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DynaMotive and Future Energy to Partner on Biomass-to-Liquids Production

14 December 2005

The BioOil process. Click to enlarge.

DynaMotive Energy Systems Corporation and Future Energy GmbH of Freiberg, Germany, have entered into a comprehensive Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) as a first step in the implementation of a strategic alliance based on the gasification of DynaMotive’s BioOil and BioOil-char for the development of Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) fuels and chemicals.

DynaMotive produces bio-oil via fast pyrolysis; bio-oil is not biodiesel, and it is not used directly in vehicle engines (it has about half the energy content of diesel). Rather, it is used in the power sector, but it can be reformed to produce hydrogen or gasified to provide input to a Fischer-Tropsch process to produce synthetic fuels.

Future Energy is an entrained flow gasification company. The two believe that their combination will provide a highly competitive platform for synthetic fuels and chemicals from biomass.

One of the main economic barriers in the production of biomass-to-liquids (BTL) synthetic fuels and chemicals is the cost of transportation of solid biomass to production facilities. The use of BioOil and char slurries reduces handling, storage and transportation costs because the energy density of the BioOil is higher than that of raw biomass.

DynaMotive’s technology supports the conversion of biomass in remote locations and the efficient transportation of biomass energy in the form of BioOil and slurries to large-scale synthetic fuel and chemical facilities.

Future Energy’s entrained flow gasification technology has been proven in various applications over a 30-year period. These applications include many different types of coal, petroleum coke, several sewage and industrial sludges, oils, slurries, liquid production wastes and biomass at commercial levels. The technology provides an existing platform for rapid implementation on a large scale.

The MOU follows the introduction of a wide-ranging action plan by the European Union Energy Commissioner that outlines the approach to accelerate the use of biomass energy in transport applications (earlier post). That Biomass Action Plan puts special emphasis on second-generation biofuels, especially BtL (earlier post).

Fast pyrolysis refers to the rapid heating of biomass (including forest residue such as bark, sawdust and shavings; and agricultural waste such as wheat straw and bagasse) in the absence of oxygen. DynaMotive’s patented process uses a bubbling fluidized bed reactor, which is generally believed to be a simpler and more robust process than other pyrolysis technologies under development.

DynaMotive acquired the exclusive worldwide patent rights for its technology from Resources Transforms International (RTI), the original developers.

Prepared feedstock (<10% moisture and 1-2 mm particle size) is fed into the bubbling fluid-bed reactor, which is heated to 450–500° C in the absence of oxygen. This is lower than conventional pyrolysis systems and, therefore, has the benefit of higher overall energy conversion efficiency. The feedstock flashes and vaporizes, and the resulting gases pass into a cyclone where solid particles—char—are extracted. The gases enter a quench tower where they are quickly cooled using BioOil already made in the process.

The BioOil condenses and falls into the product tank, while non-condensable gases are returned to the reactor to maintain process heating. The entire reaction from injection to quenching takes only two seconds.

Sample BioOil Characteristics
  Pine/Spruce Bagasse
pH 2.4 2.6
Water Content wt% 23.4 20.8
Methanol Insolvable Solids (Lignin Content wt%) 24.9 23.5
Solids Content wt% <0.10 <0.10
Ash Content wt% <0.02 <0.02
Density kg/L 1.19 1.20
Low Heating MJ/kg 16.4 15.4
Kinematic Viscosity cSt @20ºC 40 50
Kinematic Viscosity cSt @80ºC 6 7

Three products are produced: BioOil (60-75% by weight), char (15-25% wt.) and non-condensable gases (10-20% wt.) Yields vary depending on the feedstock composition. The non-condensed gases are re-circulated to fuel approximately 75% of the energy needed by the pyrolysis process.

The density of BioOil is high, approximately 1.2 kg/liter. On a volumetric basis BioOil has 55% of the energy content of diesel oil and 40% on a weight basis. It has superior fuel properties to heavy fuel oil in terms of viscosity, ash, sulfur, nitrogen content, NOx emissions and cold weather properties (pour point).

The Dynamotive/Future Energy MOU establishes timelines for the development of agreements in the following areas:

  1. Research on gasification of BioOil and BioOil-char slurries for the development of synthetic fuels and chemicals;

  2. Development and execution of industrial projects;

  3. Establishment of a strategic alliance for joint implementation and marketing of both companies’ technologies.

December 14, 2005 in Biomass, Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL) | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)


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Pyrolysis suffers from one important setback: the need for dry feedstock.

The importance of that can be illustrated using a sample calculation:
1. The article states the bio-oil yields are “60-75%”. Let us use 65%. This means you need 1.54 kg dry biomass to produce 1 kg of bio-oil, since 1.54 kg x 65% = 1 kg.
2. Woody biomass typically is ~50% moisture. So you will need to start out with 2.76 kg of “wet” biomass (1.38 kg moisture, 1.38 kg dry material = 90% of 1.54 kg). You need to evaporate 1.22 kg moisture (2.76 - 1.54) to get the dry biomass.
3. Evaporating water needs ~2.4 MJ/kg. So here you would need 2.93 MJ (1.22 kg x 2.4 MJ/kg). Since no process is 100% efficient, you will need some excess heat. Let us assume the drying process is 75% efficient. Your actual heat requirement for drying is 3.9 MJ (since 75% of 3.9 MJ = 2.93 MJ).
4. The bio-oil packs somewhere between 15.4 and 16.4 MJ/kg.

Bottom line: the drying energy requirement is almost 25% of the recovered energy!

I've got tons of dry biomass laying around.

The Sun dried it.


Q: Ever wonder why you see so little use of this "free" drying in industry?
A: 1. It is not very reliable (Close the factory, it's raining).
2. It needs a lot of time and/or space.
3. Unless you live in an area of low relative humidity you may never get to <10% moisture.
Factor in the work required to spread out the feedstock, collect it up again (and dodging rain), this becomes very labor intensive (and thus costly).

This seems to be a consequence of high biomass production in heavy rainfall areas, whereas solar PV works best in the desert. Farmers have always found ways to use near-ambient temperatures and natural aeration, for example ducting large flue pipes through a drying room before connecting to a high chimney. I don't know if this could be done cost effectively on a large scale.

Looks like there's a fair amount of heat produced i the pyrolysis process.  The liquid condensed in the flash system will have to be cooled.  Any reason the cooling system can't also dry the finely-pulverized feedstock?

The energy overhead from drying is a good point, but if you're dealing with a waste product that's otherwise not worth transporting, burning part of it on the spot to convert the rest to a useful form like bio-oil looks like a good bet.  And if somebody makes a portable parabolic mirror which can heat the reactor and do the other necessities, so much the better - but I don't see it working very well in the cloudy Cascades.

Build a passive solar heated barn and use the dry air of winter to suck the moisture out. Here in Michigan we recently had dew points under 10F.

I can think of a industry which is drying feed stock as a business. That type of industry is using a awful lot of (fossil) energy to dry products like grass and corn
With the current high energy prices, the low value of the feedstock, it would be cost effective to convert a part of the material to bio-oil.

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