DOE gives Southern Research Institute $925,000 for bio-oil work

By Chris Hanson | March 25, 2013

Southern Research Institute won a $925,000 energy award from the U.S. DOE to develop a mild liquefaction process to convert biomass to petroleum refinery-ready bio-oils.

“We hope the project will advance liquefaction by demonstrating cost-effective biomass conversion to stable bio-oils at mild conditions,” said  Santosh Gangwal, SRI principal investigator . “Other liquefaction processes either use severe conditions or expensive catalysts to achieve stability. We will also evaluate the suitability and process economics of directly blending our bio-oils with refinery hydrotreater and cracker streams for co-production of diesel and gasoline.”

SRI’s facilities in North Carolina enable it to evaluate engine and emission changes when combusting fuels such as biodiesel, ethanol, biogas and others. The evaluations are performed by test engineers using internal equipment and automotive testing laboratories in real-world settings.

According to Gangwal, the potential for the bio-oils is that it can help refineries comply with new renewable fuel standards. “Development and commercialization of a cost-effective biomass liquefaction process using a high impact feedstock such as wood waste to produce renewable gasoline and diesel can reduce the nation’s requirement for importing oil from foreign countries to stabilize the prices at the pump, and lower the emission of greenhouse gases,” said Tim Hansen, director of SRI’s Advanced Energy and Transportation Technologies.

Currently, SRI is looking for a refinery partner to assist in drafting quality specifications for direct insertion for various stages in the petroleum refining process. Additionally, a lab-scale reactor is planned for construction at SRI to test for hydrotreating and cracking bio-oils to produce gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.

After completing the research and experiments, scale-up and commercialization processes will be determined.