5 Key Tech Takeaways: Highlights from Tech presented at ABLC 2020

March 9, 2021 |

By Iacovos Vasalos, Research Director Emeritus, Center for Research and Technology-Hellas

Special to The Digest

This report summarizes highlights from the ABLC 2020 Biofuels Digest Virtual Conference, which took place in July 7-10, 2020. (And if you haven’t already registered for this year’s ABLC Digital on May 3-7, 2021, check it out now here.)

There were almost 100 presentations in various areas of technology. These represent work carried out, mainly in United States, in National Labs, Universities and companies. Because most of the academic work in bioeconomy is mainly funded by the Department of Energy (DOE), this brief report puts first in perspective the strategic goals of DOE. Following this, each area of technology is summarized, according to the presentations in the various sessions.

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY – DOE

The DOE program in the transportation sector is illustrated below:

DOE is spearheaded the effort to fund research and development towards converted biomass to liquid fuels. For this purpose it supports consortia of National Research Centers, Universities and Industries through solicited proposals on specific strategic goals. Three consortia related to bioenergy technologies are: ChemCatBIO for Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy, FCIC (Feedstock Conversion Interface Consortium) and CCPC, the Consortium for Computational Physics and Chemistry.

According to DOE documents and the presentations in the ABLC 2020, the following conversion routes are pursued

DRY FEEDSTOCKS CONVERTED VIA HIGH TEMPERATURE AND UPGRADING

Dry feedstocks are first processed in a high temperature pyrolysis step, using an inert heat carrier, followed with ex situ vapor upgrading and subsequent additional upgrading into hydrocarbon fuel. The following process diagram outlines the steps as reported in the 2020 update DOE report:

Data presented in the ABLC 2020 Conference by Michael Berube, active vice secretary of the Department of Transportation, report that the goal of the above route is to produce liquid fuel with a target cost for a Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) of 3.3  $ by year 2022 and 2.5 $ by 2030.

Specific DOE supported projects for the above route include:

FEEDSTOCK – CONVERSION INTERFACE CONSORTIUM

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Edward J. Wolfrum, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

The Feedstock-Conversion Interface Consortium is led by DOE as a collaborative effort among 9 National Labs.

Key Ideas

  • Biomass feedstock properties are variable and different from other commodities
  • Empirical approaches to address these issues have been unsuccessful

We are developing first-principles based knowledge and tools to understand and mitigate the effects of biomass feedstock and process variability on biorefineries.

Eight Tasks Working Across the Value Chain

Several National Laboratories (NREL, IDL, LLNL, ONL) work on developing technology enabling the biomass feed preparation and transport to the reactor.

BIOMASS PREPARATION

  • Monitoring the feedstock quality is of great importance for the steady operation of a biomass conversion unit. The biomass physical properties determine its flow ability, while the chemical composition plays an important role in the pretreatment stage of the conversion process.
  • Traditionally, laboratory techniques are used to analyze biomass and determine its constituents. Technology now exists, based on NIR spectroscopy, for in field analysis. A NIR source mounted at the tip of a probe is inserted into a bale of biomass. A signal is generated and it is transferred to a spectrometer, which translates the signal to a spectrum. This is analyzed and the composition of the sample in terms of moisture, glucan, xylan is determined on the basis of detailed calibration of the sample with traditional analytical techniques.
  • Feedstock variability depends on ash, moisture and contaminant level. These in turn influence the thermal, physical and chemical attributes of the sample. For example, increased ash content increases the cohesion of biomass particles.
  • All biomass processes require a small particle size. This is usually achieved by using a cruncher, which can handle any moisture content in the biomass. Breaking biomass in small uniform particles, results in lower energy consumption during drying and to a better flow ability.
  • After drying, the particles are stored before they are fed to the unit. It has been shown that with long periods of storage the moisture content increases, mainly in the outer part of the pile. Feeding biomass to the unit is carried out through a chute and eventually through a screw feeder to the process unit. Monitoring of the biomass flow is achieved with acoustic sensors. The same technique enables in situ wear monitoring of the screw feeder.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Dr. Jim Keiser, Distinguished R&D Staff, Corrosion Science & Technology Group

