OPTFUEL paves the way to large scale production of second-generation biofuels
OPTFUEL, a European research consortium, has begun under the leadership of Volkswagen AG. This project is expected to demonstrate ‘optimized fuels for sustainable transport’ and pave the way for the large-scale production of biomass to liquid (BtL) fuels for transportation based on wood and forestry residues.
‘BtL is one of the biofuels which can make a substantial contribution towards maintaining individual mobility. Volkswagen wants to drive forward with this development. Therefore OPTFUEL is part of the fuel and powertrain strategy of Volkswagen’ says Dr. Frank Seyfried, Head of the Fuels and Fuel Cells Department of Group Research at Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft.
The BtL production process involves the gasification of wood residues at very high temperatures of 1,400°C. The OPTFUEL project will establish the technical basis for large-scale production of up to 200,000 tons per year. The BtL demonstration will begin with the cultivation of 200 hectares of fast-growing willow, poplar, and robinia which will be used to produce the biofuel at CHOREN Industries’ existing pilot plant in Freiberg, Germany, which already produces 15,000 tons of diesel per year. Performance data from the Freiberg pilot plant will be modeled to identify improvement opportunities compared to the current production processes and to create the technical basis for a large-scale BtL production facility. Using BtL products manufactured in the Freiberg plant, the automotive manufacturers participating in the project will develop a high-quality biofuel suited to present-day engine technology. Earlier projects have shown that considerable reductions in exhaust emissions can be achieved. In addition, the consortium project will evaluate the economic aspects and the potential to reduce energy and greenhouse emissions from all parts of the BtL production process. Technical issues associated with wood plantations for energy applications will also be thoroughly examined.
Ten partners from five countries are pooling their skills to optimize the production of BtL liquids over a 3.5-year project life. Consortium partners comprise the automotive companies Volkswagen, Ford, Renault and the Freiberg-based engineering company CHOREN Industries, CONCAWE, representing the European mineral oil industry, Invensys Process Systems as a technology provider for process simulation, design and optimization technologies, representatives of research institutes, IFP (France), CERTH (Greece), IITD (India) and the German project consultant SYNCOM. All project partners met in Wolfsburg for the kick-off event in February.
The European Union is supporting this demonstration project with 7.8 million euros of funding within the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development