KIT announces commissioning of biomass-to-biofuel pilot plant

By Erin Voegele | March 14, 2013

In early March, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany announced the successful commissioning of the second stage of its bioliq pilot plant. The achievement was made in cooperation with technology partner Air Liquide Global E & C Solutions. The stage included operation of high-pressure entrained flow gasifiers.

The biomass-to-fuel process, developed by KIT, takes place in four stages. The process involves the conversion of biomass into a liquid intermediate bioliqSynCrude, which is upgraded to a tar-free synthesis gas in the second stage. The second stage of the process has now been successfully commissioned at the pilot scale.

Information released by KIT provides an overview of the four-stage process. During the initial processing phase, biomass is converted into a bioliquSynCrdue, a substance similar to crude oil, using a pyrolysis-like process in regional hubs. The bioliqSynCrude can be transported to a centrally located processing facility. During the second phase of the process, a high-pressure entrained flow gasifier converts the crude oil-like substance to a tar-free syngas. This process is carried out at temperatures higher than 1,200 degrees Celsius and at pressures up to 80 bar. The resulting syngas is composed primarily of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. In stage three impurities, such as particulate matter, chlorine and nitrogen are removed from the syngas. During the final processing step, the syngas is converted into transportation fuels.

 "The entire bioliq process exemplifies the sustainable use of biomass and contributes substantially to replace fossil fuels and CO2 emissions to reduce the transport sector," said Peter Fritz, KIT vice president for research and innovation, in a statement.

One advantage of the bioliq process highlighted by KIT is that it can take in a variety of biomass sources as feedstock, even those that produce high ash concentrations.

According to KIT, approximately EUR 28 million ($36.27) was invested in the pilot project to achieve second stage commissioning. Half of that investment was made by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. The balance of the funding was produced by KIT and Air Liquide Global E & C Solutions, which planned, designed, supplied, constructed and commissioned the plans for stage two of the bioliq process.