|The BIOCOUP project structure and different steps of the processing route. Click to enlarge.|
A European research consortium is working to develop a process to allow a range of different biomass feedstocks to be co-fed to a conventional oil refinery to produce renewable fuels and oxygenated chemicals.
The overall objective of the five-year BIOCOUP Integrated Project, which is sponsored by the European Commission and coordinated by Finland’s VTT, is to upgrade biomass-derived liquids to make them suitable for refinery co-processing. A secondary objective is the separation of valuable chemicals from biomass and biomass–derived liquids prior to the upgrading.
The consortium has established five main objectives for the project:
To develop processes of primary fractionation and biomass liquefaction to produce quality-controlled bio-oils;
To develop bio-liquid upgrading technology such as deoxygenation, including development of specific catalysts, and to scale it up to PDU-scale;
To study co-processing opportunities of biomass derived components in archetypal refinery units;
To produce discrete oxygenated target chemicals; and
To evaluate the most promising optimized biomass-refinery chains (biomass feedstock to final products) through scenario analysis based on estimates of the technical, economical and LCA (life-cycle analysis) performances of the chains.
Accordingly, BIOCOUP comprises six sub-projects:
Biomass liquefaction and energy production: To reduce bio-oil production costs by up to 30% through an innovative integrated bio-oil concept from a number of biomass feedstocks (initially especially residues from forestry industries). This project also aims to further the development of methods to fractionate black liquor and to convert certain fractions into bio-refinery feedstocks.
Upgrading technologies: To develop de-oxygenation technology and scale it up to process development unit-scale. Primary bio-liquids typically have oxygen contents of about 50% and cannot be processed in standard refinery units. Current de-oxygenation processes are not mature and are very expensive due to high hydrogen costs. This sub project aims to develop a new technology for decreasing this oxygen content.
Evaluation of upgraded bio-liquids in standard refinery units: To assess the viability of upgraded bio-liquids co-processing in a standard refinery regarding the technical and economical feasibility. The parameters of the refinery units most viable for bio-liquid co-processing will be defined, as well as the required changes depending on the bio-liquid specifications.
The products derived from biomass-derived refinery co-processing will be intrinsically chemically indistinguishable from their fossil-fuel based counterparts. This will allow a seamless integration of bio-refinery co-processing products to the end consumer for products such as transport fuels and chemicals.
Conversion to chemicals: To identify optimal recovery and fractionation strategies and technologies for the production of discrete target compounds from bio-liquids produced in the first two sub projects (SP1 and SP2).
Scenario and life cycle analysis: To outline a low-risk, low-cost development path for the most promising bio-refinery chains based on stage-wise validation, demonstration and implementation.
Transversal activities: To optimize the impact of the project by a structured management and the efficient coordination of transversal activities (standardization, exploitation and dissemination).
The project is supported by the European Commission through the Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Development with a grant of up to €7.6 million (US$10.3 million).