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Techno economic analysis of a plasma gasification biomass to liquids plant Open Access

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Price volatility for jet fuel makes it difficult for airlines to predict their fuel-related operating expenses beyond a few months. This is due to both crude oil price uncertainty and the widening cracking premium from crude oil into downstream kerosene and diesel products. In this research, we analyze an alternative production method for synthetic paraffinic kerosene (SPK) with potential for predictable production costs and little to no raw material price volatility. An integrated plasma gasification biomass-to-liquids plant was analyzed to determine the product cost of its Fischer-Tropsch (FT) products. It is shown that, assuming zero cost for waste refuse derived fuel feedstock, the resulting products, i.e. FT diesel and kerosene, would be cost-competitive with similar products obtained from a petroleum process.First, a chemical process model was developed to study the performance of the plasma gasification subsystem. A biomass to liquids process model, which integrates downstream stages with the plasma gasification process model, is then developed using a cobalt-based catalyst Fischer-Tropsch system. Finally, a discounted cash flow model is developed to analyze the liquid fuels product cost. A case study was performed to process 78 tonnes per hour of refuse derived fuel into mainly diesel and jet. Results show that the atmospheric pressure plasma gasification provides sufficient operating conditions flexibility to maximize carbon monoxide and hydrogen production. Overall plant conversion efficiency greater than 49% was achieved and the corresponding plant throughput is 2,200 barrels per day of F-T liquids based on a once-through Fischer-Tropsch configuration with no supplemental natural gas to improve the efficiency. Lastly, implications and further research to assess commercial viability are discussed.

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