Research by George Huber, his post-doctoral researcher Rong Xing, and their colleagues in the Chemical Engineering Department, who have developed a new four-step, practical, and economical process for producing jet and diesel fuels from waste biomass, is attracting international attention from the chemical industry. The new process uses raw materials that represent waste from power plants, wood manufacturing plants, and pulp mills and yields alkanes more suitable for transportation fuels than any previous methods. To read about the process, check these links: Green Chemistry, Green Car Congress, Chemie.de, FavStocks.
As one of these article, from Highlights in Chemical Science, explains Huber’s new technology: Jet and diesel fuel can be produced in a simple economic process using waste products of wood processing and pulp mills, claim US scientists.
World decline in fossil fuel resources, rising oil prices, and an increased awareness in environmental impact have made the search for alternative renewable fuel sources extremely important. Sustainable production of fuels has been attempted using non-food biomass (composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin) and vegetable oils. But these methods only make light alkanes that are not suitable for use as jet and diesel fuel due to their high volatility, so jet and diesel fuels are currently still reliant on petroleum-based crude oils.
In the search for alkanes more suited for transport fuels, George Huber at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and colleagues have shown that waste feedstocks from biomass power plants or composite wood manufacturing facilities can be turned into jet fuel in an integrated and economical process.
Huber treats a hemicellulose extract from hardwood trees, a common by-product from the wood manufacturing industry, in a four-step process that includes acid hydrolysis and xylose dehydrogenation, aldol condensation, low temperature hydrogenation, and high temperature hydrodeoxygenation. High yields of 76 percent are obtained and the cost works out to between $2.06/gal and $4.39/gal, depending on initial xylose concentration, refinery size, and overall yield.
“Our society will always have a critical need to produce renewable liquid transportations fuels that can run heavy machinery like jet or diesel engines,” says Huber. “It is imperative that we develop inexpensive routes to produce these liquid fuels from our renewable resources.”
An article by Huber’s team will be featured as the cover story in Green Chemistry, a journal published by the Royal Society of Chemistry, in November. (October 2010)