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Syntec Gearing Up to Commercialize its Biomass-to-Ethanol Gasification/Synthesis Process

Syntectechnology
The Syntec process. Click to enlarge.

Syntec Biofuel, a spin-off from the University of British Columbia, is gearing up to enter the second-generation biofuels market with a set of proprietary catalysts that produce ethanol from the syngas resulting from the gasification of biomass.

Established as a research company at the University in 2001, Syntec was just officially  acquired by NetCo Investments—which promptly changed its name to Syntec Biofuel.

In 2004, Syntec filed a patent for its first ethanol catalyst, which contained precious metals. The company expects to file a second patent for its commercial variant—based on non-precious metals—by year’s end. In parallel, Syntec Biofuel will commission its first bioreactor for the production of bio-methanol—a facility that will utilize the same production methodology as its biomass-to-ethanol process. This will also serve as a test bed for commercial-scale testing of Syntec’s proprietary ethanol catalyst, while generating revenue for the Company from the production of bio-methanol.

Syntec’s process consists of a thermochemical conversion of synthesis gas (syngas) into ethanol in a bioreactor containing a catalyst.  Syngas is a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen that can be derived from any carbonaceous material including: natural gas, coal bed methane, landfill gas, digester gas and biomass gasification.

The production process is similar to modern day methanol & GTL (gas-to-liquid) production processes; the key differentiating factors are the catalysts and their operating parameters.

Syntec believes that its patented technology will provide it with the leading production process for achieving high ethanol yields from biomass and it expects its costs to be much lower than those of conventional ethanol fermentation processes that use sugar and starch crops as feedstocks.

Relatively few studies have been done on selective catalytic synthesis of ethanol from syngas, according to Syntec.  Moreover, it is the lack of selective ethanol catalysts and poor conversion ratios that have prevented the commercial realization of chemical production of ethanol according to the company.

Syntec anticipates that once perfected, its catalyst will enable the ethanol industry to use this well established chemical process to obtain production and efficiency metrics beyond what traditional grain based fermentation processes can offer.

Unlike bacteria, enzyme, and acid or other solvent-based processes which are usually particular about their feedstock, the Syntec’s low-pressure thermochemical process can use a wide variety of feedstocks, given appropriate modifications in the syngas production step.

Enzyme/Fermentation vs. Gasification/Synthesis (Source: Syntec)
  Iogen Syntec
Process Enzyme/fermentation Gasification/Synthesis
Theoretical yield per ton biomass (gal/ton) 114 230
Actual yield (gal/ton) 70 114 (est.)
Approx. capital cost/gal/year US$4.45 $US2.23
Approximate cost/gallon US$1.44 US$0.78

Comments

Andy

Did I miss something??? I think you've got your processes confused.

Gasification is Exothermic. This means that it produces heat as well as syn gas.
That’s why its called partial oxidation. If it was full oxidation it would be known as combustion and that gives off huge quantities of heat.

The F T process is endothermic. It requires large quantities of heat to continue functioning.

Some heat can be provided from heat exchangers and supplemented from burning syn gas.

As for using solar energy for driving gasification?? Unlikely.

It would be more practical to drive the F T process with solar but even then you’re going to need a lot of high grade heat, which I suggest will be almost economically impossible to come by in the quantities required.

Engineer-Poet

Nope, NBK-Boston is right.  Here's the GCC link.

Jorge Aguilar

Two US Environmental Engineering Corporations with prorietary technology on biomass to energy conversion technology could be interested in a teaming agreement with Syntec Biofuel. If you deemed it desirable, please contact the undersigned.

Anaerobic Digestion Facility qualifies as CDM (Article XII of the Kyoto Protol). As a Canadian Corporation such partnership could avail of Carbon Credit Financing. The US Federal Government and Agencies could possibly provide grants and financial assistance.

Jorge M. Aguilar

Jorge Aguilar

Two US Environmental Engineering Corporations with prorietary technology on biomass to energy conversion technology could be interested in a teaming agreement with Syntec Biofuel. If you deemed it desirable, please contact the undersigned.

Anaerobic Digestion Facility qualifies as CDM (Article XII of the Kyoto Protol). As a Canadian Corporation such partnership could avail of Carbon Credit Financing. The US Federal Government and Agencies could possibly provide grants and financial assistance.

Jorge M. Aguilar

C Harget

One reason for the higher theoretical yeild is that thermal conversion also converts non-sugars such as lignin. However, the tradeoff is that the only saleable byproduct is ash. With corn fermentation, you get high-protein distillers grain as a saleable byproduct; nutritious cow feed. This has some advantages for integrated operations (feedlot, methane capture from cow manure, ethanol production, fertilizer for corn fields, in an energy efficient loop). I'm curious why some characterize thermal conversion as endothermic?

Cheryl Ho

DME developments in China:
DME is an LPG-like synthetic fuel can be produced through gasification of Biomass. The synthetic gas is then catalyzed to produce DME. A gas under normal pressure and temperature, DME can be compressed into a liquid and used as an alternative to diesel. Its low emissions make it relatively environmentally friendly. In fact, Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and will be sharing their experience at upcoming North Asia DME / Methanol conference in Beijing, 27-28 June 2007, St Regis Hotel. The conference covers key areas which include:


DME productivity can be much higher especially if
country energy policies makes an effort comparable to
that invested in increasing supply.
By:
National Development Reform Commission NDRC
Ministry of Energy for Mongolia

Production of DME/ Methanol through biomass
gasification could potentially be commercialized
By:
Shandong University completed Pilot plant in Jinan and
will be sharing their experience.

