Canadian Pacific to gasify old rail ties

Canadian Pacific Railway has announced plans to have 250,000 scrap railroad ties each year ground up and put through a transportable gasification system, which produces gas that will be used to generate electricity. After two years of negotiations the rail giant signed a deal with Aboriginal Cogeneration Corporation (ACC), which plans to begin operating its first gasification plant in Ashcroft, British Columbia, by spring 2008. The company sees it as an opportunity to create local jobs for aboriginal communities across Canada. Plants can range in size from 10 kilowatts to 1 megawatt, and have a relatively clean emissions profile.

Kim Sigurdson, president and co-founder of ACC, said it took a couple of years to demonstrate to Class 1 railway operators in Canada and the United States that the gasification technology works. He said ACC is using technology from a “center of excellence” that has been conducting research into gasification for the U.S. Department of Energy for over 60 years. He wouldn’t name the institution, but I’m guessing it’s a trailer-mounted, “down draft” gasification system developed at the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center. “They have a number of patents that improve the efficiency of this mobile gasification unit,” said Sigurdson. “ACC is very fortunate to have been given exclusivity to this gasification technology in certain industries that seek a solution to the disposal of various biomass. Railways are one of them.”

It will be interesting to see these systems in action, as there are many applications beyond rail tie disposal where gasification makes sense, assuming it can be done economically. Communities in northern Ontario looking to use forest biofibre for electricity generation are a prime candidate.

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