“Return of the Pyromaniax”: a round-up of 10 hot projects

January 26, 2012 |

Elsewhere, the pyromaniax continue to rule. Here’s a round-up of the latest major pyrolysis breakthroughs and updates around the world, as part of the Digest’s special Focus issue, “Return of the Pyromaniax“.

Over in Finland

Last November, Green Fuel Nordic Oy initiated an investment roadmap for production of second generation bio-oil from sustainable, forest-based feedstocks using fast pyrolysis technology. Also, Timo Saarelainen joined as CEO, from  CEO of Honeywell Finland and Global Business Leader for the Power Industry.

19 research teams provide update

In September, Iowa State University’s Robert C. Brown and a team of researchers said that pyrolytic molasses, made via  fast pyrolysis of feedstocks such as such as corn stalks or wood chips, has the potential to be the cheapest way to produce biofuels or biorenewable chemicals.

At tcbiomass2011, the International Conference on Thermochemical Conversion Science in Chicago Sept. 28-30, Brown highlighted thermochemical technologies developed by 19 Iowa State research teams, including processes that increase the yield of sugar from fast pyrolysis of biomass with a pretreatment that neutralizes naturally occurring alkali, prevent burning of sugar released during pyrolysis by rapidly transporting it out of the hot reaction zone, recover sugar from the heavy end of bio-oil that has been separated into various fractions, and separate sugars from the heavy fractions of bio-oil using a simple water-washing process.

In South East Asia, Dynamotive advances

Back in August, Canada’s Dynamotive Energy Systems signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Genting Bio-Oil Sdn to explore cooperation for the development of pyrolysis oil market in South East Asia.

In the initial six-month phase of the cooperation, the parties aim to: obtain knowledge of pyrolysis oil production market and its development potential in South East Asia, ascertain the performance and commercial viability of Dynamotive Pyrolysis Technology, with respect to empty fruit bunch (EFB) as feedstock.

KiOR, the sector’s break-out commercial first-mover

Of course, KiOR is probably the best-known company using this technology in the field. Last August, in reviewing the financial outlook, Rob Stone and James Medvedeff of Cowen & Co wrote: “KIOR has developed a proprietary process to convert biomass into gasoline and diesel blendstocks, compatible with existing infrastructure, using abundant, non-food feedstock. It should be cost competitive, but also benefit from biofuel mandates. Customers are in place for the first commercial plant, expected on line in H2:12. Scaling from there points to huge long-run cash flow. We see 50%+ upside relative to the market in 12 months.”

Onto Canada

In July, Dr. Nader Mahinpey, with the University of Calgary was reported to be working with pyrolysis to turn the non-edible parts of plants into biofuel.  Dr. Mahinpey and his team are working on developing the upgrading processes and to turn the waste by-products of biofuel conversion into chemicals such as fertilizer.

Over to Australia

Back in April, Dynamotive and Renewable Oil Corporation provided an update on the status of their venture in Australia that was reported in February.  Having agreed on the terms, Dynamotive and ROC agreed that development activities would reside with ROC, while Dynamotive would increase their ownership of ROC, currently reported at 8%.

ROC will hold the pyrolysis technology in Australia, Dynamotive would receive in return 50% of future licensing and royalty revenues. Further, ROC would make payments to Dynamotive on 50 % of the Australian master license as per heads of terms agreed previously, i.e. $250,000.

ROC will have access to bio oil upgrading process (patent pending) on commercial terms.  Both companies agreed to negotiate a first license to use on the proposed integrated pilot demonstration unit.

The DOE steps in with $12M in funding

In Washington, the DOE announced that it will be accepting applications for $12 million in funding for laboratory or small pilot-scale projects that support the development of refinery feedstocks, or drop-in renewable gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels.

The funding opportunity will provide up to $12 million over the next three to four years to support as many as five projects.

Turning waste plastic into fuels, using pyrolysis

In Oregon, Waste Management and Total announced that they have joined the $22 million Series B investment round in Agilyx, led by Kleiner Perkins and including previous investors Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital, Saffron Hill Ventures and Reference Capital.

The technology – a pyrolysis process converting plastic into syngas, and thence cooled into synthetic crude. Waste impurities are then removed from the stream and lightweight gases (e.g. chlorine, bromine) that do not condense continue further downstream where they are treated by an Environmental Control Device. The Four primary vessels and the associated secondary processing equipment, comprise the system.

Turning waste US currency into fuels

In Illinois, Envergent Technologies, announced that its technology will be used by Crane & Co. to convert biomass feedstock into a renewable oil to heat and power the Crane Mass. facility where it produces paper used for U.S. currency.

Now, that’s what we call overheating the money supply.

Envergent’s RTP technology will convert local forest residue into what Envergent reports as a clean-burning, nearly carbon-neutral liquid biofuel that can be used as a direct replacement for petroleum-based fuel in today’s burners and generators.  Use of the technology will help Crane, which has been the provider of currency paper to the U.S. Treasury for more than 130 years, stabilize energy costs and remain a competitive supplier to the U.S. government.

A low temperature process

In the UK, a leading researcher at the University of York has developed a low-temperature microwave pyrolysis of biomass using supercritical carbon dioxide to produce wax products without solvents residues. It allows a more precise control over the heating process, and saves energy, too. An advantage of using the technology is also the quality of the obtained oils.

A low-pressure hydrogen process for making drop-in gasoline

In Illinois, the Gas Technology Institute signed an exclusive worldwide licensing agreement with CRI/Criterion Inc., for its Integrated Hydropyrolysis and Hydroconversion (IH2) technology, which converts biomass directly into cellulosic gasoline and diesel hydrocarbon blendstocks. GTI stated that the licensing agreement will help speed up clean energy initiatives to increase energy supply and contribute towards regional mandates for renewable fuels.

GTI’s IH2 technology is an advanced pyrolysis technology which utilizes low pressure hydrogen together with a proprietary catalyst to remove virtually all of the oxygen present in the starting biomass.

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