EU research project IDEALFUEL seeks to develop marine low-sulfur heavy fuel oils from biomass; Bio-HFO
In an EU-funded research project, an international consortium is aiming to develop new production methods for sustainable marine fuels to replace heavy fuel oils in shipping.
The use of heavy fuel oils (HFOs) contributes to global warming due to the fossil origin of these fuels and, moreover, generating non-negligible emissions of pollutants such as sulfur oxides. The IDEALFUEL project aims to create sustainable alternatives by developing new efficient and low-cost methods to produce low-sulfur heavy fuel oils from wood-based non-food biomass. OWI Science for Fuels gGmbH and TEC4FUELS GmbH are involved in the project as research partners.
Although cleaner fuels are available, many companies opt for HFOs due to their low cost. However, HFOs are banned in the national waters of many countries. In addition, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) is seeking to ban HFO use in Arctic waters. Due to environmental concerns and national as well as international regulations associated with fossil based HFOs, there is a considerable need for cleaner, renewable and economic alternatives for the maritime industry.
IDEALFUEL seeks to develop methods to convert woody residual and waste materials such as sawdust and wood chips into renewable marine fuels. The concept describes the conversion of lignin—the polymer found in the structural materials of plants and trees—from dry lignocellulosic biomass into renewable fuels.
To achieve this goal, the IDEALFUEL consortium plans to devise an efficient and cost-effective two-step chemical process. In the first step, lignin will be extracted from lignocellulosic biomass in the form of Crude Lignin Oil (CLO), leaving behind a solid cellulose material that can be used in the paper industry or converted into ethanol.
In the second step, the CLO is refined through a low-temperature hydrodeoxygenation process into a Biogenic Heavy Fuel (Bio-HFO) that can be used in combination with traditional fossil fuels in a fuel blend.
IDEALFUEL will prove the techno-economic potential to reach a cost level of €700 per tonne in 2025, €600 per tonne in 2030 and < €500 per tonne beyond 2030 resulting from optimization, scaling effects of larger plant sizes and repetitive installations.
This is cost competitive with Ultra-Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (ULSFO) which current, 2019, price level is €450-550/tonne.
IDEALFUEL will also carry out a Well-to-Propeller impact assessment and Life Cycle Analysis to check and proof the soundness of the environmental, society and sustainability aspects of the to be developed technologies, processes, products and logistics.
The research tasks of OWI Science for Fuels and TEC4FUELS focus on the quality assurance of the new fuel, especially with regard to the operational safety of the engines. To this end, they are investigating and evaluating the chemical-physical properties of the Bio-HFO for marine applications, the compatibility of this lignin-based fuel with marine engines, the storage life and ageing behavior of the fuel, its compatibility with fuel-bearing materials and components, and the engine oil.
IDEALFUEL is coordinated by Eindhoven University of Technology and involves participants from four countries. The participants are Vertoro B.V. (NL); Tec4Fuels GmbH (DE); Bloom Biorenewables Ltd (CH); Uniresearch B.V. (NL); Winterthur Gas & Diesel Ltd. (CH); GoodFuels (NL); thyssenkrupp Marine Systems GmbH (DE); OWI Science for Fuels gGmbH (DE); Agencia Estatal Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas (Spanish Research Council, CSIC) (ES); and Varo Energy Netherlands B.V. (NL).
This project has received funding (€4.8 million) from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement Nº 883753.