Large-scale production of biofuels

Production of biofuels

Fuel made from lignin that is suitable for large vessels. Aircraft kerosene from potato peels. Bio-ethanol from municipal solid waste. These are just some of the promising opportunities for the large-scale replacement of fossil fuels with biofuels from carbon-rich biomass streams. Wageningen Food & Biobased Research supports chemical companies, fuel producers and transport companies with feasible concepts for next-level biofuels.

A partial switch to sustainable liquid transport fuels is necessary to limit greenhouse gas emissions and the use of fossil sources. A part of today’s fossil fuels will be replaced by electrification of transport. In the meantime, with electrified aviation and large shipping still seemingly far away in the coming decades, there is a need for sustainable biofuels that are available on a large scale. An insufficient number of biofuels are currently available to replace fossil fuels on a major scale.

New opportunities for biofuels

Replacing fossil fuels with sustainable, renewable alternatives that are technically and economically feasible is one of the biggest challenges facing chemical companies, fuel producers and transport carriers. Biofuels from biomass side streams that cannot be used for food production offer new opportunities. These side streams not only have the appropriate functional properties, but are also available in abundance. This provides unique prospects for agri-food companies to extract more value from carbon-rich residual streams which are currently still processed at a low value.

From pre-treatment to downstream processing

Wageningen Food & Biobased Research carries out extensive research into the production of alcohols from biomass side streams as building blocks for fuels. Our knowledge and expertise covers the entire value chain, from pre-treatment of biomass and separation & conversion processes to downstream processing of fuel components. Another example is the production of fatty acids from biomass side streams via direct microbial conversion. These fatty acids can be used both as a chemical building block and a raw material for biofuels. Mild conversion techniques such as fermentation and chemo-catalytic conversion are used for fatty acid production.

Profitable biofuels for aviation

We contribute our knowledge and expertise to support the development of economically viable biofuels in a wide range of projects. A good example is BioJet Fuel, in which an international consortium led by Wageningen Food & Biobased Research is working on a profitable production chain for biobased aircraft fuels. Carbon-rich residual streams, such as potato peels and municipal solid waste, serve as starting materials for the production of acetone, isopropanol, butanol and ethanol. Clostridia anaerobic bacteria are used for the fermentation of sugars. Next, a combination of condensation and hydrogenation is needed to produce hydrocarbons for jet fuel. The aim of our scientists is to optimise the fermentation process. If they succeed, commercial production will be within reach and many non-edible biomass residues can be processed at a high-performance level on a large scale.

Lignin as a raw material for biofuels

Carbon-rich residual streams often also contain a lot of lignin, an excellent raw material for building blocks of biofuels, both for aviation and for large sea shipping. Please contact us for more information and to explore new opportunities together.