Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft and Daimler AG have each acquired a minority shareholding in CHOREN Industries GmbH, Freiberg, a provider of gasification technology. The main goal of the commitment by the two automakers is to promote the widespread market introduction of BTL (biomass-to-liquid) second-generation synthetic fuel.
Volkswagen and Daimler have been investigating potential applications, the economic feasibility and the energy balance of BTL jointly with CHOREN since 2002. The shareholdings in CHOREN acquired by the two companies are an important step towards the systematic use of second-generation biofuels and support the further project development of commercial-scale BTL production plants with a planned annual production capacity of some 200,000 tonnes (approximately 61 million gallons US). (Earlier post.)
CHOREN is currently building the world’s first commercial industrial scale BTL plant (Beta plant) at its Freiberg site. From 2008, the plant is expected to produce approximately 15,000 tonnes (4.6 million gallons) of fuel a year. This would be sufficient to meet the annual requirements of some 15,000 cars.
CHOREN also plans to build the first reference plant in Germany, a Sigma 1 plant, with an annual capacity of 200,000 metric tons. The company intends to announce a decision on the location of such a plant by the end of the year.
The planned Sigma plants have the potential to contribute significantly towards realizing the German government’s climate protection targets. 10 to 15 CHOREN BTL plants could save up to 3 million metric tons of CO2 by 2020.
|Biomass to SunDiesel BTL fuel with Carbo-V gasification. Click to enlarge.
The heart of CHOREN’s technology is its patented Carbo-V Biomass-gasification process that converts biomass into ultra-clean tar-free synthetic gas.
The Carbo-V Process is a three-stage gasification process using:
Low-temperature gasification. Biomass (with a water content of 15%–20%) is continually carbonized through partial oxidation (low-temperature pyrolysis) with air or oxygen at temperatures between 400º C and 500° C, i.e. it is broken down into a gas containing tar (volatile parts) and solid carbon (char).
High-temperature gasification. The gas containing tar is post-oxidized using air and/or oxygen in a combustion chamber operating above the melting point of the fuel’s ash to turn it into a hot gasification medium.
Endothermic entrained bed gasification. The char is ground down into pulverized fuel and is blown into the hot gasification medium. The pulverized fuel and the gasification medium react endothermically in the gasification reactor and are converted into a raw synthesis gas. Once this has been treated in the appropriate manner, it can be used as a combustible gas for generating electricity, steam and heat or as a syngas.
The syngas can then be converted into synthetic biofuels using the same Shell Middle Distillate Synthesis (SMDS) technology that Shell has developed for Gas-to-Liquids production (conversion of natural gas into synthetic oil products). Shell’s SMDS is a low-temperature, cobalt catalyst-based version of the Fischer-Tropsch GTL process. Shell Deutschland Oil GmbH took a minority stake in CHOREN in 2005. (Earlier post.)
Volkswagen has been calling for and supporting the development and industrial production of second-generation biofuels, known as SunFuels, for a long time. Compared with the first generation, these second-generation biofuels can in fact as much as triple hectare yields, they do not compete with food production and they help to reduce greenhouse gases by approximately 90%. With this financial commitment, the Volkswagen Group is supporting the industrial-scale realization of biogenic synthetic fuels as part of its “Driving ideas” campaign, and thus systematically continuing to move closer to sustainable mobility.—Dr. Wolfgang Steiger, Volkswagen Head of Group Research, Powertrains
The partners will also be stepping up cooperation to shape the framework for the sustainable market introduction of BTL fuels.