The new plant for converting cellulose and forest waste into environmentally friendly biofuels fits into a container, one of the latest advances in Europe in the production of biofuels from forest waste.
In the courtyard of the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg, in a container, is a factory capable of turning wood waste into high-quality gasoline. This is the practical application of BIOGO, a European project which aims to create a fully integrated and comprehensive process for the production of “environmentally friendly” biofuels from waste and new nanocatalysts.
The raw material comes directly from the forests, as explained by Professor Gunther Kolb of Fraunhofer IMM, the coordinator of the EU project.
Cellulose waste and tree bark are available in large quantities across Europe, but have been ignored as a resource until now. This makes them an ideal raw material as they do not need to be specifically cultivated and therefore will not compete with food production.
The production of biofuels from forest residues is considered an attractive technological option because it is “neutral” from an emissions point of view and, unlike oil, does not require transport infrastructure from the source to the refineries and then to the stations. -service.
“An important element of the BIOGO concept is decentralized generation,” says Kolb. “To achieve this goal, we have developed mobile production units that can be housed in containers and installed where needed.
In a very small space (12 x 3 x 3 meters), the prototype plant integrates all the procedural and processing steps to obtain biofuels from forest residues.
The first phase, developed by the Italian company Spike Renewables, involves the transformation of cellulose waste into a dark and viscous pyrolysis oil. This can be further processed in the “mobile factory” thanks to micro-reactors invented by Fraunhofer, small reaction chambers which transform it into synthesis gas by adding heat, air and steam. Synthesis gas is used to produce methanol in a second phase. And extracting oxygen from alcohol produces synthetic gasoline.
“The challenge – adds the German researcher – was to optimize the process to obtain a fuel chemically indistinguishable from standard gasoline”, while making the production process as environmentally friendly as possible and more efficient in the use of resources.
In the BIOGO project, scientists at Teer Coatings played a key role in inventing a method for applying small particles of catalytically active substances to surfaces. This produces high performance nanocatalysts which save resources. In the coming years, scientists aim to improve the technology, with the aim of producing up to 1000 liters of fuel per day.