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Biogas is fast becoming a fuel of the choice for rural economy in many parts of the world because large number of agriculture and farming communities lives in rural area. Most of these countries depend on imported   Diesel, LPG and Gasoline for their industries, agriculture, transportation and cooking. Countries like India with large population spends a huge amount of foreign currency towards import of petroleum products, making it more vulnerable to the fluctuating oil and gas prices in the international market. However, there is an increasing awareness in India recently about the importance of generating biogas as an alternative energy source to fossil fuel because 70% of the Indian population lives in rural areas. With an estimated cattle population of 280 million (National Dairy development Board 2010) there is a potential to generate biogas at 19,500 Mw.

The following calculation is based on the costing details provided by successful case studies of community based Biogas plants in India. One community based biogas plant has 121 families consisting of 5 members per family as stake holders. They supply cow dung at the rate of 4.50 Mt/day for 365days in a year and generate biogas by an anaerobic digester, designed and constructed locally. Biogas is supplied to all the stakeholders every day for 2 hrs in the morning and for about 2 hrs in the evening for cooking. This is equal to burning 3025 kgs of wood/day (121 families x 5members/family x 5kg wood per member= 3025 x 4000 kcal/kg= 12.10 mil Kcal/day= 48.40 mmBtu/day).The piped natural gas in India is supplied now at the rate of $16/mm Btu, which means the plant is able to generate revenue worth $774.40 per day. But each family of 5 members are charged only Rs.150 per month or 121 families are charged 121 x Rs.150= Rs.18, 150/month ($363/month). The family members also supply milk to co-operative dairy farm which has also contributed to set up the biogas plant. Total cost of the project is $43,000 of which Government subsidy is $20,000, Dairy farm contribution $ 16,000 and the stake holders $7000.The economic and social benefit of this project is enormous. The economic benefit by way of fuel savings, revenue from the sale of vermin compose and by way of Carbon credit amounts to Rs.48,94,326 ($97,926/yr).(source:SUMUL).

The above case study clearly shows how successfully India can adopt bioenergy as an alternative to fossil fuel in rural areas. We have already seen how biogas can be enriched to increase its methane content and to remove other impurities by way of water scrubbing as shown in the figure. The purified and dried biogas with Methane content 97% and above can be liquefied using cryogenic process by chilling to -162C.The liquefaction of biogas is energy intensive but it is worth doing  in countries like India especially when there is no natural gas pipeline network.BLG (liquefied biogas)  is an ideal fuel for industries with CHP (combined heat and power) applications with energy efficiency exceeding 80% compared to conventional diesel engine efficiency at 30%.By installing LBG service station and catering to transport industry, India can cut their import of crude oil while reducing the greenhouse gas emissions.

Producing LBG also leads to a renewable fuel available for heavier vehicles. The fuel can be stored as LBG on the vehicle, which increase the driving distance per tank. The need is that the vehicle is running frequently, otherwise LBG will vaporize and CH4 will be vented to the atmosphere. LBG is in liquid form only when the gas is stored on the vehicle. When it gets to the engine it is in its gas phase. When LBG is delivered to remote fuel stations or storages it is transported in vacuum insulated pressure vessels. One such manufacture of these semi-trailers is Cryo AB and the dimensions of a standard equipped semi-trailer, suitable for Nordic logistic conditions, is shown in Figure 13.

This trailer is optimized for the transportation of LNG/LBG and has a tank capacity of 56,000 liters (~33,000 Nm3 LBG). It is vacuum insulated and the heat in-leakage is less than 0.9 % of maximum payload LBG per 24 hour. The maximum payload is 83.7 % filling rate at 0 bar (g) (=19,730 kg). The source of heat is the surrounding air and the heat in-leakage raises the pressure of the LBG. The maximum working pressure is 7.0 bar (g). If this pressure is exceeded gas is vented to the atmosphere through a safety valve. (Cryo AB, 2008)

Fuel station technology:

There are three different types of fuel station available, using LBG as a feed stock:

– LBG refueling station

– LCBG refueling station

– Multi-purpose refueling station

LBG stations fuel LBG to vehicles equipped with a cryogenic tank while LCBG stations refuel CBG. LCBG stands for liquid to compressed biogas and LBG is transformed to CBG at the refueling station. Multi-purpose refueling stations are able to fuel both LBG and CBG, and consist of one LBG part and one LCBG part. (Vanzetti Engineering, 2008a) There are a number of companies in the LNG business working with the development of fuel stations using LBG as a feedstock. The presented data in this text is based on information from three different companies; Cryostat, Nexgen fuels and Vanzetti Engineering.

This article will focus on the multi-purpose station and since the three companies’ designs are very similar, only a general description will be presented.

The reason why the multi-purpose station is chosen is because LBG could be a good alternative for heavier vehicles. Here it is assumed that these vehicles already are available and in use on a large extent. The refueling station assumes to be situated in conjunction with one of the frequent roads in India, not in vicinity with the gas network. The following requirements lie as a background for the design:

– Possibility to fuel both LBG and CBG

– One double dispenser for CBG; one nozzle for vehicles (NGV-1) and one nozzle for busses (NGV-2)

– One single nozzle for LBG

– Expected volume of sale: 3000 Nm3/day

– Pressure on CBG: up to 230 bar (200 bars at 15°C)

The standard equipment on the multi-purpose station consists of a storage tank for LBG, cryogenic pumps, ambient vaporizer, odorant injection system and dispensers. (Cryostat, 2008a)

There are three types of cryogenic pumps:

– Reciprocating

– Centrifugal

– Submerged

Reciprocating pumps are able to function at very high pressures and are used for the filling of buffer tanks and gas cylinders. Centrifugal pumps are able to produce high flow rates and are used for the transfer of cryogenic liquids between reservoir tanks or road tankers. (Cryostat, 2008b) A submerged pump is a centrifugal pump installed inside a vacuum insulated cryogenic tank. This tank is totally submerged in the cryogenic liquid, which makes it stay in permanently cold conditions. (Vanzetti Engineering, 2008b)

A sketch over a multi-purpose station can be seen in Figure 14. LBG is stored in a vacuum insulated cryogenic vessel and LBG is delivered with semi-trailers. The volume of the storage tank is usually designed to match refilling on a weekly basis. The transfer from trailer is either done by gravity or by transfer pumps, the latter significantly reducing transfer time. (Vanzetti Engineering, 2008a) From the LBG storage tank the station is divided into two; the LBG part and the LCBG part.

