BioTfueL: The biofuel of the future is made from waste
innovation | Sustainability and climate protection | #greenminded is when for the next generation of bio-fuels no more food ends up in the tank. With the BioTfuel project thyssenkrupp aims to achieve exactly that: instead of edible plants such as rapeseed or corn, natural biomass waste is used as a raw material. The next step is to bring the technology to market. The team is testing the technology in two new plants in France.
Scientists agree: man-made CO2 emissions are the cause of global warming. This is why for decades efforts have been made on the whole planet to reduce it. For example, fuels containing biofuel are expected to help reducing CO2 emissions, but they do not yet save enough CO2. This is changing the next generation of biofuels – with technologies from thyssenkrupp.
BioTfueL is the name of the project in which thyssenkrupp is involved alongside French companies such as Total, IFPEN, Axens, Avril and CEA. By the way, BioTfueL is pronounced like “beautiful”. “We want to develop a sustainable process chain that makes it possible to produce Btl fuel economically and thus suitable for mass production,” says project manager Norbert Ullrich. “Btl” is short for “Biomass to liquids” and describes the production process of the new biofuels. Biomass, for example natural waste such as green waste, straw and wood residues, is turned into high-quality aviation fuel and diesel. “This is a major advantage compared to the old biofuel generation, for which edible plants such as rapeseed, corn or sugar cane are processed,” explains Ullrich. A circumstance that caused criticism in many parts of the world due to a lack of food.
Paving the way for biofuel 2.0: French demo plants in operation
The project participants are aiming for the marketing maturity of the BioTfueL process by 2020. For test purposes, two demonstration plants went into operation in 2019: In Venette near Paris, the required biomass raw material is pre-treated, and in Dunkirk, 200 kilometers away, the liquid biofuel is produced. “We use our POLTORR technology for the pretreatment,” explains Ullrich. “With the help of this technology, the biomass is roasted decentralized, making it easier to transport and grind.”
In Dunkrik, another process from thyssenkrupp is used: PRENFLO PDQ. After being ground into a powder, the biomass roasted in Venette is converted into synthesis gas by adding oxygen. This is an important step in the production of Btl fuel. “Both processes are not new, but have long been tested in other applications,” explains Ullrich. “In the coming months, we want to use our demonstration plants to prove that the BioTfueL process chain works – and we also gain insights into the parameters for the design of large-scale industrial plants.”
BioTfueL faces the first real test runs
“In order to be able to carry out initial studies for commercial plants, we will conduct trials with wood and later with straw,” Ullrich says. “We will present our specific results at conferences and to potential customers.” The team is also in initial talks with potential customers. Feasibility and cost-effectiveness studies are planned – they should prove the advantages of BioTfueL’s new, sustainable process chain.
Engines do not have to be retrofitted
If the project is successful, the Btl fuel could be offered pure or mixed with fossil fuel – for all diesel or kerosene powered engines and other engines, whether in cars, trucks, trains, ships or aircraft. A conversion will therefore not be necessary.
And most importantly, the innovative biofuels save 90 percent of CO2 emissions from conventional fuel.