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Woody Biomass Converted to Gasoline by Five-Company Team

October 22, 2015 - 10:50am

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A tanker picks up gasoline from the biorefinery. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

A tanker picks up gasoline from the biorefinery. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

A tanker picks up gasoline from the biorefinery. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

A tanker picks up gasoline from the biorefinery. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

Track cars test gasoline with 45% derived from woody biomass. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

Track cars test gasoline with 45% derived from woody biomass. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

A tanker picks up gasoline from the biorefinery. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute
A tanker picks up gasoline from the biorefinery. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute
Track cars test gasoline with 45% derived from woody biomass. | Photo courtesy The Gas Technology Institute

An international consortium of five companies and organizations came together in a joint effort to transform woody biomass, including trees and wood waste, into a gasoline product suitable for use in today’s automobiles. Through their collaborative efforts, Haldor Topsoe, The Gas Technology Institute, Andritz Oy, UPM-Kymmene Corporation, and Phillips 66 succeeded in producing more than 10,000 gallons of gasoline. This gasoline passed the engine emission test for registration as a transportation fuel by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The collaborative project was cost shared between the project participants and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) using funding provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The purpose of the project was to design and demonstrate the conversion of non-food biomass feedstocks to transportation fuel. BETO is focusing its technology demonstration and market penetration efforts on demonstrating pathways of producing biofuels from biomass such as tree harvesting residues, agricultural residue, grasses, and algae.

The Haldor Topsoe process converts woody biomass to green gasoline with 74% lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional petroleum-derived gasoline. The Haldor Topsoe gasoline has similar octane levels of commercial gasoline blends, and has been demonstrated to provide the same type of engine performance.

The wood pellets were prepared at an independent mill in Ladysmith, Wisconsin, and shipped to the Gas Technology Institute’s facility in Des Plaines, Illinois. The wood was converted to a synthesis gas with a fluidized-bed steam-oxygen gasifier, and tars and other impurities were removed from the synthesis gas by a catalytic tar reformer jointly developed by Andritz and Haldor Topsoe.

Following synthesis gas cleanup and compression, the resulting clean synthesis gas was converted to gasoline through the Topsoe Improved Gasoline Synthesis process, which features a combined methanol-dimethyl ether synthesis reactor. This conversion process was then followed by a catalytic transformation of the dimethyl ether into gasoline long hydrocarbons.

After the fuel was produced, Phillips 66 analyzed the resulting gasoline at its research center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, to determine its chemical contents. Following characterization, some of this gasoline was sent to the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. There, the fuel was used in single-engine emissions testing. The test results were used by Phillips 66 for the EPA registration application. In August 2015, EPA approved the application, thereby registering the gasoline blend that is up to 80% biogasoline from a renewable cellulosic source. The registration belongs to Phillips 66.

Following the engine test, the remainder of the fuel was blended with conventional gasoline, ethanol, and other additives to make a green gasoline blend-fuel for a fleet test that was supervised by Phillips 66. The blend was 45% bio-gasoline, 45% conventional gasoline, and 10% ethanol.

Eight cars and trucks were used in the comparison fleet test. Each vehicle logged 75,000 miles. Four of the vehicles used a green gasoline blend, and four used conventional gasoline. No statistically significant differences in performance were observed between the vehicles used in the fleet test. These test results show that this international consortium have successfully developed a process capable of producing a gasoline fuel that is compatible with existing automobiles.

The continued expansion of biofuel technologies can contribute to greenhouse gas reduction goals, displace petroleum imports, and spur job creation-making them a valuable component of the President’s Climate Action Plan. To learn more about cooperative projects supported and/or managed by BETO, visit bioenergy.energy.gov.

 

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