Enabling Gasification of Blended Coal, Biomass and Plastic Wastes to Produce Hydrogen with Potential for Net Negative Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Funding Agency:
Department of Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recognizes the importance and potential of hydrogen production, transport, utilization, and storage as vital components in the nation’s energy future. DOE also recognizes the opportunity to leverage its long history in coal gasification technologies to accomplish hydrogen generation from a diverse blend stock of coal and various renewable and waste feedstocks, especially biomass and plastic wastes, which can be readily acquired from abundant low-cost sources like municipal solid waste (MSW) facilities.

DOE believes that advances in co-gasification of coal, biomass, and waste plastics for polygeneration facilities and hydrogen production can be a viable way to provide fuel to the nation with negative CO2 emissions potential. When blending biomass into the feedstocks and subsequently capturing CO2 via pre-combustion capture and storage, it is possible to emit less CO2 into the atmosphere than it took to produce the virgin biomass material, hence resulting in net negative carbon emissions. However, a challenge in implementing this strategy exists as the stream of available renewable and waste materials fluctuates in quantity and heating content, so practical systems need to be supplemented by consistent and high-calorific co-feeds. Coal is an excellent choice as it is widely available in large quantities in the United States. Additionally, plastic wastes offer high calorific heating value and are often available where biomass feedstocks are sourced. For any locations having plastics waste and biomass-derived feedstocks in addition to competitively priced coal, there is great flexibility and potential for using mixtures of these feedstocks in making syngas for conversion to fuels, including hydrogen, with the ability to sequester CO2.

The possibility of co-utilizing waste plastics with coal, biomass, or other carbonaceous materials is potentially lucrative and may offer significant operational or logistical advantages and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potential. Historically, a fraction of waste plastics has been converted to energy via combustion in waste incineration plants, which is a well-established technology. However, few new incinerators have been added in recent years, and the fleet is likely to dwindle because of plant aging and attrition. In contrast to incineration, co-gasification of waste plastics provides an alternative in which value-added products such as gaseous and liquid hydrocarbons, syngas, and especially hydrogen could be co-generated with electric power and/or heat with options to reduce GHG emissions. While the chemistry of waste plastics gasification bears similarities to coal or biomass gasification, the thermophysical characteristics differ requiring improvements and optimization to enable reliable co-gasification. For example, materials issues such as corrosion may be relevant for certain mixes.

Advances in gasification of blended and variable feedstocks, like mixed coal, biomass, and plastics, are needed to enable co-gasification technology to perform reliably and flexibly to produce hydrogen in a net negative carbon emissions context. Such advances in these co-gasification technologies can provide significant benefits to future fossilfueled electric power plants, polygeneration facilities, hydrogen production, waste heat recovery, and other industrial applications.

Deadline: Nov. 18, 2020

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

The overarching objective of this FOA and single Area of Interest is to generate lab-scale data and experience to further encourage the development of technologies and commercial approaches to enable a hydrogen-based energy economy while achieving net-negative CO2 emissions through gasification of coal, biomass, and carbonaceous mixed wastes such as plastics.

Projects funded under this FOA must perform R&D to address a technology gap that would achieve objective(s) as described in the following area of interest (AOI): Co-gasification of Coal, Biomass and Plastic Wastes for Production of Hydrogen and Fuels with Negative Carbon Potential

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants may submit multiple applications under the area of interest of this FOA; However, if choosing to submit multiple applications, each application must describe a unique, scientifically distinct project.

Funding Type





Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences

External Deadline

November 18, 2020