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Progress toward commercializing the GTI IH2 thermochemical process for drop-in hydrocarbon fuels

Ih2
Automated, continuous IH2 pilot plant, 50 kg/day biomass feed. Source: GTI. Click to enlarge.

At the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Gas Technology Institute (GTI) scientist Dr. Martin Linck provided an update on the progress toward commercializing the GTI Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2) process, with a presentation of new data on IH2 developed from a continuous 50 kg/day pilot plant. (Earlier post.)

IH2 is a new thermochemical process that employs a catalyzed fluidized bed hydropyrolysis step followed by an integrated hydroconversion step to directly convert biomass into high-quality, fungible hydrocarbon fuels. IH2 derived fuels contain less than 1% oxygen and are completely compatible with petroleum-derived fuels.

IH2 technology involves use of internally generated hydrogen and a series of proprietary catalysts. The process uses as its feedstock virtually any kind of nonfood biomass material—including wood, cornstalks and cobs, algae, aquatic plants and municipal solid waste—and produces gasoline, jet fuel or diesel fuel.

Linck and colleagues had earlier published a paper in the journal Environ. Prog. Sustainable Energy presenting experimental data from their 0.45 kg/h semi-continuous IH2 pilot plant. The smaller plant can produce 72-157 gallons of fuel per ton of dry, ash-free feedstock, depending on feedstock type.

These results are essential in establishing the credibility of a process that may seem too good to be within the realm of possibility. However, we are moving steadily toward having multiple demonstration-scale facilities in operation by 2014, with each facility producing a range of 3,500-17,500 gallons of fuel a day from non-food plant material. We will be designing commercial-scale facilities that could produce as much as 300,000 gallons per day from the same kinds of feedstocks.

—Martin Linck

Based on assessments by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., IH2 technology has the capability to produce gasoline at a cost of less than $2.00 per gallon, Linck said.

Linck’s ACS presentation focused on experimental descriptions and yield data, demonstrating that the performance of the larger, continuously operated plant is in line with results obtained on the smaller, semi-continuous plant.

GTI has licensed the IH2 technology to CRI Catalyst Company (CRI), in Houston, Texas. (Earlier post.) CRI has exclusive sub-licensing rights to the process and is working with multiple customers wishing to build several demonstration units that can convert between 40 and 200 tons of biomass a day.

GTI anticipates full-scale commercial plants converting 2,000 tons a day will be operating by 2014. Such a plant could produce more than 300,000 gallons of fuel a day, if the larger scale plants operate at the same efficiency as the pilot plants.

Full commercial scale will be dependent on client location and feedstock specifics. Our preliminary engineering estimates are using 2,000 ton per day of feedstock, but this will depend on feedstock type. For example, municipal solid waste plants may be smaller, and plants converting wood may be larger.

—Martin Linck

GTI’s funding and other support has come from the U.S. Department of Energy (EERE Office of Biomass Program), CRI Catalyst Company, Cargill, Johnson Timber Corporation, Parabel, Aquaflow Bionomic Corporation, Blue Marble Biomaterials, National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Michigan Technological University.

Resources

  • Marker, T. L., Felix, L. G., Linck, M. B. and Roberts, M. J. (2012), Integrated hydropyrolysis and hydroconversion (IH2) for the direct production of gasoline and diesel fuels or blending components from biomass, part 1: Proof of principle testing. Environ. Prog. Sustainable Energy, 31: 191–199. doi: 10.1002/ep.10629

Comments

Davemart

Anyone got any idea of the sustainable 'take' from this sort of technology without exhausting the soil?
Enough to power air travel?
Enough to power road haulage?
Enough to power a substantial portion of light vehicles?

ToppaTom

No idea.

300,000 gallons of fuel a day does not sound like much - depending on how much $$/plant and how many plants / capita, of course.

Does it primarily get rid of a lot of waste that would otherwise simply take up landfill space or generate CO2 while it rots?

Wood waste is more valuable as particleboard or MDF.

In summary; is this really worthwhile or just to satisfy politician’s urges?

Davemart

TT@
Biowaste to fuel is more than a boondoggle.
What I have been unable to get a handle on is the sustainable scale of the resource, although it is clearly very large.
The 300,000 gallons is from one plant, and since plant waste is bulky and heavy they would be built near the resource, IOW there would be a lot of them.
These guys claim that a sustainable 20% of Europe's waste could fuel half it's transport:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19179419

I have not been able to track down authoritative detailed figures though.
Part of the problem is that there are many different pathways with all sorts of different potentials at all sorts of different stages of development.

So my knowledge is pretty limited.

A D

Of all these feedstocks, only green algae make sense because you can make it at a steady rates in some quantities.

Davemart

@A.D:
The Swedes have done extensive research into forestry waste etc for biofuels, and whilst, as I said, I can't find conclusive figures the resource is certainly substantial, although it would not run our society on it's own.

yoatmon

@A D:
I agree with you totally. The other possible direction would be like the one taken in India.
A German engineering group supported Indian locals in developing a special Jatropha type for production of bio-diesel.
Once they had developed a type suited for their purpose, they planted it in arid regions where it was not competing with normal food production.
They knew that on fertile land, normally used for food production only, the yield of Jatropha would be much higher.
Being driven by greed, it was only a short time that they resisted all temptations until they started to plant Jatropha everywhere; also on fertile land used for food production. The result is that they have adequate quantities of bio-diesel but the food production is steadily decreasing. They're slowly realizing that they can't still their hunger with bio-diesel nor eat the money they're earning with it.

Engineer-Poet

If I recall correctly, the energy content of the MSW production of the USA is roughly on the order of the diesel fuel consumption (which is about twice the energy content of jet fuel consumption).

If most ground transport was electrified (PHEV or wired roads), fuel from waste appears to be able to supply the remainder.

Davemart

@EP:
MSW = Municipal Sewage Waste?
if so in addition to that you would have vast quantities of forestry waste, pig farm sludge and so on, although of course you would also have collection and conversion losses.

Roger Pham

Adding H2 to waste biomass can double the energy content of the biomass. If the H2 comes from excess solar and wind energy, then this is a good way to economically expand solar and wind on massive scale quickly without worrying about where to store the excess energy. Since liquid hydrocarbon command a high market price, the solar and wind energy collector will have much quicker payback times.

Most people in the future will drive on electricity and H2, so we won't need nearly as much liquid fuels then as now.

Engineer-Poet

MSW = Municipal Solid Waste.  Products of sewage solids are in another category.

Factoid:  lignocellulose can be fully hydrolized with hot water in the 225-290°C range (PWR temperatures), and small organic molecules can be fully gasified in supercritical water at 600°C (MSR temperatures, also possibly achievable with liquid metal coolants).  Nuclear heat can literally make waste problems go away.

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