Friday, August 15, 2008

Local and Regional Scale Biofuels Refineries

Al Fin has always promoted bioenergy on the local and regional scales. Biomass and biofuels crops are ideal for meeting the economic and energy needs of localities and regions. New technology from Oxford Catalysts seems ideal for the use of local bioenergy refineries:
With approximately one tonne of biomass required to produce one barrel of liquid fuel, the transportation of biomass to a large-scale, centralized plant poses a challenge to the economics of biomass-to-liquids production. One approach being taken to address this is the development of small-scale Fischer-Tropsch reactors to convert the waste on a distributed basis locally rather than at large collection centers.

Microchannel reactors—compact reactors featuring channels with diameters in the millimeter range—are potentially the best candidates for this job. They enable more efficient and precise temperature control, and the small diameter channels dissipate heat more quickly than conventional reactors with larger channel diameters in the 20-30 mm (i.e. inch) range so more active catalysts can be used. As a result, microchannel reactors can exhibit conversion efficiencies in the range of 70% per pass.

Microchannel reactors are designed for economical production on a small scale. A single microchannel reactor block might produce up to 50 barrels (bbls) of liquid fuel/day. Conventional FT plants, in contrast, are designed to work at minimum capacities of 2,000 bbls/day, and function well and economically at capacities of 30,000 bbls/day or higher. They exhibit conversion efficiencies in the range of 50% or less per pass. _GCC
Eventually, the infrastructure for large scale biomass to biofuels conversion will be built to meet national and international needs. But for the next few decades, the small-biorefinery niche will present huge opportunities for local investors, farmers, foresters, and entrepreneurs. A bioenergy industry grown from the bottom up is the type of empowerment that should suit rural communities in both the developed world and the third world.

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