Due to the recent surge in energy costs and uncertainties in fuel prices, there is significant interest in seeking alternative sources of energy particularly from renewable such as biomass. Indirect liquefaction of biomass (via the thermo-chemical conversion to syngas followed by liquefaction via Fischer-Tropsch Synthesis or FTS) offers a commercially viable route for meeting the challenge of producing renewable fungible liquid fuels. Apart from biomass, FTS is also the critical step for converting natural gas and coal to liquid fuels.
A FTS technology has been developed for producing middle distillates (diesel and aviation fuel) by using pine chips as the main feedstock. In this “two step” process, pine chips were subjected to an entrained flow gasification process developed by Pearson et al. . The resulting tar free gas is comprised mainly of carbon monoxide, hydrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and some organic contaminants such as benzene, toluene, and naphthalene along with substantial amount of water. For further liquefaction this gas was cleansed using multiple adsorbents. An inline “Shaw Moisture Meter” was used to continuously monitor the moisture content of the feed to the liquefaction process.
For the production of liquid fuels, eggshell cobalt catalysts were used. Cobalt catalysts have several advantages e.g. they produce linear paraffinic hydrocarbons and minimize undesirable water gas shift reaction. This eggshell design is a well known strategy for producing a narrow hydrocarbon distribution. In this regard previous research work conducted by Iglesia et al. was also consulted . A bench scale fixed bed reactor was used for the conversion of syngas. Modeling of the reactor startup and of adjustment of the reactor packing ensured successful operation resulting in a high conversion and narrow distribution of hydrocarbons in the range of diesel and aviation fuel.
 Pearson et al., U.S. Patent 4,857,076, issued Aug 15, 1989.
 E. Iglesia, S. L. Soled, J. E. Baumgartner, S. C. Reyes, J. Catal. 153, 108 (1995).
See more of this Group/Topical: Sustainable Engineering Forum