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Enerkem, NREL team develops High Octane Low Carbon Gasoline (HOLCG) hydrocarbon blends

Researchers from Enerkem and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have succeeded in producing a new high-performance biofuel that could improve the octane rating of fuels sold on the market and reduce their carbon footprint. The new fuel has a Research Octane Number (RON) of up to 112.

In a paper presented at the 255th National Meeting of the ACS, the team described an innovative integrated process to convert renewable and recycled carbon into High Octane Low Carbon Gasoline blends. The process steps are:

  1. Conversion of mixed feedstock comprising residual biomass and waste via advanced gasification to produce a clean synthesis gas;

  2. Conversion of the syngas into methanol;

  3. Dehydration of the methanol to DME over an alumina catalyst (Bio-DME); and

  4. Catalytic conversion of DME to High Octane Low Carbon Gasoline (HOLCG) hydrocarbon blends.

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The HOLCG obtained through this clean technology process is mainly composed of C5-C8 isoparaffinic hydrocarbons rich in triptane. The concentration of isoparaffins is higher than that of conventional gasoline. Moreover, there are neither aromatics nor sulfur in the HOLCG product.

The catalyst, developed by NREL, used for the conversion of DME into HOLCG is a Cu-based catalyst HBEA zeolite operating at low temperature (200°C).

The HOLCG product obtained can be blended with low-octane number gasoline and act as octane enhancer in a similar way as methanol and ethanol but with no oxygen.

It’s a major breakthrough that could enable the development of a new non-oxygenated biofuel made from waste on a commercial scale. Through the very selective catalytic reaction achieved using our waste-to-biofuels process, we have formed paraffinic molecules, such as triptane, whose properties already contain a high-octane rating, thereby increasing the volume of paraffins when used as an additive in a conventional fuel.

—Stéphane Marie-Rose, Director of Enerkem’s Innovation Center

In addition to the various environmental and economic upsides, there are many possible applications for a high-octane biofuel derived from Enerkem’s bio-DME. The non-oxygenated additive could serve the specialized fuels market, such as the aviation gasoline and professional motorsport sector. As with the biomethanol and advanced ethanol produced today at commercial scale by Enerkem, this new biofuel allows better combustion, replaces fossil fuels and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

Enerkem’s Innovation Centre intends to build on this technological advancement by further developing and optimizing the process as well as evaluating the potential commercial applications in the coming months.

Resources

  • CATL 284. Renewable and recycled carbon for high octane low carbon gasoline (HOLCG) production at pilot scale. S.C. Marie-Rose, D. Ruddy, J. Hensley, 255th ACS meeting, 18-22 March 2018

Comments

SJC

Mobile was doing methane/DME/gasoline in the 70s.

Engineer-Poet

I wonder about the efficiency of these conversions.  MeOH -> DME is quite exothermic, and I doubt that the subsequent steps are all that much better.  How much energy is irretrievably lost along the way?  The numbers I've calculated suggest that it's quite a bit.

A better path is probably to go back to the 70's and use M85 fuel, or even M100 if you don't need to maintain gasoline compatibility.  Only having to convert 15% by volume to gasoline is a lot better than converting 100%, and blending pumps and RFID can make sure that cars are given what they need when they are fueled.

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