Vanderbilt/ORNL team discovers new form of crystalline order that could be attractive for thermoelectric applications
Workshop to help shape UK project on dynamic power transfer for EVs; charge while you drive

Purdue team demonstrates proof-of-concept of H2Bioil process; liquid fuel range hydrocarbons from biomass

H2Bioil concept. Venkatakrishnan et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at Purdue University report a proof-of-concept of a their novel consecutive two-step process (H2Bioil) for the production of liquid fuel range hydrocarbons (C4+) with undetectable oxygen content from cellulose and an intact biomass (poplar). (Earlier post.)

Purdue University filed a patent application on the H2Bioil concept, which is based on fast-hydropyrolysis and downstream vapor-phase catalytic hydrodeoxygenation (HDO), in 2008. The process adds hydrogen into the biomass-processing reactor and is made possible by development of a new catalyst and the innovative reactor design. Findings are described in a research paper published online in the RSC journal Green Chemistry.

The carbon recovery as C1–C8+ hydrocarbons is ~73% (C4+ ~55%) from cellulose and ~54% (C4+ ~32%) from poplar.

The demonstration is a step toward commercialization. Because the process can produce hydrocarbons in a single tandem step, it clearly has a potential to have a positive impact on the biofuels sector. The successful lab-scale demonstration of the H2Bioil concept paves the way for rapid conversion of biomass species to liquid fuel and chemicals.

Furthermore, we envision that the process can be built on a distributed scale for widespread use. Ultimately, with proper design, this concept is amenable to providing mobile plants that could be transported from one biomass-available site to another.

—Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at Purdue

The H2Bioil reactor is capable of processing all kinds of available biomass including wood chips, switch grass, corn stover, rice husks and wheat straw. It sidesteps a fundamental economic hurdle in biofuels: Transporting biomass is expensive because of its bulk volume, whereas liquid fuel from biomass is far more economical to transport. The technology could be used to process biomass into liquid fuel at agricultural sites with a mobile platform, and then transport it to a central refinery for further processing.

Critical to the technology is a new platinum-molybdenum catalyst and design of the hydropyrolysis reactor system. The new method offers advantages over conventional technologies because it produces biofuel from all biomass as opposed to a portion of the biomass such as cellulose or lignin only, Agrawal said.

Biomass along with hydrogen is fed into a high-pressure reactor and subjected to extremely fast heating, rising within a second to as hot as 500 ˚C.

The work is led by Agrawal; Fabio H. Ribeiro, the R. Norris and Eleanor Shreve Professor of Chemical Engineering; and W. Nicholas Delgass, the Maxine Spencer Nichols Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering, all at Purdue. The research paper was authored by doctoral student Vinod Kumar Venkatakrishnan, Delgass, Ribeiro and Agrawal.

The Purdue researchers previously invented an approach called a “hybrid hydrogen-carbon process,” or H2CAR. The research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio), an Energy Frontier Research Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science. C3Bio is directed by Professor Maureen McCann.


  • Vinod Kumar Venkatakrishnan, W. Nicholas Delgass, Fabio H. Ribeiro and Rakesh Agrawal (2015) “Oxygen removal from intact biomass to produce liquid fuel range hydrocarbons via fast-hydropyrolysis and vapor-phase catalytic hydrodeoxygenation,” Green Chem. doi: 10.1039/C4GC01746C



There appear to be 3 options:

  1. Transport the biomass to a central processing facility where hydrogen is available.
  2. Transport hydrogen to the biomass processor in the field.
  3. Make hydrogen on the spot, likely using biomass as the energy source (and losing the carbon as CO2).

As always, hydrogen is the troublesome part.

Roger Pham

Interesting conundrum that you've raised.
IMHO, the H2 will be produced locally from wind and solar energy and stored locally, or flowed into previously-NG pipelines that are upgraded to become H2-compatible.
Transporting waste biomass, even wet biomass, bundled up for short distances of 20-40 miles is quite feasible, in flat-bed tractor trailers. So, bio-reactors can be placed at regularly spaced locations where H2 will be produced and stored. Economy of scale dictates that H2bio-reactor must be large, and as such, must be stationary instead of being mobile.

This will be economically competitive with petroleum in the near future, just in time to supplement the coming petroleum shortage due to both dwindling in low-cost petroleum reserves as well as soaring world-wide demands from emerging new economic powers.

Due to the significantly higher production cost of BEV's, future synthetic liquid fuels for ICEV's and HEV's may well remain to be the most popular options due to the least purchasing cost of the ICEV's and HEV's.


In gasification you water-gas shift the CO to CO2 producing H2 from water. You can use the CO2 to get more oil from fields.


The DOE has assessed feedstock availability in The Billion Ton Study and Son of Billion Ton — bottom line conclusion, not much to worry about in terms of land availability, as a billion tons would cover 1000 biorefineries three times over, or more.


USDA Looks to Get Ethanol from Kudzu
It might be the scourge of the south, but kudzu could become the next feedstock for biofuels.

The comments to this entry are closed.