Study illustrates the process of producing fuel from waste, Auto News, ET Auto

The study developed a new process for producing ethanol, an established fuel that decarbonises the transport sector and can be a building block for reducing CO2 emissions in the long term.


A new study has explained how fuel can be produced from renewable sources such as wood waste and straw.

The research results were published in the journal “Frontiers in Energy Research” in collaboration with researchers from the Straubing Campus for Biotechnology and Sustainability of the Technical in Munich (TUM) and the Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology (LUT ) in Finland.

According to the latest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a considerable reduction in CO2 emissions is necessary to limit the consequences of climate change. Renewable electricity would be a means of reducing carbon emissions in the field of transport.

The study developed a new process for producing ethanol, an established fuel that decarbonises the transport sector and can be a building block for reducing CO2 emissions in the long term.

Ethanol is generally produced by fermentation of sugars from starchy feedstocks such as corn, or from lignocellulosic biomass, such as wood or straw.

Accordingly, scrap materials from the field of forestry are used together with hydrogen. Hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using electricity – in other words, using the electrolysis of water. In the future, this will allow excess electricity to be used for ethanol production.

“The overall process consists mainly of technically mature sub-processes. However, the composition of the process steps and the final step – the hydrogenation of acetic acid to produce ethanol – are novel,” said Daniel Kluh, PhD student at the Professor Institute for Renewable Energy Systems at the TUM Straubing campus.

The researchers also assessed the economic feasibility. “The prices we have calculated are based on assumptions for raw materials and energy. We do not use any current market prices. The basis for calculating our prices for chemical system components is the year 2020” , Kluh said.

The lowest cost of ethanol in the modeling was 0.65 euros per litre, with biomass costs of 20 euros per megawatt hour, electricity costs of 45 euros per megawatt hour and a production volume of around 42 kilotons of ethanol per year.

“With the current options for producing lignocellulosic ethanol, the costs are therefore competitive. The price of ethanol is very sensitive to electricity costs, and fluctuates between 0.56 and 0.74 euros per liter”, explains Assistant Professor Kristian Melin from LUT in Finland.

One of the reasons for the high profitability is that the ethanol yield is much higher compared to the traditional bioethanol process based on fermentation from straw or wood. This process produces 1350 to 1410 liters of ethanol, compared to only 200 to 300 liters of ethanol for the traditional process per dry ton of biomass.

The study also relates to the variable geographical positioning of the production sites, which would make it possible to achieve a certain independence vis-à-vis the suppliers. “Countries with high potential for wood waste and green electricity, such as Finland or even Canada, can serve as producers of acetic acid, which in the final step of the process is hydrogenated to produce ethanol,” said Professor Tuomas Koiranen of LUT. .

“In the future, countries like Germany will hopefully have a green electricity mix and can perform the hydrogenation of acetic acid into ethanol at the national level. However, Germany does not have the wood waste potential for large-scale biomass gasification. necessary for the synthesis of acetic acid,” added Professor Matthias Gaderer, Professor of Renewable Energy Systems at TUM.

With the use of green electricity to power electrolysis, this process can produce a low CO2 fuel that has the potential to reduce greenhouse gases by 75% compared to a fossil fuel like gasoline . Ethanol is needed as a fuel.

It can be used both in the form of E-10 gasoline, with 10% ethanol in the fuel mixture for regular automobiles, as is already the case, or in the form of ED95, which is 95% ethanol, as a diesel substitute for heavy vehicles. haulage.

With their process simulation, the scientists demonstrated the competitiveness of the process. “To commercialize this product, it is necessary to further improve the degree of technological readiness. The next steps could involve new catalyst developments, a reactor design and the construction and operation of a pilot system,” said Professor Gaderer.

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Large-scale biofuel production in Brazil began in 1975 in response to the first oil shock, when the Brazilian government decided to launch the “Proálcool” (Pro-alcohol) program to foster the development of indigenous transport based on of ethanol. industry that would lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels, create jobs and promote the development of technology.

Therefore, to ensure that only serious project promoters receive approval in principle by the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD), the window has been opened to invite new applications from promoters. project owners who have acquired land for the project and obtained environmental clearance. .

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