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Preparing for the future of renewable feedstocks

 

Processing renewable feedstocks to produce transport fuels can be challenging, largely due to the variety and complexity of the feedstocks. HydroFlex™ allows refiners to produce fuels from feedstocks that are already liquid. Virgin oils, like rapeseed oil or sunflower oil, together with waste oils and fats, like used cooking oil or crude tall oil, can all be processed with our technology without an extra step. However, with the growing demand, we will need even more feedstocks.

Low indirect land-use change (ILUC), rotational, and winter crops such as carinata, castor, or camelina, will possibly have a role to play. The same goes for solid waste, including sewage sludge, algae, or even mixed plastic waste, especially given the legislation.

Driven by legislation

According to the Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), 32% of energy used in EU-27 will have to come from renewable sources by 2030. As for fuels, 14% will have to be produced from renewable feedstocks, with a minimum of 3,5% produced from waste such forestry residue, organic fraction of municipal solid waste or algae (the so-called “Annex IX part A” list). Undoubtedly, more legislation will follow globally to limit emissions and reduce reliance on non-renewable feedstocks.

Aiming to help that transition and anticipating future needs, we are contributing to various research projects. They focus on identifying the most sustainable and economically competitive technology to transform solid feedstocks into liquid which can then be hydroprocessed with our HydroFlex™ technology.

Solid to liquid

Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), that you might have heard about in The Fuel for Thought Podcast, is one of the technologies that could solve the problem of transforming solid feedstocks in the future.

Topsoe has a role in two EU Horizon 2020 projects exploring the process, HyFlexFuel and NextGenRoadFuels. Both projects aim to show that HTL could be an efficient route to produce high-volume and cost-competitive renewable fuels. We are engaged in the hydrotreatment activities in the projects, and advising on technology, development, selection and test of catalyst possibilities to ensure the best and most economical solutions.

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Catalytic pyrolysis is another technology where Topsoe is participating in research collaborations. The H2CAP project with the Technical University of Denmark is exploring hydrogen assisted pyrolysis for production of gasoline and diesel. The collaboration with Research Triangle Institute through projects sponsored by the US Department of Energy is also exploring the topic, where the aim is to treat the biocrude in a similar way to a fossil crude oil.

From R&D to commercialization

Since 2004, when market forecasts first suggested that sustainability would become a major market driver, a good deal of our R&D investment has funded research into processing renewables.

That work still continues. The insight gained through external research collaborations enables us to understand the feedstocks of tomorrow and optimize our own technology and catalysts to accommodate new demands. We are convinced that whatever the feedstock, liquid or solid, we will be able to assist our customers in the most optimal way possible.

 

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