Southern Research Institute Wins $925,000 Dept. of Energy Award to Liquefy Biomass for Production of Transportation Fuels

Research could encourage blending of bio-oils into refinery streams for producing renewable diesel and gasoline

Durham, North Carolina Southern Research Institute today announced it has entered into a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Dept. of Energy to develop a mild liquefaction process that will economically convert biomass to petroleum refinery‐ready bio‐oils. The process will convert biomass to stabilized bio‐oils that can be directly blended with hydrotreater and cracker input streams in a petroleum refinery for production of gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.

“We hope the project will advance liquefaction by demonstrating cost-effective biomass conversion to stable bio-oils at mild conditions. Other liquefaction processes either use severe conditions or expensive catalysts to achieve stability,” said Santosh K. Gangwal, Ph.D., Southern Research principal investigator. “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.”

Gangwal said co-processing of bio-oil with petroleum refinery streams can help refineries comply with new renewable fuels standards (RFS-2.) The process will be evaluated and optimized using a continuous flow lab‐scale biomass liquefaction system simulating the commercial embodiment of Southern Research’s liquefaction process. Also a lab‐scale reactor will be constructed and tested for hydrotreating and cracking the bio‐oils to produce gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons.

Southern Research is seeking a refinery partner who will help to further define bio‐oil quality specifications that meet requirements for direct insertion at various points in the petroleum refining process. Based on the experimental data, a technical and economic evaluation and life‐cycle assessment of the process will be carried out. Requirements for scale-up and commercialization of the liquefaction process will be determined.

“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, help to stabilize the prices at the pump, and lower the emission of greenhouse gases” said Tim Hansen, director of Advanced Energy and Transportation Technologies.

About Southern Research

Southern Research Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) scientific research organization that conducts advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, environment and energy, and preclinical drug discovery and development. Southern Research has more than 520 scientific and engineering staff that support clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., Southern Research Institute has facilities/offices in Wilsonville and Huntsville, Ala.; Frederick, Md.; Durham, NC; Houston, TX; and, Washington, DC.