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BRI process

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During the past 25 years, government and private industry in the United States have spent $9 billion attempting to develop economic and environmentally sound methods for the creation of fuel from biomass.

Considering this fact, the achievements of Dr. James Gaddy and his team in Fayetteville, Arkansas, have been unique.  There is no other technology that can efficiently and economically co-produce ethanol and electricity from a wide array of carbon-based wastes.

The process involves three main steps:

  • Gasification Unlike combustion, the technology uses an enclosed two-stage process to thermally decompose the carbon molecules in organic feedstocks.
  • Fermentation – A patented microorganism reconstructs CO, CO2 and H2 into ethanol and water.
  • Distillation – anhydrous ethanol is produced by conventional distillation followed by a molecular sieve.

The gasification step produces no air emissions.  The synthesis gas exits the gasifier at temperatures of up to 2,350°F, and must be cooled to about 98°F before being fed to the microorganisms. This cooling process generates an immense amount of waste heat that can be used to create high temperature steam to drive electric turbines.

The process will normally convert more than 90% of the organic material it receives.  The remaining ash is landfilled or could be recycled in products like cement blocks or paving.

As the process uses waste products that otherwise would have been placed in landfills and BRI’s plants will generate an excess of electricity beyond their parasitic needs, they can produce liquid and electric energy while consuming zero new BTUs in the process. This makes the current discourse about the energy efficiency of ethanol obsolete.

The bacterial culture is anaerobic, meaning that it dies when exposed to the atmosphere.  The process creates no environmental or health hazards, ground or water contamination, and minimal air emissions.  When biomass is used to co-produce ethanol and electricity, significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved.

The figure below is a simple diagram of the various steps in the BRI Process:

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Written by Casey McConnell

March 10, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Bioenergy

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