By: Rubina Obaid
Researchers have recently evolved the whole process of gaining biofuel and optimized it to the extent where more biofuel can be acquired from the same amount of biomass. The technique involves combining the process of electrolysis with biomass gasification.
Biomass is used for producing renewable electricity, thermal energy, and biofuel which is used for transportation fuel. Biofuel is a type of fuel that is obtained through biological carbon fixation which is derived from biomass conversion as well as solid and liquid form of biomass and other bio gases. With the passage of time, biofuels are gaining considerable scientific attention driven by a variety of factors such as ever-rising oil prices, increasing energy demand against limited supply, and most of all rising concern of greenhouse gas emission from fossil-based fuels. Therefore, renewable energy got profusion of attention along with the government support and incentivizing policies to improve the renewable sector.
Biofuel greatly helps in alleviating the demand for petroleum products which are not considered as conducive for the environment and are held responsible for emitting a significant amount of greenhouse gases. Whereas biofuel contributes to provide 2.7% of the world’s fuel for road transport. There are a variety of sources through which biofuel can be obtained. One of the most common sources is to acquire the biofuel from biomass. Researchers have recently evolved the whole process of gaining biofuel and optimized it to the extent where more biofuel can be acquired from the same amount of biomass. The technique involves combining the process of electrolysis with biomass gasification.
The electrolysis cell is developed jointly by DTU and Haldor Topsoe which is used in the process of electrolysis. The electrolysis cell is also known as a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC), and in SOEC electricity is obtained from any source; like a wind turbine, is used for splitting water into two components which are oxygen and hydrogen. The oxygen can be utilized in a thermal gasification process where biomass such as straw is broken down at a very high temperature. Through this process, a synthetic gas is obtained which is the mixture of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. The combination of this mixture is used in the production of methanol and the hydrogen which was obtained earlier in the process, is added at that time. Methanol can directly be used as a fuel or catalytically upgraded to other familiar fuels used in ships and aircraft.
Synfuel project manager and Head of the section at DTU energy Professor Peter Vang Hendriksen says “Two improved technologies are combined in Synfuel and we have demonstrated that we can achieve higher utilization rates by combining the two technologies and derived far more biofuel from biomass resources and at the same time surplus power can be used, which has obtained in the process such as from wind turbine for heavy transport.” The project was supported by Innovation Fund Denmark, and ran from 2015 to 2019. Through this project, researchers gained success in combining two known technologies to obtain more biofuel that can be produced from the same amount of biomass.