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Ammonia from biomass

By Edited by Gerald Ondrey |

SynGest, Inc. (San Francisco, Calif.; www.syngest.com) plans to commercialize a process for the production of ammonia from biomass by the fall of 2011. The first plant, to be located in Menlo, Iowa, will convert 150,000 ton/yr of corncobs into 50,000 ton/yr of ammonia, enough to fertilize 500,000 acres of nearby farmland. Chopped corncobs will be gasified in a bubbling bed gasifier at 1,700°F and 100 psi, using oxygen from a cryogenic air-separation plant (flowsheet). The resultant syngas, primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide, will be subjected to a water-gas shift reaction, followed by pressure-swing adsorption, to obtain 99.9%-pure H2. The H2 will be combined with N2 from the air-separation unit to produce ammonia. Although the plant will be miniscule by world scale ammonia standards, Jack Oswald, chief executive officer, is confident that it will be competitive for two reasons: it will use a cheap feedstock instead of natural gas, and distribution costs will be low because the product will be used locally. "With a conventional plant, distribution accounts for half the cost of bringing ammonia to the market," he says. "Our long-term plan is to build small plants, located near sources of biomass and local markets.…
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