The LCBG part consists of a reciprocating pump, an ambient vaporizer and buffer storage. The reciprocating pump sucks LBG from the storage tank and raises the pressure to around 300 bars, before sending it to the ambient high pressure vaporizer. CBG is then odorized before going to the CBG storage and the dispenser. The buffer unit is gas vessel storage, with a maximum working pressure of 300 bar, enabling fast filling of vehicles. (Nexgen Fueling, 2008)

The LBG part only consists of a centrifugal pump that transfers LBG from the storage tank, through vacuum insulated lines, to the LBG dispenser that dispense LBG at a pressure of 5-8 bar. (Nexgen Fueling, 2008) Some LBG dispensers are supplied with a system for the recovery of the vehicle boil of gas. (Cryostar, 2008a) To reduce methane losses all venting lines are collected and sent back to the higher parts of the storage tank, to be reliquaries by the cold LBG. (Heisch, 2008) (Ref: Nina Johanssan, Lunds Universitet)

Economics of LBG: The LNG trucks averages about 2.8 miles per gallon of LNG, equating to about 4.7 miles per DEG. Table 5 compares the energy content, fuel economy and DEG fuel economy. The greenhouse emission is completely eliminated by using LBG.

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Carbon neutral biomass is becoming a potential alternative energy source for fossil fuels in our Carbon constrained economy. More and more waste –to-energy projects is implemented all over the world due to the availability of biomass on a larger scale; thanks to the increasing population and farming activities. New technological developments are taking place side by side to enhance the quality of Biogas for power generation. Distributed power generation using biogas is an ideal method for rural electrification especially, where grid power is unreliable or unavailable. Countries like India which is predominantly an agricultural country, requires steady power for irrigation as well as domestic power and fuel for her villages. Large quantity of biomass in the form of agriculture waste, animal wastes and domestic effluent from sewage treatment plants are readily available for generation of biogas. However, generation of biogas of specified quality is a critical factor in utilizing such large quantities of biomass. In fact, large quantity of biomass can be sensibly used for both power generations as well as for the production of value added chemicals, which are otherwise produced from fossil fuels, by simply integrating suitable technologies and methods depending upon the quantity and quality of biomass available at a specific location. Necessary technology is available to integrate biomass gasification plants with existing coal or oil based power plants as well as with chemical plants such as Methanol and Urea. By such integration, one can gradually change from fossil fuel economy to biofuel economy without incurring very large capital investments and infrastructural changes. For example, a coal or oil-fired power plant can be easily integrated with a large-scale biomass plant so that our dependency on coal or oil can be gradually eliminated.

Generation of biogas using anaerobic digestion is a common method. But this method generates biogas with 60% Methane content only, and it has to be enriched to more than 95% Methane content and free from Sulfur compounds, so that it can substitute piped natural gas with high calorific value or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). Several methods of biogas purification are available but chemical-free methods such as pressurized water absorption or cryogenic separation or hollow fiber membrane separation are preferred choices.

The resulting purified biogas can be stored under pressure in tanks and supplied to each house through underground pipelines for heating and cooking. Small business and commercial establishments can generate their own power from this gas using spark-ignited reciprocating gas engines (lean burnt gas engines) or micro turbines or PAFCs (phosphoric acid fuel cells) and use the waste heat to air-condition their premises using absorption chillers. In tropical countries like India, such method of distributed power generation is absolutely necessary to eliminate blackouts and grid failures. By using this method, the rural population need not depend upon the state-owned grid supplies but generate their own power and generate their own gas, and need not depend on the supply of rationed LPG cylinders for cooking. If the volume of Bio-methane gas is large enough, then it can also be liquefied into a liquified bio-methane gas (LBG) similar to LNG and LPG. The volume of biomethane gas will be reduced by 600 times, on liquefaction. It can be distributed in small cryogenic cylinders and tanks just like a diesel fuel. The rural population can use this liquid bio-methane gas as a fuel for transportation like cars, trucks, buses, and farm equipment like tractors and even scooters and auto-rickshaws.

Alternatively, large-scale biomass can be converted into syngas by gasification methods so that resulting biomass can be used as a fuel as well as raw materials to manufacture various chemicals. By gasification methods, the biomass can be converted into a syngas (a mixture of Hydrogen and Carbon monoxide) and free from sulfur and other contaminants. Syngas can be directly used for power generation using engines and gas turbines.

Hydrogen rich syngas is a more value added product and serves not only as a fuel for power generation, but also for cooking, heating and cooling. A schematic flow diagram Fig 3,  Fig4 and Fig 6 (Ref: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Review) shows how gasification of biomass to syngas can  compete with existing fossil fuels for various applications such as for power generation, as a raw material for various chemical synthesis and as a fuel for cooking, heating and cooling and finally as a liquid fuel for transportation. Bio-gasification has a potential to transform our fossil fuel dependant world into Carbon-free world and to help us to mitigate the global warming.

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