From biomass to synthetic gasoline

13.09.2013, News

The large Danish catalysis company Haldor Topsøe is now able to make synthetic gasoline through the technology TIGAS. The advantage of this technology is its capability to make a gasoline product within the limits of the Euro 5 pollution norm. Initially, Haldor Topsoe expects to produce the synthetic gasoline from fossile gas, but on a pilot plant near Chicago, USA using biomass as feedstock has been succesful.

By Julie Søgaard

Illustration: The different process routes of gasoline production in TIGAS. 

Gasoline is - as everybody knows - one of the products made from crude oil, but since the oil crisis in the 1970's researchers and companíes all over the World have worked hard to find alternative carbon sources as feed for gasoline production.

Today Haldor Topsøe can make gasoline through its technology TIGAS - Topsoe Improved GAsoline Synthesis - which not only can make synthetic gasoline from carbon sources as gas, coal and biomass, but also gasoline living up to the stricter environmental rules for gasoline the authorities demand. 

Gasoline is a mixture of different carbon compounds. Today, there are limitations on the most poisonous  - e. g. aromatic compounds which can cause cancer.

TIGAS is now on the market   

- The process was actually developed 30 years ago and was also called TIGAS, but at that time it was short for Topsoe Integrated GAsoline Synthesis. The stricter rules means that we now have optimized and therefore renamed the process. The norm we follow is called Euro 5, Business Development Manager at Haldor Topsøes New & Emerging Business Unit, Henrik Udesen says.

The TIGAS technology is now ready for commercialization and business contracts are currently being made especially within the gas sector. In Russia an agreement with the local government in the West Siberian region Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug has been made in order to use the gas from the oil production in the area.


Illustration: The diagram shows the proces on a pilot plant near Chicago from gasification of biomass to the final gasoline product and sidestreams.

Biomass can be a challenge

Initially, TIGAS will probably mainly be used in the gas sector. Although, the TIGAS technogy can use any carbon source as long as it has been transformed into synthetic gas, the gasification itself can be a problem according to Henrik Udesen:

 - The challenge for TIGAS is in the gasification, which is the part of the process our partners work on and are trying to solve. And particularly biomass gives extra challenges because there is a large diversity within biomass. We prefer the biomass as dry and uniform as possible, he says. 

Another challenge is, that biomass compared to gas contains more minerals such as sulfur and chloride, which can damage the catalysis process.

But in spite of these challenges, TIGAS is already able to make gasoline from biomass.

TIGAS using biomass has been tested on a pilot plant near Chicago, USA. The plant uses 21 tonnes wood pellets made from wood chips and other wood residues and produces around 3600 liters of gasoline per day.