Goal:    To Identify Better Materials For Raw Biomass Processing As Well As Biomass Liquefaction And Bio-Oil Storage

  • Addressing issues with degradation of components used for processing raw biomass
  • Chemically characterizing bio-oils to identify corrosive components
  • Conducting laboratory corrosion studies to determine resistance of metallic and non-metallic materials to bio-oils at anticipated storage and transport conditions
  • Providing coupon and pipe samples for high temperature exposure in operating biomass liquefaction systems
  • Examining exposed samples and degraded components from biomass processing systems as well as operating liquefaction systems

High Temperature Corrosion Studies Require An Entirely Different Approach

  • Most “as-produced” bio-oils will polymerize when held at elevated temperature for any significant time, so a rapidly flowing system would have to be used for elevated temperature tests
  • The supply of bio-oil is insufficient for days or weeks of corrosion studies in once-through flowing systems
  • To be able to get meaningful data, we provide coupons and spool pieces to operators of liquefaction systems and examine degraded components

Companies with established record in Biomass Pyrolysis include:

Ensyn – www.ensyn.com

A Canadian company which produces bio-oil via fluidized bed biomass pyrolysis.

BTG Bioliquids – www.btg-bioliquids.com

A Dutch company producing bio-oil using an innovative rotating cone reactor.

DRY FEEDSTOCKS CONVERTED VIA INDIRECT LIQUEFACTION (IDL) AND UPGRADING DESIGN CASE

In this process, woody biomass is converted to synthesis gas (i.e. syngas) via gasification, followed by gas cleanup and catalytic conversion to liquid fuels (methanol or Fischer-Tropsch). In case of a methanol intermediate, the methanol is dehydrated to dimethyl ether (DME) and catalytically converted via homologation reactions to high octane gasoline hydrocarbon fuel blendstocks. The resulting product is high in branched paraffins, similar to alkylates from petroleum refineries, and has a highly desirable octane number. A schematic diagram of the process is shown below:

The feedstock design for the IDL process utilizes a conventional system that delivers un-processed wood chips from logging residues directly to the process. The ability to accommodate feedstocks derived from lower quality biomass along with less required preprocessing results in lower delivered feestocks. Because this process has feedstock flexibility, many companies are active for producing liquids via the Fischer-Tropsch process followed by hydrocracking and isomerization. Thus, it is possible to manufacture high quality green diesel or jet fuels via the gasification of poor quality feedstocks.

Companies active in IDL technologies include:

Enerkem – www.enerkem.com

Enerkem’s technology converts non-recyclable, non-compostable waste into renewable ethanol, methanol or other renewable chemicals, with better economics and greater sustainability than other technologies relying on fossil sources. Enerkem operates a commercial-scale facility in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada as well as an innovation centre in Westbury, Quebec, Canada. The company is currently developing several facilities around the world, to facilitate the transition to a circular economy.

Velocys – www.velocys.com

The Fischer-Tropsch (FT) process is a catalytic chemical reaction that turns synthesis gas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen) into fuels (liquid hydrocarbons, such as diesel or jet fuel). Velocys has patented a FT process made commercially viable using micro-channel reactors. By combining our reactor with gasification, purification and hydrocracking technologies that have been demonstrated at commercial scale, we can provide an integrated end-to-end process that converts solid wastes, first to synthesis gas and then to liquid transport fuels.

