Technology (UPN: 2)

Technology Bio-based fuel process technology
Organisation Type Company (University Spin-Off)
Organisation Region European Union
Overview The biofuel technology permits the catalytic cracking of bio-based fats, oils, waste oils and oil residues into diesel, kerosene and gasoline fuels. The technology is world-wide protected by four patent families.
Description

The company, founded in 2011, is a license-oriented start-up which provides technology licenses, technology and raw material support towards production companies, forward-integration-focused raw material suppliers and established oil engineering & construction companies.

Catalytic cracking of bio-based oils and fats primarily produces diesel and kerosene fuel-range hydrocarbons. Preferred catalysts are activated carbons and inorganic catalysts. Variation in process conditions, catalysts and input material lead to renewable chemicals like bio-based naphtha, alkenes and LPG.

The products are almost chemically identical to fossil fuels, i.e. they are non-corrosive, non-hygroscopic, and not sensitive to oxidation. They can even be used as upgrading fuel additives (cetane number booster) or jet-fuel additives (bio-based alkylated benzenes).

In the aviation market, liquid fuels will be necessary for the next at least 30  - 50 years to enable air transport. The technology allows the production of bio jet-fuel which is chemically identical to fossil-based products and will enable the way towards CO2-neutral flights. It can be produced significantly cheaper than current hydro-treating technologies and doesn't need additional hydrogen which currently is only obtainable from fossil sources. Furthermore high quality additives to jet-fuel are obtainable (alkylated benzenes).

Since 2008 more than € 4 million have been invested into a pilot plant. Scaling-up from lab to pilot plant has successfully demonstrated technical proof of concept for the technology.  The pilot plant converts 3 kg bio-based fats and oils per hour into 3 l biofuels. It consists of a biofuel synthesis section, a dedicated distillation unit and a catalyst regeneration centre. Main purpose of the plant is process optimization re different types of feedstock, production of quantities for engine tests and measurement of process flow and energy data.

The Innovator is looking for co-operation partners in the area of raw materials, oil refineries and engineering expertise.

Uniqueness of Technology

The process is capable of converting low-grade waste fats and grease into direct fuel replacements. This means that a whole variety of feedstock can be considered as input materials. These range from used or residual vegetable oils to algal fats/oils and inedible animal and seed based fats/oils. The process is highly tolerable to impurities in feedstock such as, water and solids. This process is a technology that requires minimal hardware modification, and can be installed in any running refinery unit. Typically, the process fits in the distillation units so that so that fractions similar to that of petrochemicals can be produced.

Impact on New Products/Applications

The technology platform has the ability to address the needs of diesel, jet fuel and gasoline markets simultaneously. The produced fuels are superior than biodiesel and ethanol since they do not have any blending restrictions. This is in comparison with ethanol that is currently blended at 10%. Chemically, the derived gasoline is non-corrosive, and can be used as a feedstock to further produce naptha. The fuels produced by the process also have an enhanced cetane number. This means that the fuel has greater calorific value and combusts to give better economy.

Impact on Functionality

Since the technology can be just ‘dropped-in’ alongside existing refinery operations, logistic efficiencies can be taken care of with relative ease. When existing refineries integrate the process, the logistics of supplying similar end products such as, crude oil distillate will also merge with existing operations. This provides for significant cost reductions when compared to other traditional modes of operation. Hence, significant savings can be realized in both capital and operating expenditures.

Impact on Customer Value

The idea of utilizing waste to generate commercially viable fuels and chemicals has a great impact on customer value. Apart from getting refinery certified products (in terms of quality), the products (in this case, bio-based fuels) are also environmentally friendly. Given that the EU has mandated that by 2020, 10% of transportation fuels must be based on renewable fuels, the technology is ideally poised to take advantage of such a rule. Also, the fuels produces by the process creates no toxic waste (such as heavy metals) when compared to more conventional feedstock.

Relevance of Innovation to Industry

The technology is highly relevant to the renewable chemicals industry in many ways. Firstly, there is a clear de-link from the dependence on the petrochemical economy. This allows for job creation and greater economic independence of economy where the technology is installed. By creating a technology that utilizes waste that was previously considered unusable, the process becomes truly environmentally friendly. One of the most significant advantages is perhaps the capability of the technology to be profitable without the need for any subsides at current crude oil price rates.

Possible Applications:

Biofuels, Bio-based diesel, Bio-jet fuel, Bio-jet fuel additives, Bio-based bunker fuel, Bio-based chemicals

Competitive Advantage

The process offers significant advantages because it: • uses currently available non-food raw materials and is therefore not in competition with nutrition of an increasing number of human beings worldwide, • can also use raw materials and residues that are not suited for alternative technologies (like bio-diesel and HVO – hydro-treating of vegetable oils) due to water content or impurities like solid compounds or inorganic salts, • is an ideal conversion process for future optimized feedstock like micro algae oils, • doesn’t need additional hydrogen for the de-oxygenation, • it can be implemented into existing oil refinery assets and enables oil refineries to produce bio-based products instead of being forced to blend stand-alone biofuels like biodiesel and bioethanol, and • it is significantly lowering investment cost by more than 50-80% compared to hydro-treating due to integration into existing oil refinery assets and lower minimum scale requirements (annual capacity could be starting from 10 – 50 kt/a, compared with stand-alone hydro-treating units with a scale of 500 – 800 kt/a).

Development Stage:

In user / Testing result available

Intellectual Property:

4 patent families, nationalized on European level, US & Asia

Innovator The company is a spin-off from a very well reputed leading European organization for applied research & development. The academic institution is one of the shareholders and the Innovator is closely linked to the institution via joint development projects and co-operation agreements.
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