It is possible to produce much more biofuel from the same amount of biomass by combining electrolysis with biomass gasification.
In the Synfuel project, the researchers have succeeded in combining two known technologies so that more biofuel can be produced from the same amount of biomass. In the project led by DTU, it is the combination of thermal gasification of biomass and electrolysis that is utilized for the production of biofuel.
An electrolysis cell (solid oxide electrolysis cell, SOEC) developed jointly by DTU and Haldor Topsøe is used for electrolysis. In an SOEC, electricity from e.g. wind turbines is used to split water into its two constituents—oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen can be utilized in a thermal gasification process, where a biomass such as straw is broken down at high temperature. This creates synthesis gas—a mixture of mainly hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. The gas mixture can be used in the production of methanol when the hydrogen produced by the electrolysis is added. Methanol can be used directly as fuel or catalytically upgraded to more familiar fuels used in ships and aircraft.
Combines two technologies
“In Synfuel, we have improved the two in technologies in several areas, and we’ve demonstrated that we can achieve higher utilization rates by combining the two technologies than when they run separately. We derive far more biofuel from the biomass resources and at the same time we can use surplus power from e.g. wind turbines to make fuel for heavy transport,” says Professor Peter Vang Hendriksen, Synfuel project manager and Head of Section at DTU Energy.
The Synfuel project, which was supported by Innovation Fund Denmark, ran from 2015 to 2019. In addition to DTU, the project also involved Haldor Topsøe, Ørsted, Energinet.dk, MIT, Aalborg University, Chalmers University of Technology, INSA Lyon, TU Berlin, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and others.