important role to play both in improving our understanding of these areas and how most effectively to address them, as well as in enhancing the longer-term case for gasification.

The full report is available to download below.

Bioenergy and waste gasification report 2019

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