The Use of Micro-Channel Reactors for Process Intensification in the Production of Transportation Fuels from Biomass
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AbstractAmericas transportation sector relies almost exclusively (94%) on refined petroleum products, accounting for over 70% of the oil used. Nearly 9 million barrels of oil are required every day to fuel the 247million vehicles that constitute the U.S. lightduty transportation fleet. Biomass from agricultural residuals or nonfood sources is a nearterm alternative to oil that can be used for sustainable production of liquid fuels. The goal of this SBIR project is to develop and demonstrate an approach for process intensification in biomass conversion to transportation fuels using catalytic microchannel reactor technology for production of hydrogen from the normally unused hemi cellulosic fraction of biomass, and use of the hydrogen to produce liquid hydrocarbons from glucose. Catalytic conversion of biomass to a liquid transportation fuel requires a significant amount of hydrogen input. Fossil hydrocarbons are currently the main source for hydrogen production which makes it an expensive and insecure feedstock for sustainable energy production. Identifying renewable sources of hydrogen for biomass conversion is of great interest. Hemicelluloses are heterogeneous polysaccharides which typically account for up to 30% of lignocellulosic biomass materials. Compared to cellulose and lignin, hemicelluloses are generally much less stable and are prone to degradation during chemical or thermal treatments. For this reason, hemicellulose is considered an underutilized biomass component in most biomass conversion processes. InnovaTek , in collaboration with Washington State University, will improve the economics of biofuel production by developing catalysts that are optimized for a micro structured reforming reactor that converts hemicellulose to hydrogen for use in the production of hydrocarbons from renewable glucose. Wheat straw, a predominant agricultural waste in the Pacific Northwest, will be used as the biomass feedstock in this project. The overall program objective is to develop innovative technologies for process intensification of biochemical and thermo chemical conversion pathways for the production of fuels and chemicals from biomass. The objective for this Phase I project is to prove the feasibility of reducing biomass processing costs and complexity by developing a process design that uses proprietary catalysts and microchannel reactor design to produce hydrogen from hemicelluloses. During Phase I the goals are to complete (1) a preliminary design and analysis, (2) a characterization of laboratory prototype devices to assess performance and feasibility, and (3) the preparation of a road map with major milestones that would lead to a production model of a system that would be built in Phase II. Commercial Applications and Other Benefits: The proposed technology will facilitate the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable fuels for transportation by reducing capital and operating costs of the production facility. Reduced usage of fossil fuels will improve environmental conditions, especially in large population areas as well as enhance energy security and sustainability by eliminating our dependence on foreign sources. Achieving independence from foreign oil and thereby making the country less vulnerable to political instability in the oil producing regions of the Middle East is perhaps our foremost energy issue
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