French biofuel plant will add hydrogen

By Lisa Gibson
Posted January 6, 2010, at 2:45 p.m. CST

A pre-industrial scale second-generation biofuel plant in Bure-Saudron, France, will be the first in the world to add external hydrogen to syngas for increased conversion efficiency.

The plant is expected to produce 23,000 metric tons (25,350 tons) of biofuels per year, including biodiesel, kerosene and naphta, using about 75,000 metric tons of local forestry and agricultural resources, according to the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). The CEA and its industrial financial partners are launching the first stage of the project, which will include a detailed study of the design, but the study is subject to a contract with partners. Construction will begin once the study is complete and is slated for June 2011, according to the CEA. The project aims to improve biomass-to-liquid mass performance, which the CEA defines as the quantity of input material divided by the quantity of output fuel, by adding external hydrogen.

The objective of the project is to demonstrate both the technical and economic feasibility of a complete chain of production of liquid biofuels from biomass in France, from harvesting to fuel synthesis, according to the CEA. The plant will be able to investigate production along a complete manufacturing line: collecting and conditioning, gasification, and conversion through the Fischer-Tropsch process. The pilot unit will be the first of its kind in France, combining the various components for manufacture of biofuels in one facility. The CEA says the fuels will be high quality, both in engine performance and pollutants emitted.

Bure-Saudron, in northeastern France, was chosen partly because it allowed research laboratories to dispose of nuclear waste in deep geological formations, according to the CEA. Members of the nuclear industry made a commitment in 2006 to support the economic development of areas that allowed such disposal.
Project partners include contracting group CNIM, France-based air gas producer Air Liquide group, German-based gasification company Choren, Canada-based engineering and construction firm SNC Lavlin, contractor and equipment supplier Foster Wheeler France and MSW Energies, according to the CEA.