Prof. Ezra Bar-Ziv and his co-workers have carried out extensive R&D on the production of syngas, which is a mixture of CO and H2, by gasification of carbonaceous materials and on syngas kinetics.
Syngas is a feedstock for many reactions for the direct production of liquid fuel suitable for internal combustion engines. These reactions require special catalysts, which are the expertise of the group of the Blechner Center, BGU (Prof. M. Herskowitz). The Bar-Ziv group has investigated the production, from pulverized coal, and kinetics of syngas in an entrained-flow reactor. Recently, a program to produce syngas by the same technique from raw biomass and torrefied biomass (biocoal) was initiated.
Use of biomass and biocoal is carbon-neutral and therefore does not add CO2 to the atmosphere. The investigation was complemented by fluid dynamic simulations that provided insight into the reaction mechanisms. Equilibrium calculations yielded a very good fit with the numerous experimental data that have been accumulated over many years of investigation. The importance of the equilibrium assumption is that it makes reactor design and prediction of product distribution straightforward and thus enables us to accurately predict the right CO/H2 ratio required for the conversion of syngas into liquid fuel. Syngas can also be produced from various carbonaceous wastes such as municipal solid waste. The technology is very close to the commercialization stage.
In a different, but related, track, the Bar-Ziv group is investigating the exploitation of used tires for the production of liquid fuel. The Western World produces one used tire per year per capita and therefore there is abundance of scrap tires the world over (1 billion used tires per year). Furthermore, scrap tires are a major ecological hazard and therefore should not be accumulated or used as landfill. Rubber recycling, as a solution to this problem, is an option that has been investigated in the past, but it is limited in its scope, as only a small fraction of the used tires can be utilized for this purpose. Thermal treatment, through a pyrolysis reaction, of scrap tires to produce a liquid fuel that is suitable for internal combustion engines has been proven technologically viable. The Bar-Ziv group has access to a technology that is under development by American Eco-Energy and is close to the stage of commercialization. They propose to use this technology to investigate and optimize the pyrolysis reaction to maximize liquid fuel production. The equilibrium assumption previously shown to be adequate for gasification of carbonaceous materials will certainly hold for pyrolysis, thereby enabling better and optimal design of the pyrolysis reactor. It was found that each used tire can produce 40% of liquid fuel, and therefore Israel alone, with its 60,000 tons per year of used tires, can generate 24,000 tons (over 100,000 barrels) of refined liquid fuel for the transportation sector.