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Producing fuels from biomass

The BioTfueL project - Questions to Laurent Bournay, IFPEN Project Manager

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The objective of the BioTfueL project, launched in 2010, is to develop a production chain for 2nd-generation diesel and kerosene-type biofuels. BioTfuel is supported by Ademe (French Environment and Energy Management Agency demonstrator fund) and by Picardy regional council. The project brings together R&D bodies - IFP Energies nouvelles and the CEA - and industrial players - Axens, Sofiprotéol, Total and ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions. This partnership makes it possible to cover the entire chain, from the resource to the fuel, and from R&D to industry.

 

Laurent  Bournay
 

Questions to...

   

Laurent Bournay, BioTfueL Project Manager

 
Co-treatment is one of the specific features of the BioTfueL project. What does it consist of? 

L. B.: The BioTfueL project favors co-treatment, i.e. the possibility of treating the broadest possible range of biomass and fossil resources (BxTL process). It falls within the scope of IFP Energies nouvelles’ strategy for the diversification of fuel sources and the reduction of CO2 emissions.

For profitability reasons, 2nd generation biofuel production requires large industrial units, which it must be possible to feed constantly. However, biomass is a seasonal, varied and dispersed resource. Within BioTfueL, we have opted for flexibility, favoring the innovative co-treatment concept.

The objective is to treat not only a broad range of biomass feedstock, but also other solid or liquid fossil resources, such as refining residues or coal. The product obtained will be a combined fossil fuel/biofuel mixture, the biofuel content being dependent on the share of biomass contained in the feedstock, which itself will vary as a function of seasons and production sites.

Furthermore, this flexibility in terms of choice of raw materials makes it possible to increase the yield of the process chain and reduce the fuel production cost. In addition to the reduction in CO2 emissions linked to the use of biomass, co-treatment therefore reduces the cost of each ton of CO2 avoided.

 

What technological barriers need to be overcome to implement co-treatment?

L. B.: The conversion of cellulosic biomass into synfuels involves several successive stages, which currently have different levels of technological maturity. The project's partners have chosen torrefaction as the biomass pretreatment process, for example. This is one of the main technological factors holding back the program since there is currently no continuous large-capacity industrial application for torrefaction.

The gasification technology opted for (pressurized entrained flow gasification) is used industrially for fossil feedstock, but will require substantial modifications for the injection of biomass alone or as co-treatment. The purification of synthetic gas comprises a number of stages. Some of these, which have been mastered for fossil feedstocks, need to be adapted and validated on a gas produced from biomass feedstock. Other steps, linked to impurities specific to the nature of the biomass, also need to be developed and validated.

Research will also aim to select the most effective process chain in energy and environmental terms. As far as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is concerned, this will be based on the Gasel™ process developed by IFP Energies nouvelles with Axens and Eni. But it will be necessary to validate the performance of cobalt catalysts with respect to the quality of the gas produced.

Finally, and above all, once developed and/or adapted to a fossil/biomass co-treatment, these different technologies will need to be assembled, integrated in order to improve the mass and energy yields and then validated on several demonstration pilot units in order to guarantee their efficiency on an industrial scale.

BioTfueL production chain in 4 steps - © IFPEN

Principle of thermochemical 2nd-generation biofuel production
© IFP Energies nouvelles

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See also

+ Industrial development > Refining-Petrochemicals | Biofuels and green chemistry

+ News > Specific issue: Second-generation biodiesel and biojet fuel - IFPEN partner of BioTfueL project

+ video (3.30 min)


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