The Gas Technology Institute (GTI) in Des Plaines, IL, recently added a new Pilot-Scale IH2 Plant to broaden biomass-to-liquid hydrocarbon fuel conversion. IH2 technology is a catalytic thermochemical process that promises to be a very cost-effective route to produce liquid transportation fuels from renewable resources. (Earlier post.)
The IH2 process converts virtually any type of non-food biomass feedstock—such as wood, agricultural residues, algae, and aquatic plants. High-quality hydrocarbon fuels and/or blend stocks in the gasoline, jet and diesel range have been produced by the IH2 technology in tests at GTI using a broad spectrum of biomass feed. The IH2 products are fungible with fossil-derived fuels and are completely compatible with current infrastructure. In this way the IH2 process differs from other biofuel technologies that produce crude or oxygen-containing intermediates that need substantial further upgrading.
GTI has licensed the IH2 technology to CRI Catalyst Company (CRI), an international company headquartered in Houston, TX, for worldwide deployment. The timeline to market is short, and commercial introduction is expected in early 2014.
IH2-produced fuels have been analyzed by CRI. First generation products have had excellent traits: oxygen content is less than 1%, and the gasoline octane number is around 85. Second generation products using improved catalysts have demonstrated that product quality can be managed effectively.
Yields of product fuels have ranged from 26% to 46% depending on feedstock. This is over 70% efficient energy conversion, and the production of exportable steam can raise the overall process efficiency even higher. The overall greenhouse gas reduction for the products, relative to petroleum counterparts, has been calculated to be over 94%.
This pilot plant will continue to demonstrate the IH2 process as a differentiated biofuels technology. The process is designed to have low environmental impact. Since the commercial IH2 technology produces its own hydrogen and a surplus of water to be self-sufficient, it can operate in a stand-alone configuration anywhere there is sufficient biomass feed for conversion. And the process achieves >90% greenhouse gas reductions in comparison to fossil fuels.—Alan Del Paggio CRI Vice President, Upstream and Renewables
The new pilot plant’s ability to operate continuously provides a platform for process optimization and detailed characterization. The facility processes 50 kilograms of dry biomass per day to demonstrate biomass handling and conversion for multiple feedstocks and produce product in sufficient quantities for fuels certification and engine testing, and will allow the IH2 process research team to validate process economics. CRI provided much of the funding for the new pilot plant.
GTI has received funding support for R&D and preliminary engineering for testing the IH2 process in the laboratory and pilot plant from the US Department of Energy (EERE Office of Biomass Program). Participants in GTI’s projects include Cargill, CRI, Johnson Timber, Parabel (a company formerly known as PetroAlgae), Aquaflow, Blue Marble Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Michigan Technological University.
The first extended runs of the pilot plant will be performed using Parabel microcrops and wood.