Advanced Biomass Gasification

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Advanced biomass gasification is a technology that converts biomass, such as wood chips, agricultural residues, and municipal solid waste, into syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. Syngas can be used to produce a variety of products, including electricity, heat, fuels, and chemicals.

Impact on climate action

Advanced Biomass Gasification in Biomass for Heating & Power advances climate action by converting biomass into clean energy with reduced emissions. By efficiently converting organic materials into syngas or biofuels, this innovation mitigates reliance on fossil fuels, decreases carbon emissions, and promotes sustainable energy production, combating climate change.


  • Gasification Process: Biomass is heated in a controlled environment with a limited amount of oxygen. This process breaks down the biomass into syngas, which can then be cleaned and processed into various products.
  • Gasifier Types: Different types of gasifiers exist, including fixed bed, fluidized bed, and entrained flow gasifiers. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages in terms of efficiency, feedstock flexibility, and syngas quality.
  • Syngas Cleaning and Conditioning: The syngas produced by gasification needs to be cleaned and conditioned to remove impurities and adjust its composition for different end uses.
  • Downstream Processing: Syngas can be used to produce a variety of products, including electricity, heat, fuels (such as ethanol and biodiesel), and chemicals (such as methanol and ammonia).

TRL : 6-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Advanced Gasifier Designs: Researchers and startups are developing advanced gasifier designs that offer higher efficiency, improved feedstock flexibility, and higher syngas quality.
  • Catalytic Gasification: Using catalysts in the gasification process can improve syngas quality and increase the yield of desired products.
  • Plasma Gasification: This technology uses plasma to gasify biomass at high temperatures, offering advantages in terms of feedstock flexibility and syngas quality.
  • Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) Systems: IGCC systems combine biomass gasification with a combined cycle power plant to generate electricity with high efficiency.
  • Biorefineries: Biomass gasification can be integrated into biorefineries to produce multiple products from biomass, enhancing economic viability and resource utilization.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Enhanced Gasifier Efficiency: Next-Gen Designs
  • Catalysts in Gasification: Optimizing Syngas Quality
  • Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs): Fischer-Tropsch Conversion
  • Waste-to-Energy: Municipal Solid Waste Solutions
  • Advanced Biomass Gasification: Research Frontiers
  • Syngas Cleaning Innovations: Purity Enhancement
  • Next-Generation Gasifiers: Cutting-Edge Technologies
  • Plasma-Assisted Gasification: High-Tech Solutions
  • Enhanced Syngas Conditioning: Quality Control
  • Biomass Gasification in Biorefineries: Integrated Systems

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Enerkem:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enerkem specializes in advanced gasification and conversion technologies for turning non-recyclable municipal solid waste (MSW) and other biomass feedstocks into biofuels and biochemicals. Their proprietary process involves gasification, syngas cleaning, and catalytic synthesis to produce ethanol, methanol, and other valuable chemicals from waste materials.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enerkem stands out for its innovative approach to waste-to-biofuels conversion, utilizing gasification technology to produce clean and sustainable fuels from non-recyclable waste streams. Their technology offers a scalable and environmentally friendly solution for waste management and renewable fuel production.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enerkem serves municipalities, waste management companies, and industrial partners seeking sustainable alternatives to landfilling and incineration for waste disposal. Their advanced biomass gasification technology enables the production of renewable fuels and chemicals, addressing the growing demand for low-carbon alternatives in the transportation and chemical sectors.
  • Velocys:
    • Technology Enhancement: Velocys specializes in Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and microchannel reactor technology for biomass gasification and synthetic fuel production. Their gas-to-liquids (GTL) process converts biomass-derived syngas into renewable diesel, jet fuel, and other high-value hydrocarbons with high energy density and low emissions.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Velocys stands out for its expertise in microchannel reactor design and catalytic conversion processes, enabling efficient and cost-effective biomass gasification and fuel synthesis. Their compact and modular GTL systems offer advantages in scalability, feedstock flexibility, and emissions reduction compared to conventional gasification technologies.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Velocys serves energy companies, transportation fuel producers, and renewable fuel developers seeking to produce sustainable alternatives to petroleum-derived fuels. Their biomass gasification and GTL technology are deployed in bioenergy projects, renewable fuel refineries, and integrated biorefineries, contributing to the decarbonization of the transportation sector.
  • Coskata:
    • Technology Enhancement: Coskata was a pioneer in biomass gasification and syngas fermentation technology for ethanol production from various feedstocks, including biomass, agricultural residues, and MSW. Their proprietary process involved gasification of biomass into syngas, followed by microbial fermentation to convert syngas into ethanol.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Coskata was known for its innovative approach to biofuel production, utilizing gasification and microbial fermentation technologies to produce ethanol from a wide range of biomass feedstocks. Their process offered advantages in feedstock flexibility, process efficiency, and environmental sustainability compared to traditional ethanol production methods.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Coskata targeted ethanol producers, bioenergy developers, and renewable fuel investors seeking advanced biomass conversion technologies. Their gasification and syngas fermentation process aimed to address challenges in ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass and provide a scalable and cost-effective solution for cellulosic ethanol production.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley conducts pioneering research on Advanced Biomass Gasification, focusing on developing novel gasification technologies and process optimization strategies for converting biomass feedstocks into syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves exploring innovative reactor designs, catalyst development, and thermochemical conversion pathways to enhance gasification efficiency, flexibility, and environmental performance. They also investigate co-gasification with waste streams, biochar production, and syngas upgrading techniques to maximize the value and sustainability of biomass utilization.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in district heating, combined heat and power (CHP) generation, and renewable hydrogen production. By advancing biomass gasification technologies, UC Berkeley’s research supports the decarbonization of heat and power sectors, enabling the integration of renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion.
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL is a leading research institution in the field of Advanced Biomass Gasification, leveraging its expertise in biomass feedstock characterization, thermochemical conversion, and system integration to develop innovative gasification platforms for bioenergy production.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses experimental and computational studies to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms of biomass gasification, optimize reactor performance, and mitigate process-related challenges such as tar formation, ash management, and syngas impurities. They also collaborate with industry partners to scale up promising gasification technologies and demonstrate their feasibility at pilot and commercial scales.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in biofuels production, renewable power generation, and biorefinery integration. By advancing biomass gasification science and technology, NREL’s research contributes to diversifying the nation’s energy portfolio, enhancing energy security, and promoting sustainable bioeconomy development.
  • Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Research Focus: TUM conducts innovative research on Advanced Biomass Gasification, leveraging its multidisciplinary expertise in chemical engineering, process optimization, and renewable energy systems to develop efficient and environmentally sustainable biomass conversion technologies.
    • Uniqueness: Their research spans from laboratory-scale experiments to pilot-scale demonstrations, focusing on biomass gasification reactor design, biomass pre-treatment methods, and syngas utilization pathways. They also explore integrated biorefinery concepts, co-production of biochar and bioenergy, and carbon capture and utilization (CCU) strategies to enhance the overall economics and environmental performance of biomass valorization.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in decentralized bioenergy production, industrial process heat, and bio-based chemicals manufacturing. By advancing advanced biomass gasification processes, TUM’s research contributes to mitigating climate change, fostering regional development, and promoting sustainable bioenergy deployment in a carbon-constrained world.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Biomass gasification is already being implemented in commercial-scale projects around the world. For example, Enerkem operates a commercial-scale plant in Canada that converts municipal solid waste into biofuels and chemicals. Additionally, several IGCC plants are in operation, generating electricity from biomass with high efficiency.