Small scale gasification. by Neal Van Milligen, Manager, Bioten Power and Energy Group, Gasification Division

While renewable energy is one of the most environmentally responsible courses for consumers, the same technology which provides green power can be profitable as a traditional power source as well.

Renewable energy portfolios are being mandated worldwide resulting in comfortable returns on $.12 USD/ kW and more on $.15 USD/ kW green energy programs.  However, a large number of remote operations are paying more than double that amount for standard energy rates.

$.12/ kW electrical rates can result in more than $250,000 net profit, before capital, interest and taxes, on a simple 500 kW power plant with less than 5 year payback. As the power generation rate increases the net return increases more than linearly due to economies of scale with equipment and labor.  This results in significant returns for modest sized renewable energy power plants producing “Green” power.

Even considering the social and environmental impact of green power, traditional power sources can supply power to projects which are willing and able to pay $.25/ kW with substantial returns to project owners.  At this power rate a 500 kW project will net more than $800,000 USD annually with a 2 year payback.

The keys to making these projects profitable are the site, power purchase agreement, fuel supply and power technology. 

Gasification is the combustion of biomass fuel in an oxygen deprived environment which produces a combustible gas.  Since a wide variety of fuels can be used in the power production process the systems can be part of a landfill diversion program, fire damaged forest remediation, biomass recycling using manures, rice hulls, food processing waste and other economical sources of clean fuel.

Since the producer gas from this system is consumed by a power generator there are very little emissions exposed to the open air.  While typical BTU content of the gas produced is less than propane it still provides a combustible fuel for various generator styles.  These include many types of reciprocating engines as well as turbines of all sizes.

Power generation projects can be designed to provide automatic feeding, operations and ash cleanout.   Remote monitoring of operations can supplement the local operators’ skills and enhance performance.  These features enhance the attraction of the system for remote sites as well as locations with limited skilled labor available.

1 kg of dry fuel can be expected to produce 1 kW of electrical output with enough surplus heat to distill 10 gallons of clean water.  The technology provides for several human needs.  It can supply heat, clean water, electricity, human sanitation and economic development.  When the fuel can be waste products from other activities we find that human habitation supplies much of the fuel itself.

Typical equipment costs of $2400 per kW fully installed are available.  Economies can be achieved through local sourcing of some of the equipment.  Power plant sizes can be from 5 kW to 1 MW in modular components.  Larger systems can be engineered as needed.

By increasing options for power production equipment at various levels of electrical output the gasification technology becomes the most flexible and economical of currently available systems worldwide.

Bioten Power and Energy Group

Gasification Division

Neal Van Milligen, Manager


5 comments on “Small scale gasification. by Neal Van Milligen, Manager, Bioten Power and Energy Group, Gasification Division

  1. Some of you already know that we have installed a couple of minor biomass
    fueled gasification power plants in the USA. We are building a couple of 1
    MW biomass gasifiers which are a little larger than the initial ones. These
    biomass units can be fueled with municipal solid waste, coal, gas, wood,
    crop residue, waste water sludge, animal manure, etc., even tires. We have
    requests for 5, 15 and 50 MW units which are on the drawing board.

    Siting them around and in cities as well as strategically placed in rural
    and industrial areas would not only provide for added security for the power
    grid but also reduce the trash bill and fuel hauling costs of the power

    Typically 1 kg of fuel will provide 1 kW of net electrical output per
    hour. A standard unit with automated feed, remote monitoring of the controls,
    and automatic ash clean out would cost about $2500 USD per kW, not
    including site, infrastructure, permits, shipping and other items beyond our
    control. It would however, include the gasification system, all controls and
    automation, the engine and generator with switch gear but not connected to the

    Seems as though security, sanitation, recycling and sustainability all go
    together here.

    Neal Van Milligen
    Bioten Power and Energy Group
    _cavm@aol.com_ (

  2. Dear Neal, I have been following som of your exchanges with Mark Barrett, Dominic Woolf et al re. ‘Terra Preta’ biochar burial.
    V. interested in your gasifier technology – please explain why the Bioten website is down/for how long? Chris (Solihull, England).

  3. What’s new or planned for the north east Vermont. Any changes to coming here? There is talk of a 60 mw plant to be built near by
    with wood fiber to be the fuel. Vermont is haveing lots of changes in the loss of Vermont Yankee power plant as well as a need for more power. just a little update and wanted to say hi to mark too.

    Skip Gosselin

  4. Dear Neal,
    I have just browsed through some of your write-ups on your power-energy generating systems and impressed by your confident offer of lowest capital cost investment at relatively high operational efficiency and emission levels that are well below regulatory thresholds.
    My specific interest is in a 25-30 MW municipal solid waste gasification facility for power generation + saleable by-products.

    Please tell how far you’ve gone with the 5-50MW plants orders you received in August of 2009? My company might seriously consider a partnership co-investment within your range of co-operative options. I would appreciate details of your terms & conditions. We are open to responding to questionnaires and verifications.
    Hope to hear from you soon.

  5. Dear Neal,
    I am trying to put together a project for waste poultry litter and manure, approx 10,000 tonnes per month, according to various articles, that I have read, I think we would require a 10MW plant.
    The poultry litter and manure is available in abundance but in order to ensure supply, we are considering sticking with the 10MW plant,
    1) Are my assumptions correct for the ratio of waste to MW?
    2) What is the level of ash produced per tonne processed ?
    3) Likely capital cost , based on your figures $25m plus grid ?
    4) Our project will be in Turkey, would you consider building or
    participating in such a project ?
    5) A lot of companies suggest mixing other waste with poultry litter and manure, is this really necessary, and to what extent and why?

    Sorry for all the questions but, we are very keen to start imminently and need some clarifications for our negotiations.

    Kind regards
    Charles D.Hart (Director)

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