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Wood-Waste Biofuel could Cut Greenhouse Gases

May 30, 2014 04:27 PM EDT
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Wood-waste sustainable biofuel could cut greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time transforming the shipping industry, according to new research.
(Photo : Aston University)

Wood-waste sustainable biofuel could cut greenhouse gas emissions while at the same time transforming the shipping industry, according to new research.

Aston University (UK) scientists are involved in the ReShip project, which will use low quality, Norwegian forest wood waste - such as chippings and unmerchantable wood left in forests after logging has occurred - to make biofuel.

A process called fast pyrolysis is used to transform the wood waste into biofuel by heating the material without the presence of oxygen, converting it into crude pyrolysis oil. However, compared to petroleum-based oil, crude pyrolysis oil cannot be used for direct use in diesel engines since it's too unstable.

With this in mind, the Aston team worked to stabilize the biofuel via mild, rapid, low temperature catalytic hydrogen treatment. And with the help of Norway's Paper and Fibre Research Institute, researchers will also seek to blend the bio-oil with conventional diesel and surfactant to form a multi-component fuel.

The final product will be engine tested to assess its quality and use for potential shipping transport.

"This project will establish a knowledge platform for cost-effective production of all new sustainable fuels which have the potential to completely alter marine travel," Professor Tony Bridgwater, Director of the European Bioenergy Research Institute at Aston University, said in a news release.

Alternative sustainable biofuels is an area that desperately needs exploring because marine transport has upcoming stringent regulations demanding reduced sulfur and carbon content in diesels and oils from January 2015.

"We hope to pave the way for large-scale biofuel production by 2020, in a way that is completely sustainable and doesn't impact on land usage," Bridgwater added.

In Scandinavia, fast pyrolysis oil production is rapidly becoming commercialized. The energy company Fortum is to invest €20m ($27 million) in an integrate bio-oil plant, while Swedish packing firm, Billerud, received €32m ($43 million) from the European Commission to build a new biofuel plant based on forest residues.

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