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SRI wins $925,000 DOE award to liquefy biomass for production of transportation fuels

Southern Research Institute (SRI) entered into a cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a mild liquefaction process that will economically convert biomass to petroleum refinery-ready bio-oils. The process will convert biomass to stabilized bio-oils that can be directly blended with hydrotreater and cracker input streams in a petroleum refinery for production of gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.

Dr. Santosh Gangwal, Southern Research principal investigator, said co-processing of bio-oil with petroleum refinery streams can help refineries comply with new renewable fuels standards (RFS-2.) The process will be evaluated and optimized using a continuous flow lab-scale biomass liquefaction system simulating the commercial embodiment of Southern Research’s liquefaction process. Also a lab-scale reactor will be constructed and tested for hydrotreating and cracking the bio-oils to produce gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.

We hope the project will advance liquefaction by demonstrating cost-effective biomass conversion to stable bio-oils at mild conditions. Other liquefaction processes either use severe conditions or expensive catalysts to achieve stability. We will also evaluate the suitability and process economics of directly blending our bio-oils with refinery hydrotreater and cracker streams for co-production of diesel and gasoline.

—Santosh Gangwal

Southern Research is seeking a refinery partner who will help to further define bio-oil quality specifications that meet requirements for direct insertion at various points in the petroleum refining process. Based on the experimental data, a technical and economic evaluation and life-cycle assessment of the process will be carried out. Requirements for scale-up and commercialization of the liquefaction process will be determined.

In January, SRI entered into a $1.5-million cooperative agreement with the US Department of Energy to test an innovative method for producing liquid transportation fuels from coal and biomass, thereby improving the economics and lifecycle impacts of coal-to-liquid (CTL) and coal-biomass-to-liquid (CBTL) processes.

The novel approach eliminates the conventional Fischer-Tropsch (FT) product upgrading and refining steps by using a cost-effective, novel FT catalyst that selectively converts syngas derived from the gasification of coal and coal-biomass mixtures predominantly to gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons. (Earlier post.)

SRI has more than 10 years of experience in gasification, pyrolysis, and related technologies, and operates one of the a fully integrated biorefinery at its North Carolina location for the conversion of biomass resources to liquid transportation fuels, syngas, and chemicals. In addition, it has more than three decades of experience in the conversion of syngas to liquids and related technologies.


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