Reference projects:

Altalto, UK, Municipal Solid Waste to jet fuel at full scale

Target start construction in 2022, production 2025

Bayou Fuels, Mississippi, US

Feedstock: woody biomass

Current client: Red Rock Biofuels

Commercial biomass-to-fuels project in Lakeview, Oregon. Broke ground July 2018

Expected output: 15mln gallons/year of renewable fuels

Fulcrum BioEnergy

Fulcrum’s process combines gasification technology with a Fischer-Tropsch (“FT”) fuel process for the efficient, low-cost production of renewable transportation fuels. MSW is delivered to the company’s plants where it is processed to remove recyclable products and other material not suitable for processing. A prepared waste feedstock then enters the gasification process where it is converted to a synthesis gas. This syngas then enters the FT process where it reacts with a proprietary catalyst to form a FT product which is then upgraded to a transportation fuel.

The first project is the Sierra BioFuels Plant located in Storey County, Nevada, approximately 20 miles east of Reno. Once completed, Sierra is expected to process approximately 175,000 tons of MSW feedstock annually, creating 11 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic crude oil, or “syncrude” that will be processed by Marathon Petroleum into transportation fuel.

Oberon fuels

Oberon Fuels has developed proprietary skid-mounted, small-scale production units that convert methane and carbon dioxide to DME from various feedstocks, such as biogas from dairy manure and food waste. This small-scale process circumvents the financial, infrastructure, and permitting challenges that large-scale projects confront. Oberon units have the capacity to produce 10,000 gallons of DME per day to service regional fuel markets.

Oberon’s renewable Dimethyl Ether (rDME) fuel is a cost-effective, low-carbon, zero-soot alternative to petroleum diesel. In addition, rDME is also a cost-effective carrier for hydrogen, making it easy to deliver this renewable fuel for the growing hydrogen fuel cell vehicle industry.

Red Rock Biofuels

Red Rock Biofuels’ technology platform converts waste woody biomass into low-carbon, renewable jet (SAF) and diesel fuels via Gasification & syngas cleanup. Clean syngas is converted into waxes and oils. Waxes and oils are converted into low carbon, renewable jet and diesel fuels.

Red Rock Biofuels’ first project in Lakeview, Oregon is nearing completion and anticipates start-up in Spring 2021. Lakeview, Oregon provides the ideal combination of proximity to feedstock, transportation and community support for our first Red Rock Biofuels project. This southeastern area of Oregon offers an abundant source of waste woody biomass and excellent transportation access to the major low carbon fuel markets in the US and Canada.

Converts approximately 166,000 dry tons of waste woody biomass into 16.1 million gallons/year of low-carbon, renewable jet and diesel fuels.

Sierra Energy

The FastOx system uses heat, steam and oxygen to break down waste at the molecular level. Organic materials turn into an energy-dense syngas. Inorganics melt into a non-leaching stone. Waste undergoes complete conversion into high value products without burning. There are no toxic byproducts and no process emissions.

Converting Waste via Fastox Gasification, which is a modified blast furnace: synthesis gas to hydrogen or electricity or fuels.

The 50 metric ton per day unit will consist of several equipment isles, each designed to be transported separately and assembled onsite. The complete system will have a maximum height of 35 feet and requires a quarter acre of land.

Ways2H

Hydrogen from Waste via gasification. AGM Model 5: a mobile solution that fits into 3 stackable 20’ containers. 1 ton/d module produces 50kg H2 a day.

DRY FEEDSTOCKS CONVERTED VIA LOW TEMPERATURE AND UPGRADING

This process scheme includes deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, hybrid conversion approaches (a combination of biochemical and catalytic), separation of desired intermediates, and upgrading of lignin. This configuration starts with low temperature deconstruction of biomass into sugars and lignin, followed by fermentation of sugars to either 2,3 butane diol (2,3-BDO) or mixed acid-intermediates followed by catalytic conversion of the resulting intermediate streams into fuels and coproducts as illustrated in the diagram below:

The above process scheme is based on deacetylation and mechanical refining (DMR) pretreatment of biomass, followed by hydrolysis with cellulose and hemicellulase enzymes. The resulting whole slurry hydrolysate including solids is routed to fermentation with an engineered Zymomonas mobilis organism to produce 2,3 –BDO.

