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ENGIE produces renewable gas from solid non-recyclable waste gasification

In France, global energy and services provider ENGIE has revealed that the GAYA semi-industrial Research & Development platform took a historic step forward on November 17, 2020, when the 600 kW gasifier produced renewable gas from solid recovered fuel (SRF). The synthesis gas (syngas) resulting from this first conversion is then purified to transform it into biomethane using a catalytic methanation process. ENGIE says that it also plans to build a first industrial unit in Le Havre.

ENGIE has revealed that the GAYA semi-industrial Research & Development platform took a historic step forward on November 17, 2020, when the 600 kW gasifier produced renewable gas from solid recovered fuel (SRF). The synthesis gas (syngas) resulting from this first conversion is then purified to transform it into biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) using a catalytic methanation process (photo courtesy Tenerrdis).

Located in the heart of “Chemical Valley” in Saint-Fons, south of Lyon, the GAYA project was launched in 2010. Coordinated by ENGIE and co-financed by the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME), the 600 kW gasification platform brings together 11 partners from the industrial, institutional, and academic worlds, in France and Europe.

Apart from ENGIE, the partners include Renewable Power Technologies Umwelttechnik GmBH (Repotec), French Forestry Cooperative Association (UCFF),  LGC Ensiacet Chemical Engineering Laboratory Toulouse (a Paul Sabatier University and the Toulouse Institut National Polytechnique partnership), LRGP – Process Reaction and Engineering Laboratory, Lille Solid Catalysis and Chemistry Unit (UCCS), RAPSODEE Center at the Albi-Carmaux Ecole des Mines, French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA), International Cooperative Agronomic Research Center for Development (CIRAD), Grenoble Technical Center for the Paper, Cardboard, and Cellulose Industry (CTP), French Technological Institute for Forestry, Cellulose, Construction Timber and Furnishings (FCBA), and TENERRDIS Energy Cluster.

Significant milestones

Inaugurated in October 2017, the first injection of biomass into the gasifier and production of purified synthesis gas took place in November 2018, while the first production of biomethane from forest biomass a year later in November 2019. This latest milestone saw biomethane produced from s0lid recovered fuel (SRF).

In the absence of dedicated recycling channels, the SRF is produced from non-hazardous waste such as wood, paper, cardboard, and plastic. The SRF is gasified at a very high temperature to produce synthesis gas with a high calorific value.

The synthesis gas resulting from this first conversion is then purified to transform it into biomethane using a catalytic methanation process.

ENGIE’s demonstrator which has a capacity of approximately 600 kWth in incoming biomass and waste converted into 30‑40 Nm3/hour of biomethane, has validated the integrated operation of the entire chain of innovative technologies under industrial conditions. This configuration maximizes the production of renewable gas.

With GAYA, we have made major scientific advances in the development and industrialization of renewable gas production sectors. The platform model contributes to the energy transition with the production of renewable gas and to the circular economy by making use of waste that until now was destined for landfill. The tests carried out using SRF show that we now know how to produce renewable gas from this type of waste, said Adeline Duterque, Director of ENGIE Lab Crigen, the Corporate Group’s Research & Development centre.

Plans for an industrial unit in Le Havre

The GAYA platform is in line with the targets set by the French Law on Energy Transition for Green Growth, which aims for a 50 percent reduction in the quantity of waste going to landfill by 2025 compared with 2010 and a 30 percent reduction in fossil fuel consumption in 2030 compared with 2012, with a view to preserving the environment and strengthening France’s energy independence.

It contributes directly to the ENGIE Group’s purpose, “to act to accelerate the transition towards a carbon-neutral economy, through reduced energy consumption and more environmentally friendly solutions”.

Based on the work already undertaken, ENGIE says that it plans to build the first industrial unit in Le Havre, France, starting in 2023, the SALAMANDRE project. From 2026, this will allow 70 000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste per year to be used to produce up to 150 GWh of renewable gas.

In addition, the multi-energy process will allow the production of 45 GWh of renewable heat to meet urban and industrial needs. As an alternative to landfill, which is due to be phased out, the GAYA chain is positioned as the channel of reference for making use of non-recyclable waste to produce a storable RNG, which can substitute for fossil natural gas and as such, has multiple uses.

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