Kore Infrastructure (Kore) is a California-based startup that provides carbon-negative waste-to-energy solutions. They use a pyrolysis process to convert waste into hydrogen, biogas, and other valuable fuels. Kore’s technology is environmentally sustainable and economically viable, making it an attractive option for businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint.
Challenges: biomass gasification
Increasing quantities of biomass, whether municipal or industrial biomass, agricultural residues or industrial byproducts, etc., are either dumped or left unused, releasing methane (CH₄) into the atmosphere. According to the EPA, methane is between 28 and 36 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide (CO₂) over 100 years. In addition, due to poor waste management practices in the past decades and the use of polluting energy production technologies (such as burning coal), carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, resulting in a deteriorating global life cycle assessment.
Biomass, including waste, is also burned in common incinerators, resulting in the emission of pollutants, including carcinogenic substances such as dioxins, furans, etc., which are byproducts of low temperature combustion. Over the past two decades, developed nations such as the United States, Japan, and Europe have recycled over 100 million tons of mixed plastics and mixed paper annually, the majority of which are exported to China for reuse in low-value products. On January 1, 2018, China stopped this practice, resulting in millions of recycled materials being stored or sent back to landfills.
Kore has developed a thermal pyrolysis system that converts organic wastes into renewable energy, such as green hydrogen, for powering vehicles that collect and transport wastes to recycling facilities and other centralized waste management locations.
As depicted in the diagram above, organic wastes are delivered to a preheater and preheated by an external heat source without oxygen to prevent the organic material from combusting. The preheater removes organic waste’s moisture and raises the waste’s temperature to reduce the thermal pyrolysis reactor’s required heat energy. The preheater uses waste/excess heat from the pyrolysis reactor, exhaust gas from a burner of the pyrolysis reactor, and/or hot biochar product from the pyrolysis reactor.
Preheated organic waste is introduced to the thermal pyrolysis reactor. The organic waste feedstock is not in direct contact with a flame. An external burner transfers heat through the pipe walls to the feedstock. The feedstock continuously travels through the pipes and releases biogas when the feedstock reaches pyrolysis temperatures between 400 ºC and 800 ºC.
The resulting non-volatile biochar separated from biogas exits the pyrolysis reactor. The hot biogas is then treated in a gas cooling and cleaning system. The gas cleaning removes soot particles and/or non-desirable gasses, such as acidic gasses like hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, ammonia, volatilized metals, carbon dioxide or other undesirable gasses, such as those that condense into liquids or reduce the heat value of the biogas.
A portion of the cleaned biogas can be mixed with a supplemental gas fuel (such as natural gas) and used as a heat source in the pyrolysis reactor’s burner. Another portion of cleaned biogas can be used as the feedstock for a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) unit that separates hydrogen from tail gas.
A portion of the PSA tail gas can be used as a heat source via combustion in the pyrolysis reactor’s burner. Another portion of the tail gas can be used as a fuel source for the electricity generation. The generated electricity can be used to meet some or all of the process’s electricity requirements.
PSA’s 99% pure low pressure hydrogen can be compressed and used in a fuel cell system to power waste management and collection vehicles.
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Kore’s waste-to-biogas thermal pyrolysis system in Los Angeles began processing feedstocks in August 2021.
The system is capable of processing 24 tonnes of feedstocks per day. The feedstocks are nut shells, agricultural tree prunings, construction and demolition wastes, deadwood, and biosolids. The system can produce:
- UltraGreen hydrogen™: 1,000 kg/day
- Renewable biogas: 10 MMBTU/day
- Solid carbon char: 6 tons/day
The biocarbon can be blended into soil to reduce irrigation and fertilizer costs, improve drought resilience, and increase plant yields. Kore biocarbon is a stable form of carbon that will not revert to CO₂ or CH₄.
Cornelius Shields is Founder.
Cornelius Shields is CEO.
Kore Board Member and Advisor
Cornelius Shields is a board member.