The French CEA (the Atomic Energy Commission, Commissariat à l'énergie atomique, now to be called the Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission) and its industrial and financial partners are launching the first phase of construction of a pilot thermochemical biomass-to-liquids (BTL) unit in Bure Saudron, which is located 80 km from Nancy in northeastern France.
The Bure Saudron pilot will demonstrate a complete BTL production chain: gathering and conditioning of the biomass, gasification, gas processing, and conversion to synthetic fuel via the Fischer-Tropsch process. It is intended provide the experience necessary for the establishment of a BTL sector, both for process integration techniques and for the definition of a regional economic model. This will be the first production unit of its kind in France.
The pilot plant will use some 75,000 tonnes per year of forest and local agricultural residue to produce about 23,000 tonnes/year of second-generation biofuel (diesel, kerosene and naptha).
Currently, a limitation of BTL processing is the mass yield of the end products. The Bure Saudron project will experiment with a novel solution to increase process efficiency—the ratio of hydrogen to carbon monoxide generated during the synthesis stage of the fuel will be greatly enhanced by the external input of hydrogen. This innovation will be a world first, according to CEA.
This first phase involves the detailed design studies and is under contract with the CNIM group (Constructions Industrielles de la Méditerranée) as prime contractor, and in partnership with Air Liquide, Choren, SNC Lavalin, Foster Wheeler-France and MSW Energy.
Air Liquide will coordinate some of the technical engineering operations and process steps downstream, from gasification through final biofuel upgrading. Air Liquide will also provide oxygen and hydrogen. Oxygen is a required component of the gasification process, and the hydrogen will be used to enhance the quantity and quality of the synthetic fuel produced. Choren is providing the gasification technology.
The choice to locate the pilot plant at the site of Bure Saudron was based in part on commitments made in 2006 to support the economic development of territories which are home to the laboratory research on the deep geological storage of nuclear waste.