The Container That Produces Biofuels From Forest Residues

© Tobias Hang / Fraunhofer IMM

The new plant for the conversion of cellulose and forestry waste into environmentally friendly biofuels goes into a container, this is one of the latest advances in Europe in the production of biofuels from forestry waste.

In the courtyard of the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg, in a container, there is a plant capable of transforming wood waste into high-quality gasoline. This is the practical application of BIOGO, a European project that aims to create a fully integrated and complete process for the production of “environmentally friendly” biofuels from waste and new nanocatalysts.

The raw material comes directly from the forests, as Prof. Gunther Kolb from the Fraunhofer IMM, the EU project coordinator, explains.

Cellulose waste and tree bark are available in large quantities throughout 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 grown and therefore will not compete with food production.

The production of biofuels from forest residues is considered an interesting technological option because it is “neutral” from the point of view of emissions and, unlike oil, does not need transport infrastructure from the source to the refineries and then to the service stations.

“An important component of the BIOGO concept is decentralized production,” says Kolb. “To achieve this goal, we have developed mobile production units that can be housed in containers and installed where they are 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.

© Tobias Hang / Fraunhofer IMM

The first phase, developed by the Italian company Spike Renewables, foresees the transformation of the cellulose waste into a dark and viscous pyrolysis oil. This can be further processed in the “mobile plant” thanks to the micro-reactors invented by Fraunhofer, small reaction chambers that convert it into synthesis gas by adding heat, air and steam. The synthesis gas is used to produce methanol in a second phase. And the extraction of 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 respectful as possible with the environment and more efficient in the use of the resources.

In the BIOGO project, the Teer Coatings scientists played a key role in inventing a method to apply small particles of catalytically active substances to surfaces. This produces high-performance nanocatalysts that save resources. In the coming years, scientists aim to improve the technology, with the goal of producing up to 1,000 liters of fuel per day.

More information: biogo.eu  –  fraunhofer.de

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