Sunday, October 24, 2010

Biofuels Technology: Not Standing Still for Anyone

New Oil Resources' plant in Louisiana is utilising hydrothermal liquefaction of biomass, and subsequent direct production of transportation fuels from liquefaction products.
Louisiana-based startup New Oil Resources (NOR) is commercializing a near-critical (i.e., 320-390 °C, 200-420 bar) aqueous phase process which converts biomass containing cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin into a high-octane gasoline fraction. New Oil Resources licensed the technology (US Patent 6,180,845) in 2009 from Louisiana State University (LSU); the original developers of the process are Drs. James Catallo and Thomas Junk.

Catallo and Junk determined that reacting organic compounds in near-critical or supercritical aqueous phases can transform the compounds over short time periods (i.e., minutes to hours) into petroleum-like hydrocarbon mixtures. The reductive process is conducted in anaerobic or near-anaerobic conditions, essentially free of any strong oxidants. Strong reducing agents or other co-reactants may be added to tailor product distributions...

...Some 70% to 80% of the energy in the feed is returned in the final products. The remaining 20% to 30% of the energy is used to run the process. The process has a small footprint, produces renewable energy and is water friendly. It also utilizes technology and equipment already in use in the petrochemicals industry.

Our advantage is that we apply basic chemistry instead of using biological processes or relying on catalysts. The chemistry we use is similar to gas phase kinetics which is more reliable and much easier to scale up.

Our process is similar to that used by several companies worldwide. We use hot water to depolymerize the cellulose, lignins, lipids and other polymers contained in the biomass. The difference between all these companies is what you do next. We impact the chemistry so that the depolymerized biomass turns into the products we want. Cellulosic material comes out of our process as oxygen free aliphatics containing five to eight carbon atoms and aromatics. This product is similar to the high octane gasoline produced in petroleum refineries.
Dr. Gary Miller _GCC
The New Oil process claims near 80% energy yields from feedstock, with the versatility of creating either hydrocarbons or alcohols as final products. Meanwhile, Tuskegee University and Florida State University are exploring various means of deoxygenating bioliquids in order to directly form hydrocarbons from biomass.



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