The aqueous 2,3 BDO product is clarified and then undergoes a series of catalytic upgrading steps: dehydration, oligomerization, and hydroprocessing to produce finished hydrocarbon fuels. The lignin streams from the pretreatment and pot fermentation solids removal steps are mixed and undergo a separate upgrading process, starting with deconstruction to monomers and followed by upgrading to coproducts (adipic acid).

Data presented in the ABLC 2020 conference by Michael Berube, active vice secretary of the Department of Transportation, report that the goal of the above route is to produce liquid fuel with a target cost for a Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE) of 2.49  $ by 2030.

Let us now analyze a few presentations related to the above two processing schemes.

BIOMASS DECONSTRUCTION PROCESS

National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Xiaowen Chen

The DMR deconstruction process produces high quality sugar and lignin streams.

The Deacetylation and Mechanical Refining Process (DMR):

  • Provides high quality sugar and lignin streams
  • Achieves high sugar yields with low enzyme loadings
  • Provides reliable and consistent operation
  • Economically viable
  • LCA improvement

High quality means:

  • High sugar concentration
  • Low in acetate
  • Low in furfural and HMF
  • Low in other fermentation inhibitors and catalyst poisons

Produces reactive lignin stream means:

  • Less lignin condensation reactions
  • High monomer concentration and low molecular weight lignin
  • Lignin moieties in black liquor are mostly monomers/dimers and higher MW fraction (>420 Da) comes from mainly oligosaccharides.
  • Deacetylation released p-Coumaric and ferulic acids from deacetylation black liquor can be directly converted into adipic acid through biological funneling process developed by Beckham and his team at NREL.
  • The mild conditions of deacetylation process maintain most β-O-4 bonds remaining in solid phase lignin, which will be essential for downstream process to depolymerize and upgrade the lignin.
  • Details on some of the process steps were presented during the ABLC conference and a summary follows next.

Companies utilizing the biochemical scheme are presented in a later section.

Let us now move to summarize key messages for various areas of bioeconomy:

DIESEL – JET FUEL

There are two different types of raw materials to use for the production of Green Diesel and Jet Fuel:

  1. Plant derived oils, animal fats, algae oil and used cooking oils are used as a raw material for deoxygenation followed by isomerization and fractionation.
  2. Waste materials, woody biomass, agricultural wastes used for gasification to produce syngas, which after cleaning is converted to liquids via the Fischer-Tropsch reaction followed with wax hydrocracking and fractionation.

A schematic diagram of the first scheme is shown below:

A schematic process diagram of the second route is shown below:

WET FEEDSTOCKS CONVERTED VIA HIGH TEMPERATURE AND UPGRADING

THE HTL PROCESS

In hydrothermal liquefaction, suspended biomass in water is pressurized and heated to temperatures near the critical point of water and kept at this temperature for several minutes. During this process a multitude of reactions take place, including chain scission, hydrolysis, decarboxylation and elimination of water. The latter are responsible for the large drop in oxygen content from the feedstock (50%) to the produced bio-crude (10-15%), as oxygen is eliminated as water and carbon dioxide.

Following the reaction, the process fluid is cooled and depressurized and the phases are separated. The produced oil is separated and if necessary filtered for a minor fraction of solid byproduct (bio-char). The gas phase is emitted and the water phase, containing a range of soluble organics, is valorized by anaerobic digestion to biogas, allowing nutrients to be recovered. In general, the produced oil phase will contain from 70% to 80% of the energy content of the biomass feedstock.

The following companies have developed HTL technology:

Bio2oilwww.bio2oil.dk

Process origin: Bio2Oil was developed in collaboration with researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark. Plug flow reactor – with no constrictions with the following key elements:

  • A continuous feed pumping allowing pumping of high dry matter streams.
  • A patented oscillatory flow system improving heat recovery, reducing viscosity and improving plug flow characteristics.
  • A proprietary solid state heat recovery system with demonstrated heat recovery up to 85%.

