Sunday, December 18, 2011

BioBoost: One Rational Bioenergy Infrastructure

BioBoost will focus on the production of various energy-rich intermediate products from biogenous residues and on testing and evaluating them with regard to their usability in, for example, the bioliq process. In addition to the BioSynCrude generated by flash pyrolysis in the bioliq process, BioBoost will produce, optimize, and evaluate other intermediate products.

Moreover, the project will cover the analysis of economic efficiency of the complete process, optimization of logistics chains, and the investigation of environmental compatibility. The objective is to significantly improve the efficiency of the use of biomass and residues in the future.

In addition to the production of customized fuels, such as diesel, gasoline, or kerosene, scientists will also investigate the production of chemicals such as methanol, ethylene, and propylene as well as plastics. Generation of electricity and heat from the energy-rich intermediate product also is subject of BioBoost._GCC

Transitioning from an economic infrastructure that is almost wholly dependent upon fossil fuels, to a hybrid infrastructure which can utilise a wide variety of energy and power sources, will be an expensive and time-consuming process. It is a good thing that various groups -- including the BioBoost consortium in Europe -- are devoting the necessary time and due diligence toward devising a rational bioenergy infrastructure which can contribute economically to the energy and power infrastructure of the future.
BioBoost is one of two projects for the development of new energy carriers selected for funding under the 7th EU Research Framework Programme from numerous proposals. The project will have a duration of three and a half years and be funded by the EU with a total amount of nearly €5.1 million (US$6.6 million). Funding granted to KIT will amount to nearly €1 million (US$1.3 million).

...The BioBoost project concentrates on dry and wet residual biomass and wastes as feedstock for de-centralized conversion by fast pyrolysis, catalytic pyrolysis and hydrothermal carbonization to the intermediate energy carriers oil, coal or slurry. Based on straw, the energy density increases from 2 to 20-31 GJ/m3, enabling central GW-scale gasification plants for biofuel production. The catalytic pyrolysis reduces oxygenates in the oil to 13% enabling power and refinery applications.

The fast pyrolysis and HTC processes of demo-size (0.5-1 t/h) are optimized for feedstock flexibility, yield, quality and further up-scaling is part of the project.

...The complete bioliq biomass-to-liquids process consists of four stages:

Flash pyrolysis at decentralized plants to convert low-energy-density biomass waste into a petroleum-similar intermediate product of coke and oil: bioliqSyncrude.

Dry residual biomass is distributed over wide areas and has a low energy content; the resultant biosyncrude contains about 90% of the energy stored in the biomass, with an energy density more than 10 times as high as that of the feedstock. The resulting biosyncrude can be transported economically for further upgrading.

In the next stage, the energy-rich intermediate product is converted into synthesis gas, a chemically reactive mixture of carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen (H2). In the course of this process, the bioliqSynCrude is mixed with oxygen and decomposed into the basic elements of synthesis fuels under pressure and at temperatures above 1000 °C.

Hot-gas cleaning removes impurities, such as particles, chlorine, and nitrogen compounds from the synthesis gas. KIT is using a new technology; cleaning will take place at 500 °C, as a result of which energy consumption will be reduced compared to conventional processes.

In the final process stage, the basic elements are combined specifically in tailored designer fuels. Depending on the synthesis path, either diesel or gasoline can be generated.
Notice how this project incorporates the crucial early step of energy densification. Biomass lacks the energy density of fossil fuels, and must be densified in pre-processing stages prior to long-range transportation, or intensive refining.

Flash pyrolysis is one method of densifying biomass for transport and further refinement. If inexpensive, decentralised flash pryolysers can be mass produced, such devices could be located close to the point of biomass production.

Such an infrastructure supports a multi-tier, decentralised economic infrastructure, which could potentially revitalise biomass-rich rural areas. Multiple layers of pre-processing, processing, and refining could take place at varying locations -- depending upon the needs of the local economies.

Such a widely dispersed economic infrastructure would have a different impact upon a regional economy than the somewhat more centralised industries of oil, gas, and coal production and refining.

While biomass farmers and foresters would not enjoy the opulent lifestyle of an oil executive, they could enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in the rural setting they preferred. While local and regional bankers providing financing for small and moderate scale biomass enterprises would not receive the multi-million dollar bonuses of a Wall Street investment banker, they would live well enough, and take satisfaction in contributing to the modest prosperity of their communities.

The lower energy density of biomass does not have to prevent the profitable utilisation of the resource, as long as participants are willing to make essential tradeoffs in lifestyle and location.

And for third world nations and isolated tropical island nations, a well-crafted bioenergy infrastructure might make the difference between energy self-sufficiency and energy penury.

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Blogger Whirlwind22 said...

Anything like this happening in the US or are we just twiddling or are we just twiddling our thumbs?

5:09 PM  

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