Group achieves pilot-scale production of gasoline from woody biomass

Pulp & Paper Canada
June 18, 2014
By Pulp & Paper Canada

The Gas Technology Institute (GTI) has completed a project with Haldor Topsoe, Inc. that successfully produced a high-octane, renewable “drop-in” gasoline from woody biomass using an integrated biorefinery. The lengthy project used some Andritz technology and wood fibre form UPM.

“Over the past four years, we've demonstrated an economically viable method for thermochemical conversion of woody biomass into gasoline. We’re extremely pleased with the positive results and the potential to meet growing energy needs with cost-effective and clean renewable resources," says Rick Knight, GTI engineer and manager of the installation, integration, and operational testing at GTI.

The pilot-scale project, supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) integrated biorefineries program, converted wood into bio-derived gasoline by fully integrating and optimizing biomass gasification and syngas cleanup steps with a unique process to turn syngas into gasoline.

The test campaigns took place at GTI’s state-of-the-art gasification campus in metro Chicago. First a GTI-based Andritz-Carbona biomass gasifier turned wood into syngas. That syngas was cleaned of tars and other contaminants in a reforming process jointly developed by Andritz-Carbona and Haldor Topsoe. Then the GTI Morphysorb® process removed carbon dioxide and sulfur gases in an acid gas removal (AGR) pilot unit. For the last step, the Haldor Topsoe Improved Gasoline Synthesis (TIGAS™) process converted the syngas into gasoline blendstock. Other partners included forest products company UPM, who provided the wood feedstock, and Phillips 66, who assisted with design, supervised fuel testing, arranged fleet testing and provided funding.

In October 2013 the team produced about 4,000 gallons of gasoline suitable for use as a gasoline blendstock. This was used for single-engine emissions testing, demonstrating that renewable gasoline would meet EPA standards in blends up to 80%. The final test campaign in March 2014 produced sufficient quantities for testing to prove that the gasoline can be used in existing automobile engines.

“For the first time, all the individual steps are now integrated into one plant to produce transportation fuel. In the future, biomass may be a significant feedstock source and the combination of technologies demonstrated in this project will be part of the solution to the future fuel supply," notes Niels Udengaard, syngas technology manager and overall project lead, Haldor Topsoe.

The fuel produced in March, about 7,770 gallons, has been sent to a blending facility in Michigan to prepare it for a fleet test at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty, Ohio. Four pairs of vehicles will each log 75,000 miles comparing performance of the bio-based gasoline blend with conventional gasoline. Results will be available in September 2014.

GTI is a research, development and training organization. Haldor Topsoe is a Danish company operating in the field of catalysis and related process technologies.

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