Performance and cost analysis of future, commercially mature gasification-based electric power generation from switchgrass



Detailed process designs and mass/energy balances are developed using a consistent modeling framework and input parameter assumptions for biomass-based power generation at large scale (4536 dry metric tonnes per day switchgrass input), assuming future commercially mature component equipment performance levels. The simulated systems include two gasification-based gas turbine combined cycles (B-IGCC) designed around different gasifier technologies, one gasification-based solid oxide fuel cell cycle (B-IGSOFC), and a steam-Rankine cycle. The simulated design-point efficiency of the B-IGSOFC is the highest among all systems (51.8%, LHV basis), with modestly lower efficiencies for the B-IGCC design using a pressurized, oxygen-blown gasifier (49.5% LHV) and for the B-IGCC design using a low-pressure indirectly heated gasifier (48.6%, LHV). The steam-Rankine system has a simulated efficiency of 33.0% (LHV). Detailed capital costs are estimated assuming commercially mature (‘Nth plant’) technologies for the two B-IGCC and the steam-Rankine systems. B-IGCC systems are more capital-intensive than the steam-Rankine system, but discounted cash flow rate of return calculations highlight the total cost advantage of the B-IGCC systems when biomass prices are higher. Uncertainties regarding prospective mature-technology costs for solid oxide fuel cells and hot gas sulfur clean-up technologies assumed for the B-IGSOFC performance analysis make it difficult to evaluate the prospective electricity generating costs for B-IGSOFC relative to B-IGCC. The rough analysis here suggests that B-IGSOFC will not show improved economics relative to B-IGCC at the large scale considered here. © 2009 Society of Chemical Industry and John Wiley & Sons, Ltd