Biomass for bio-energy and green chemicals

Gasification is a versatile process to convert solid feedstock into fuels, chemicals and energy. Worldwide gasification grows quickly with 8%/year. As part of this, biomass gasification is gaining attention because it produces green energy and can be used to produce green fuels (biofuels).

Biomass gasification takes place at much lower temperatures than coal gasification: typically 800-900°C suffices to have high biomass conversion. Interestingly, gas produced at these moderate temperatures contains large amounts of methane, ethylene and benzene. The Dutch government aims to introduce over 20% of energy production via the gasification of biomass in 2050 to produce green gas and biofuels. This can be achieved if the availability of biomass is abundant and the economics of biomass gasification is compelling. Two means of achieving this is by use of cheap waste as biomass source and the co-production of green chemicals while generating green energy from this biomass. Separating ethylene and benzene from the process is "killing two birds with one stone": it improves the economy of large-scale bio-energy and green high-value chemicals are produced that replace fossil oil-based molecules. This concept clearly shows a big promise for synergy between the energy and the chemical industry.
In this 2-year innovation project led by ECN, the co-production gasification process will be optimized for various biomass feedstock and adsorption-based separation modules will be developed. Research will focus on ways to increase the yields of high-value chemicals during gasification. This includes using promising feedstock such as lignin and humin, side products from sugar production and sugar conversion processes. ECN will develop benzene separation and Avantium focuses on ethylene separation. Integrated tests will be done to proof the concepts in a complete process from biomass to BioSNG (Synthetic Natural Gas, essentially methane). ECN brings its gasification and gas cleaning experience and facilities, whereas Avantium will use their quick screening capabilities and catalysts know-how as well as act as supplier of relevant feedstock to increase ethylene and/or benzene yields. A market study will be performed by Kodok, in which information will be generated on competition, prices, qualities, volumes, etc. A high-level road map will be made, describing the path from the current state of affairs till the situation where foreseen quantities of purified bio-ethylene and bio-benzene are produced. The focus will be on the Dutch situation. A Users Group will direct this project, supplying vision and relevant guidance and data from a suppliers/users perspective. The project will finally result in a decision and plan to upscale and demonstrate the innovation to kill two birds with one stone.