Coal gasification project beginning to take shape

Marc Munroe Dion

By the beginning of 2009, what is now a steel tower visible from the Braga Bridge and much of the town will be in use as the gasification reactor for a pilot project operated by GreatPoint Energy of Cambridge.

GreatPoint Energy’s technology “refines” coal by employing a catalyst to “crack” the carbon bonds and transform the coal into clean burning methane (natural gas). This single-stage process is called catalytic coal methanation and forms the basis of the GreatPoint Energy Bluegas process. The project, located adjacent to the Brayton Point Power Station, broke ground in February.

“We topped it off last week,” said GreatPoint’s Chief Financial Officer Avi Goldberg. “The sheet metal will be going up in mid-August.”

Goldberg said the building will be 14 stories high.

The facility will include a shrouded flare, which will be attached to the gasifier building.

The flare will be used to burn off gas that cannot be used by Brayton Point. The flare will be located on the top of the gasifier building and extend above the reactor building by approximately 15 feet. Since the flare is enclosed, there will be no visible flame from it.

The purpose of the pilot facility is to further test the coal gasification process with various fuels that will include coal, petcoke, which is derived from petroleum-refining residue, and virgin biomass.

The pilot facility design includes a 150-ton storage area for coal and other feedstock fuels. Fuels will be transported to the project site via truck. The fuel storage area is a three-sided structure with roofing and one open side for access to the storage area for loading and unloading. The storage area will be equipped with spray heads to minimize dust emissions from the feedstock storage pile. Watering of the coal pile will occur intermittently and will depend on weather conditions. 

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