UOP to develop second-gen biofeedstock technology

UOP, LLC, has disclosed that it was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the United States Department of Energy (DOE) to develop economically viable technology to stabilize pyrolysis oil from second generation biomass feedstocks for use as a renewable fuel source.

Biomass pyrolysis oil is made from second-generation feedstocks like the residuals from agricultural and forestry industries or wood-based construction and demolition materials. The oil can be combusted in industrial burners and furnaces for power and heating or further refined into transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel. However, the oil is corrosive and unstable, making it difficult to store and transport.

UOP and its partners, using funding from the DOE’s National Biofuels Action Plan, will work to modify the composition of biomass pyrolysis oil to solve those issues.

“The development of second-generation biofeedstock conversion technology is critical for biofuels to support our growing energy needs,” said Jennifer Holmgren, general manager for UOP’s Renewable Energy and Chemicals business. “Finding a cost-effective solution will ensure that pyrolysis oil is a viable renewable source for power and transportation fuels.”

UOP will work with Ensyn Corp., the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Pall Corp. and the Crop Conversion Science and Engineering Research Unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service on the project. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2010.

Biomass pyrolysis oil is a greenhouse-gas-neutral, renewable resource that is produced when biomass is rapidly heated in the absence of oxygen. The oil is acidic and its viscosity increases over time, making the substance unstable, which limits storage and transportation options, as well as its compatibility with some industrial equipment.

UOP has formed a joint venture with Ensyn to offer technology and equipment to convert second generation biomass like residuals from the agricultural and forestry sector as well as woody-based construction and demolition materials into pyrolysis oil for power generation and heating fuel. The joint venture will also accelerate research and development efforts to commercialize next-generation technology to refine the bio-oil into transport fuels such as green gasoline, green diesel and green jet fuel.