Thursday, November 10, 2011

This Is How Biofuels Can Make Monkeys Out of Energy Analysts

Image Source

Using the IH2 (integrated hydropyrolysis and hydroconversion) technique developed by GTI, and licensed by Shell subsidiary CRI, making high quality gasoline and diesel directly from cheap biomass has suddenly become a viable prospect.

So far, New Zealand based company Aquaflow (PDF) appears to be taking the lead in developing practical uses for this technology. Aquaflow has an agreement with CRI to develop waste biomass to gasoline and diesel plants, and is planning the first of these plants in Queensland, Australia.
EERE PDF Image Source

Aquaflow is developing the use of a mixed feedstock approach to IH2 conversion, which is able to incorporate wood waste, agricultural waste (such as cane bagasse), and micro-algae biomass, among other forms of cellulosic biomass. Such an approach allows for a versatile approach to feedstock supply, allowing such plants to negotiate the best pricing for feedstock from a wide array of sources.
EERE PDF Image Source
While there are plenty of other approaches to producing high quality hydrocarbon fuels from waste biomass, the IH2 approach as approached by Aquaflow appears to be the frontrunner.

According to Al Fin energy analysts, micro-algae and macro-algae are the most prolific biomass crops available. They can be grown in salty and brackish water, as well as waste water. In fact, over 80% of the Earth's surface is suitable for growing algae biomass, due to the ability to grow algae in saltwater (oceans), in the deserts, or in freshwater.

It makes sense to combine the most prolific form of biomass with the most efficient process for converting biomass to high value fuels, at least in the short to intermediate term.

Long-term, we are likely to see synthetic biological approaches to producing fuels and chemicals which will be very difficult to compete against, for thermochemical approaches such as pyrolysis or gasification. On the other hand, once advanced nuclear energy technologies are finally adopted, there should be no shortage of cheap process heat available for driving a wide range of clean thermochemical conversions to fuel and chemicals -- including biomass to liquids, gas to liquids, coal to liquids, kerogens to liquids, bitumens to liquids, gas hydrates to liquids, etc etc.

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