New Oil announces results of continuous flow testing of hydrothermal conversion of biomass into higher value chemicals
New Oil Resources, a company commercializing a near-critical (i.e., 320-390 °C, 200-420 bar) aqueous phase process which can convert biomass into higher-value chemicals (earlier post), announced results from continuous flow bed testing used to evaluate its hydrothermal process and to determine the types of chemicals that can be produced under continuous flow conditions.
The results from the two-year study show that commercially valuable chemicals can be produced from the process using sugars, starches and agricultural products such as beets, hay, sugar cane and corn stover. The chemicals produced, in order of highest yield to lowest yield, are hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF); acetol (hydroxyacetone); 3-methyl-1,2-cyclopentenedione; acetone; acetaldehyde; trimethylamine; and acetic acid. Beets and sugars also produced furfural.
The process uses catalyst and high water temperatures to dissolve the biomass and produce the chemical products. The ability to produce higher value chemicals, as compared to lower value fuels, greatly enhances the commercial viability of the process, the company said. Several of these chemicals can be marketed directly as green, renewable consumer products or modified for that market. These include acetone, acetol and HMF, which also have industrial markets. Acetaldehyde, acetic acid and trimethylamine have existing markets as industrial chemicals while 3-methyl-1,2-cyclopentenedione can be used to make aviation fuel, octane enhancers for gasoline or it can be used in the plastics industry.
The process was found to have high yields with more than 50% of the biomass being converted to useful products. The process uses materials, equipment and techniques already applied in the petrochemicals industry which will help when scaling up to commercial production levels. The company is seeking commercialization partners.