Monday, February 02, 2009

Bioliq Biofuels

Biofuels cannot replace fossil fuels currently. But as the infrastructure for biomass and bioenergy grows, and the economics of bioenergy improves, biofuels will gradually displace fossil fuels. One promising approach comes from Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, called bioliq, described previously at AFE. Bioliq involves pyrolysis of biomass, then gasification to syngas, then synthesis of fuels from syngas.
Bioliq is now taking its first steps towards commercialisation. In conjunction with the German process engineering company Lurgi, KIT is starting to construct a pilot plant based on the bioliq technology, which should be fully completed in 2012. Providing the technology works at this scale, the question then will be how best to implement bioliq at a larger scale, so that it can effectively compete with fossil fuels.....

.....Dahmen and his colleagues quickly realised that incorporating both the pyrolysis and gasification steps at this central plant wouldn't work, because of the problems and expense involved in transporting sufficient quantities of bulky straw and wood to the plant. They estimated that if sufficient plant material was transported on trucks, it would quickly bring the road network around the plant to a halt.

So they came up with an alternative set-up. "Biomass is pre-treated in around 50 regionally distributed pyrolysis plants to produce the biosyncrude," explains Dahmen. "This can then be transported economically over long distances to supply a central fuel production plant with a high capacity."

The advantage of this set-up is that it is much cheaper and more convenient to transport liquid biosyncrude than bulky wood and straw. This is especially the case if the biosyncrude is transported by rail, which is the most cost effective way to transport material over long distances. _Bioenergy
It is rather fascinating that the KIT researchers arrived at the same conclusions as Al Fin in regard to the integration of local/regional pyrolisis plants with more centrally located gasification/synthesis plants. It certainly makes sense to pre-process biomass near the harvest site, and compact it. Then ship compacted biomass to a nearby regional pyrolysis plant. Finally, at a more centrally located gasification/synthesis plant, the final synthetic fuels and chemicals are produced. I am pleased that tenured and well-paid scientists and engineers were able to re-create Al Fin's reasoning on this point. ;-) Perhaps they will eventually catch up on the topic of biomass torrefaction.

On the topic of feedstock, eucalyptus appears to be one promising type of tree -- besides the poplar -- that combines growth in marginal soil with rapid biomass production. Eucalyptus is more energy-dense than most woods, so the economics may work out better than for poplar, as long as growth is equivalent. I would like to see research done on the torrefaction of eucalyptus. I suspect the energy density of torrefied eucalyptus to be remarkably close to that of coal.

More information and links here.



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