Feedstock used: It can use almost any organic feedstock and works well with wet wastes, such as sewage sludge, agricultural waste and many more.

Process conditions: Typical process conditions are 15-20% dry matter in feed with a reaction temperature around 350°C, a pressure around 250 bar and a reaction in the range of 10 to 20 minutes.

Products: The primary output, bio-crude, is of higher quality compared to other processes, and can be upgraded for refining into drop-in fuels – gasoline, diesel, kerosene, heavy fuel oil etc. – using traditional method. Liquid yield: 35% on dry feed, Oxygen content: 10-15%, Energy efficiency: 70%.

Commercial implementation: A cost efficient and compact plant design with a footprint of just two 40ft containers capable of treating 4000t of dry matter per year. Unit cost: 2.3 Million $.

Licella – www.licella.com.au

Process origin: Invented in Australia by Dr. Len Humpries and Prof. Thomas Maschmeyer.

Feedstocks used: Chemically transforming biomass and other organic based material (even non-recyclable plastic).

Process conditions: Hydroliquefaction under high T and P for a 20-30 residence time.

Products: Licella’s biocrude is renewable, stable, miscible and non-corrosive. Licella’s biocrude is capable of being blended within a conventional refinery to produce drop-in biofuels and valuable biochemicals.

Commercial implementation: 2020 – The first commercial Cat-HTR plant comes online in the UK, as part of the JV with Armstrong Energy. This commercial plant will be built in Wilton in the North East of the UK and will convert 20,000 tonnes of End-of-Life Plastic per annum. The JV will sub-license the Cat-HTR technology for End-of-Life Plastics to waste producers globally.

Licella’s Cat-HTR (Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor), is the most commercially advanced hydrothermal upgrading platform globally. With over $75M invested over 10 years of development, the Cat-HTR is the only platform of its kind proven at large pilot scale.

GENIFUELwww.genifuel.com

Process origin: The system was developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), part of the US Department of Energy. Genifuel technology includes licenses from the US Department of Energy, which developed it for more than 40 years at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Feedstocks used: The Genifuel process has been tested with over 100 materials, including wastewater solids, food processing wastes, brewery wastes, animal wastes, algae, and many others.

Process conditions: The technology is called Hydrothermal Processing (HTP) and is similar to the formation of fossil fuels, but in 30 minutes rather than millions of years • HTP uses temperature, pressure, and water to eliminate wet waste by converting it to oil and gas.

Products: Regardless of feedstock, the organic material is collected and then processed in the hydrothermal system, which achieves very fast conversion of the organic content of the wet biomass. The output of the system is biocrude oil or natural gas, or both, depending on how the system is configured.

Commercial implementation: Focus on Wastewater. Large market – over 16,000 wastewater utilities in US – Additional market in Canada, Europe and other countries. Biocrude is upgraded and refined, or blended directly with diesel fuel.

STEEPER ENERGY – www.steeperenergy.com

Process origin: Steeper energy is the world leader of advanced biofuels from low-value biomass.

Feedstocks used: Forest and agricultural residues, urban source separated wastes, animal manures, algae.

Process conditions: Hydrofaction is Steeper Energy’s proprietary implementation of hydrothermal liquefaction which applies supercritical water as a reaction medium for the conversion of biomass directly into high energy density renewable crude oil. The process conditions, with the operating temperature and pressure well above the critical point of water, and the use of homogeneous catalysts promote chemical reactions which lead to the formation of low-oxygen renewable crude oil.

Products: Very high oil yields, about 45% on mass basis, 85+ % on energy basis. Carbon conversion ratio greater than 60%, high heating value of the crude oil produced 38+ MJ/kg. Hydrofaction oil can be upgraded into renewable diesel, marine and/or jet fuel at existing refineries.

Commercial implementation: Steeper Energy is partnering with Silva Green Fuel, a Norwegian-Swedish joint venture, to construct a $59M industrial scale demonstration plant at a former pulp mill located in Tofte, Norway leading to a future commercial scale project.

