A model of a successful public-private partnership, the Cleco Alternative Energy Center is an $8M facility dedicated to investigating ways to provide clean and affordable energy to America's homes and businesses. Research areas include biomass gasification, torrefaction, and digestion.
The Cleco Alternative Energy Center is the prime tenant of the 5-acre UL Lafayette Alternative Energy Research Park located in Crowley, Louisiana.
Research and Developmental Activities
Our research group at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center focuses on the thermochemical conversion of biomass to energy. Our research and developmental efforts are oriented towards technology commercialization which is the most intriguing aspect of our research group. Our approach to research is identifying technology gaps that prevent commercialization of technologies, develop sustainable economically feasible solutions to address the issues and develop innovative sustainable energy technologies. Primary research areas that are currently being pursued at the Cleco Alternative Energy Center include thermal pretreatment technology (torrefaction) and biomass gasification.
Thermal pretreatment of biomass (Torrefaction)
0.3 ton/day Pilot Scale Indirectly Heated Biomass Torrefaction Reactor
The University of Louisiana at Lafayette has formed a developmental partnership with Cleco Power, LLC and Louisiana Biofuel Resources, LLC to accelerate the commercialization of torrefaction. To support this commercialization initiative, our research group has been investigating the use of a 0.30 ton/day indirectly heated pilot scale rotary reactor to produce torrefied biomass via optimized operations and improved system design. The effect of wide range of feedstock and the effect of varying operational parameters on torrefied biomass properties are being investigated. Also, utilization of energy contained in volatiles produced during torrefaction, by integrating with the combustion system is being investigated, which will aid in improving the overall process efficiency. This project is being funded by the LA BoR, Industrial Ties Research Subprogram, Contract No.- LEQSF(2012-15)-RD-B-07.
Gasification of Biomass/Waste to Produce Clean Syngas
Cleco Power, LLC in conjunction with University of Louisiana at Lafayette has designed, fabricated, and installed a bubbling fluidized bed (BFB) gasification system to accommodate 1) suitability for biomass waste feedstock, 2) compact configuration with future semi-portability, 3) operate using both air and oxygen as oxidizing medium, and produce syngas usable to generate electricity and/or produce liquid transportation fuels.
Currently our research efforts are oriented towards optimizing the gasifier to produce clean syngas to generate power using air and oxygen as oxidizing medium. Also evaluation of different bio-based feed stocks including woody fuels, energy crops, and waste materials on the syngas production is being investigated. Our research group is also focusing on producing reducing/eliminating tar formation during gasification to produce relatively clean syngas by investigating the mechanisms and kinetics of tar formation. Formation of tars during biomass gasification and lack of economically viable solutions for syngas cleanup is one of the primary obstacles preventing commercialization of gasification technology. As a result, tar removal is a critical issue and the catalytic destruction of tars is one of the primary routes for tar removal/destruction. Research efforts have been focused on developing and improving catalytic tar removal technologies that have very high activity towards tar reforming, easily regenerable, and can withstand sulfur and chlorine compounds. In addition, physical removal techniques for tar removal are also being investigated.
Cleco Alternative Energy Center personnel are also involved in the study of biomass digestion and fermentation to produce methane and hydrogen from carbon-rich waste streams.
The above mentioned research is being conducted at the state of the art Cleco Alternative Energy Center, which houses a pilot scale gasification system (3 ton/day), 25 kw low btu generator set and a 0.30 ton/day pilot scale torrefaction reactor. Also, this facility has a fully equipped laboratory that include bench scale torrefaction reactor, bench scale syngas cleanup catalytic reactor and a wide range of analytical equipment which include gas chromatograph mass spectrometer (GC-MS), gas chromatograph with flame ionization, thermal conductivity, and flame photometric detectors (GC-FID, GC-TCD, GC-FPD), calorimeter, elemental analyzer, gas sampling equipment, hardgrove grindability index machine, portable multigas analyzers, etc.