Modular fuel technology to boost bio-share of oil refineries

By VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland | September 14, 2017

EU-funded project COMSYN aims to develop a production concept for competitive biobased fuels by means of a compact gasification and synthesis process. The target reduction of the biofuel production cost is up to 35 percent compared to alternative routes, which translates to less than €0.80 per liter production cost for diesel.

The production concept is based on the distributed primary conversion of various kind of biomass residues to intermediate liquid products at small-to-medium scale (10,000-50,000 tons per year Fischer-Tropsch products, 30-150 MW biomass) units located close to biomass resources. The Fischer-Tropsch products will be upgraded to fuels in existing central oil refineries, also bringing the benefits of economy of scale for the overall process.

The smaller scale of primary conversion lowers the risks of the investment, which has been the main bottleneck for large-scale biofuel plants. Integration of the primary conversion to local heat and power production is estimated to result in 80 percent energy efficiency in biomass utilization.

The COMSYN project validates the process concept from biomass gasification to final biofuel product. The gasification of biomass and the gas cleaning process are developed and piloted by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd together with GKN Sinter Metals Filters GmbH.

The synthesis process utilizes a modern intensified Fischer-Tropsch reactor by INERATEC GmbH and one of the key targets of the project is to further develop the technology for even higher syngas conversion. Refining of Fischer-Tropsch products to high quality drop-in liquid transport fuels is done at UniCRE, the Unipetrol Centre for Research and Education.

The process design, techno-economic and environmental assessments as well as market and business case studies are carried out by Amec Foster Wheeler Italiana Srl, DLR German Aerospace Center and ÅF-Consult Ltd.

The COMSYN project started on May 1, 2017, and will run for the next four years. It receives funding of €5.1 million from EU Horizon 2020 Competitive Low-Carbon Energy call 08-2016. The aims of this specific call are to reduce biofuel cost significantly, increase conversion efficiency, diversify raw material base, reduce emissions, create job opportunities, and increase the flexibility and productivity of industrial processes.