Modelling and simulation of biomass gasification in a circulating fluidized bed reactor

  • Mohamed Hassan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has found great acceptance among the engineering community as a tool for research and design of processes that are practically difficult or expensive to study experimentally. One of these processes is the biomass gasification in a Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB). Biomass gasification is the thermo-chemical conversion of biomass at a high temperature and a controlled oxygen amount into fuel gas, also sometime referred to as syngas. Circulating fluidized bed is a type of reactor in which it is possible to maintain a stable and continuous circulation of solids in a gas-solid system. The main objectives of this thesis are four folds: (i) Develop a three-dimensional predictive model of biomass gasification in a CFB riser using advanced Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) (ii) Experimentally validate the developed hydrodynamic model using conventional and advanced measuring techniques (iii) Study the complex hydrodynamics, heat transfer and reaction kinetics through modelling and simulation (iv) Study the CFB gasifier performance through parametric analysis and identify the optimum operating condition to maximize the product gas quality. Two different and complimentary experimental techniques were used to validate the hydrodynamic model, namely pressure measurement and particle tracking. The pressure measurement is a very common and widely used technique in fluidized bed studies, while, particle tracking using PEPT, which was originally developed for medical imaging, is a relatively new technique in the engineering field. It is relatively expensive and only available at few research centres around the world. This study started with a simple poly-dispersed single solid phase then moved to binary solid phases. The single solid phase was used for primary validations and eliminating unnecessary options and steps in building the hydrodynamic model. Then the outcomes from the primary validations were applied to the secondary validations of the binary mixture to avoid time consuming computations. Studies on binary solid mixture hydrodynamics is rarely reported in the literature. In this study the binary solid mixture was modelled and validated using experimental data from the both techniques mentioned above. Good agreement was achieved with the both techniques.
According to the general gasification steps the developed model has been separated into three main gasification stages; drying, devolatilization and tar cracking, and partial combustion and gasification. The drying was modelled as a mass transfer from the solid phase to the gas phase. The devolatilization and tar cracking model consist of two steps; the devolatilization of the biomass which is used as a single reaction to generate the biomass gases from the volatile materials and tar cracking. The latter is also modelled as one reaction to generate gases with fixed mass fractions. The first reaction was classified as a heterogeneous reaction while the second reaction was classified as homogenous reaction. The partial combustion and gasification model consisted of carbon combustion reactions and carbon and gas phase reactions. The partial combustion considered was for C, CO, H2 and CH4. The carbon gasification reactions used in this study is the Boudouard reaction with CO2, the reaction with H2O and Methanation (Methane forming reaction) reaction to generate methane. The other gas phase reactions considered in this study are the water gas shift reaction, which is modelled as a reversible reaction and the methane steam reforming reaction. The developed gasification model was validated using different experimental data from the literature and for a wide range of operating conditions. Good agreement was observed, thus confirming the capability of the model in predicting biomass gasification in a CFB to a great
accuracy. The developed model has been successfully used to carry out sensitivity and parametric analysis. The sensitivity analysis included: study of the effect of inclusion of various combustion reaction; and the effect of radiation in the gasification reaction. The developed model was also used to carry out parametric analysis by changing the following gasifier operating conditions: fuel/air ratio; biomass flow rates; sand (heat carrier) temperatures; sand flow rates; sand and biomass particle sizes; gasifying agent (pure air or
pure steam); pyrolysis models used; steam/biomass ratio. Finally, based on these parametric and sensitivity analysis a final model was recommended for the simulation of biomass gasification in a CFB riser.
Date of Award5 Sept 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aston University
SupervisorYassir T Makkawi (Supervisor)


  • biomass gasification
  • computational fluid dynamic
  • two-fluid model
  • circulating fluidized bed
  • simulation

Cite this