Advances in conversion technologies are readily
available and offer exciting potential of DME as a
chemical feedstock
By: Kogas, Lurgi and Haldor Topsoe

Available project finance supports the investments
that DME/ Methanol can play a large energy supply role
By: International Finance Corporation

For more information: www.iceorganiser.com

Frank Kandrnal

To whom it may concern February 20, 2008

Did Syntec Biofuel Inc hit the magic catalyst formula or is Syntec perpetrating one of the biggest scams in biofuel history??????
Where is the evidence to Syntec’s claims for 105 gallons of alcohols from 1ton of wood??? Where is the plant or the equipment which is supposed to have produced this miracle? Where is the confirmation from independent investigators??????

I was personally involved with Syntec in the past 6 years, right from it’s conception. I was consulting the Syntec on equipment matters for the lab and for possible future production. My company has built some equipment for Syntec as well. I was not involved in catalyst research itself, however, later on I had access to all information to know what was happening.
From my personal experience the Syntec was always very high on hype and nearly zero on real substance

I visited Syntec company numerous times when it still operated from University of British Columbia campus. My last visit to the company was in the spring 2006 when I was called in to evaluate the progress. At that time the company has already moved to rented facility in Burnaby. I found that all process catalysts developed by Syntec up to date were worthless for any commercial production including those that were developed earlier in University of British Columbia.
The Ethanol yields were absolutely pathetic per volume of catalyst. Catalysis was done on micro laboratory scale, using only 1gram catalyst samples, just enough for gas chromatography analyses.
See the lab pictures at:
http://picasaweb.google.com/kandrnal/SyntecBiofuelIncLaboratory/photo#5169117682052453778

The reaction favored the production of methane, water and some hydrocarbons. Only about 8% of the synthesis products were alcohols and Methanol formation was prevalent. Up to my last visit, the Syntec company has never gasified a single gram of wood or any other biomass for their synthesis feedstock gas. All experimental, and always unsuccessful synthesis was done from pure Bottled Gasses.
I was extremely distressed to see that only one researcher (Caili Su) was working on catalyst research. Only one catalyst sample was run in several days and the results were always bad. After my last visit I realized that the whole Syntec company was based on big hype and nothing else. As shareholder, ( I had over 50,000 shares ) I was personally very disgusted with the pathetic company progress and all the hype. Up to my last visit I was led to believe, as were all other investors, that something magic was happening in Ethanol production catalyst research. Now I suddenly realized it was all worthless hype and that I was being taken to the cleaners.


Shortly after my last visit in early 2006 the company was taken over by Michael Jackson (a minority shareholder up to that time) who by skillful legal maneuvering (he is a lawyer) and his personal greed forced the company very quickly into bankruptcy and then bought the assets of the company from bankruptcy trustee via Montilla Capital Inc. In my opinion the trustee’s appraiser did undervalue the Syntec’s assets and of course there was no second professional opinion as to real value of the company.
The Ethanol catalysts that Syntec was so proud of were worthless, however, the equipment in the lab had higher value than it was sold for by bankruptcy trustee.
See the court case at: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/07/06/2007bcsc0656.htm
In this way the Jackson took complete control of the company and all original 25 Syntec investors lost all their money because no shares were transferred. Jackson simply ruthlessly screwed all previous Syntec shareholders because of $20,000 owed to him.
From there on I did not pay much attention to further Syntec affairs until today when I see another of theirs hyped claims . As far as I know, at present the company has only skeleton staff and no facility to actually synthetically produce alcohol in105 gallon volume.
All their overblown claims and wishful thinking seams to be based on theoretical analyses and practically nothing on solid reality. All seams to be designed to fool the unsuspecting investor.

Am I wrong??? Hardly! Let analyze it very simply by BTU on BTU (British Thermal Unit) basis. Syntec claims to make 105 gallons of Ethanol from one ton of wood waste. We know that oven dry ton of wood waste has about 16 million BTU energy content. 105 gallons of ethanol has 8,820,000 BTU energy content, therefore, the wood conversion to Ethanol and higher alcohols would be 55% efficient. I was not born yesterday to believe this nonsense. Not even coal to liquids conversion is this efficient.
It is highly unlikely that Syntec would all of a sudden go from a few % conversion rate to 55% conversion in less than 2 years with the skeleton staff it has in their mediocre Burnaby facility.
In order to believe it, their claim needs to be independently confirmed by other competent investigators. Before this happens I will consider it nothing else but another hyped scam.
In the past Syntec never had any real success in Ethanol production from their catalysts, even the patented one, however that setback did not stop them from publishing highly exaggerated claims. This company hype will end in future history as another great failure in the quest for useful Ethanol production catalyst. In the end, a lot of investors will end up holding an empty bag.
Before I would personally invest any more money or time into this company I would insist on physical confirmation of their claims. I don’t think it is too much to ask for.

I have also noticed that Syntec includes Methanol in their alcohol mixture. When it come to methanol it is possible to convert one ton of wood waste to 105 gallons of methanol. In this case the conversion efficiency would be 41% using standard commercial methanol catalyst. All of us know that some methanol catalysts produce traces of Ethanol, Butanol and Propanol, hence Syntec could hide behind methanol scheme all along and thus protect itself from being accused of scam since Syntec claims all of these alcohols in their portfolio. Nevertheless, no one needs Syntec for production of methanol because the methanol technology is already well developed and commercial catalysts are available.
I advice all potential Syntec investors to investigate this company in detail before investing your money.

Frank Kandrnal
Dynamic Energy Corp

dayna

Frank, constructive comments are appreciated. Blog spamming with cut & pasted comments are not.

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