Silva is a joint venture between Norway’s Statkraft, a leading company in hydropower internationally and Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, and Sweden’s Södra, a cooperative of 50,000 forest owners with extensive forestry operations and a leading producer of paper pulp, sawn timber and bioenergy.

Start-up is planned for spring 2019, with a capacity of about 4,000 liters per day. The raw material will consist of residual products from the forest industry. Silva Green Fuel is 49-percent owned by Södra and 51-percent owned by Statkraft — the partnership was formed in 2014 when Statkraft acquired Södra Cell Tofte AS, which owns the industrial site of the former Tofte pulp plant in Hurum, Norway.

AVIATION FUELS SUMMIT

Air travel contributes 2% of the greenhouse emissions. The industry emission target is 50% net CO2 reduction by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. This means that at least 50% of the fossil derived jet fuels used by airlines have to be replaced by renewable sources derived fuel.

There is extensive activity by the academia and companies to come up with new methods for producing jet fuel. Among them, the following seem to have at present a competitive edge:

  • Use of waste materials, like MSW, agricultural residues, forestry residues. These materials are gasified at high temperature and pressure, using various reactor types. The produced synthesis gas, after cleaning, is converted to a wax like liquid in a Fischer-Tropsch reactor. The wax after hydrocracking, a method using specific catalysts, and operating at high temperature and pressure is converted to lighter products. These are fractionated into light gases, naphtha, jet fuel and diesel.
  • Use of fat oils and greases, vegetable oils, and cooking oils are first hydrogenated with hydrogen at moderate pressures and temperatures to remove oxygen from the oil. The deoxygenated oil is then isomerized and fractionated to obtain jet fuel.
  • Use of industrial off gases using microprobes to produce ethanol, which after dehydration is converted to ethylene. The latter after oligomerization is converted to higher olefins, and these after hydrogenation produce saturated hydrocarbons. Following fractionation a stream of jet fuel is produced.

It is estimated that in United States all above methods have the potential to produce jet fuel to satisfy 58% of the airlines needs for jet fuel. An important factor for the acceleration of the wide spread production of sustainable jet fuel is the adoption of tax incentives, such as RIN, LCFS, and tax incentive. Adoption of these measures will provide incentives to petroleum companies to reallocate their assets for producing sustainable fuels.

MARINE AND HEAVY DUTY BIOFUEL OPPORTUNITIES

The marine industry today is using Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) containing 0.5 wt% sulfur. Biofuels are studied as potential components of marine fuels. There are several candidates under consideration:

Short term:

RNG as a replacement for HFO.

Biodiesel as a marine fuel or with blending with HFO is extensively studied by:

ExxonMobil:

  • Biodiesel blend study in US
  • Visible reduction in soot emissions

Maersk/Shell:  World’s largest biofuel pilot demonstration

  • Operated a merchant ship on HFO containing 20% biodiesel (600 tons)

Renewable diesel is favorably examined by many companies.

  • Renewable diesel is being looked at by GoodFuels as a marine fuel.

Medium term:

  • Bio-oils have shown good blend compatibility and stability with HFO
  • Bio-oils can significantly lower the viscosity of HFO, thereby reducing fuel preheating needs
  • Bio-oil can be blended with HFO up to 15 mass % without any negative impact to combustion quality

DOE is sponsoring an inter laboratory study to evaluate bio-oil as a marine fuel.

  • Special emphasis was put on bio-intermediates derived from fast pyrolysis to avoid the high cost of upgrading (which increases cost dramatically)

RENEWABLE NATURAL GAS

Biogas is a by-product of how society handles wastes

  • Biogas is a mixture of methane, carbon dioxide and other gases
  • It is produced when household and industrial waste decay in landfills and waste digesters

The main sources of Biogas or Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) are: Landfills, Wastewater, and Manure. RNG from landfills is usually used for the production of electricity. RNG as replacement to natural gas offers an effective way of decarbonizing the pipes. RNG from manure offers itself for decentralized applications for either electricity or conversion to hydrogen or liquid fuels.

Problems to solve

  • Break down particles to enhance Methane production and reduce COD with Sonication while destroying pathogens.
  • Remove organic and inorganic impurities from waste water streams with Multi-Effect Process and allow water recycle.
  • Remove the H2S from Biogas to increase engine life, avoid chemical use, and create valuable H2 and S co-products.
  • Recover water from cooling towers for re-use.

RENEWABLE CHEMICALS

The production of chemicals from biomass can follow two different paths:

CATALYTIC ROUTE

  1. Anellotech

Convert biomass to liquid products and then attempt to separate specific chemical compounds. This route applies to pyrolysis products of either biomass or plastics. Anellotech claims that it can produce large volumes of BTX via biomass or plastics pyrolysis in a fluid bed reactor. However, literature data do not support such claim. Assuming that pine wood pyrolysis can produce 72 gallons per ton of dry biomass is not realistic. Since no detail mass and energy balances have been reported for the Anellotech process, it is practically impossible to carry out a due diligence study on the viability of the process scheme promoted by Anellotech.

  1. Avantium

Proprietary catalytic technology converts plant based sugars (fructose) into furandicarboxyloc acids (FDCA), a monomer for producing polyethylene furonoate (PEF). Mono-ethylene glycol (MEG) is produced through a one step hydrogenolysis process based on sugars.

BIOCHEMICAL ROUTE

  1. Pretreat biomass to separate it into sugars and lignin streams. Then apply chemical or biological methods to produce specific molecules. This process scheme is applied by many companies. A few examples follow:
  • Amyris: Squalene from cane syrup via fermentation of sugars. Squalene used as adjuvents in vaccines; sugarcane Reb M weetener produced from sugarcane sugar via fermentation using a yeast engineered by Amyris.

  • Fluid Quip Technologies: Engineering technology company: Corn syrup to isobutylenes, glucose via fermentation to acetone, lysine, succinic acid.
  • Geltor: Biodesigned proteins for the beauty industry.
  • Genomatica: They apply a system level approach to design microorganisms (like bacteria or yeast) for production processes. For example Enchericia coli strain for direct production of 1,4 butanediol from sugars.
  • Gevo: Sugars are converted to isobutanol via proprietary fermentation technologies. Isobutanol is then converted via proprietary catalytic chemistry to either isobutane or jet fuels.

  • Natureworks: sugars > microorganisms > lactic acid > Polylactic acid (PLA).
  • Pyranco: Pyran’s 1,5-pentaniol (1,5-PDO) is produced from renewable resources and it belongs to the class of compounds called diols.
  • industries: Base oils or sugars > fermentation > polyhydroxyalanoate (PHA).
  • Lanzatech uses flue gases or gasification gases to produce ethanol with the scheme illustrated below:

PLASTICS RECYCLING

Plastics recycle is receiving great attention due to the fact that most of todays polymers are not biodegradable. Recycling plastics requires sorting them out of many impurities, like metals, paper and other inorganic constituents. In order to select the method of recycling, it is further required to classify the plastics to the various categories according to their method of synthesis.

The method of interest to us is the thermal or catalytic degradation. According to literature thermal degradation results in waxy products, while catalytic degradation yields olefins and BTX.

Another important consideration is the reactor technology for the decomposition process. Fluid bed reactors are very effective, but require small particle size and this may increase the processing cost. As a result a hybrid reactor should be designed, composed of two stages. In the first stage, large particles can be accepted. The total product from the first stage enters a short contact time second stage reactor. The vapor and catalyst flow through a down flow reactor to a separation zone. The vapors are led to a cooler and a quench column, while the catalyst is regenerated before returning to the first state reactor.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Thought Leadership, Top Stories

Thank you for visting the Digest.