Biofuels to be processed by oil refineries
As a result of an increasing demand for biofuels, new processing routes for crude oil have had to be found. Over the next five years the BIOCOUP project, supported through the Commission’s Sixth Framework Programme for Research and Technical Development, will devise a series of steps that will allow biomass feedstock to be co-fed to a conventional oil refinery. In the future crude oil could be replaced in refinery units. Ideally, the use of biomass would be carefully phased in and produced together with traditional feedstocks so as not to disrupt the normal working of the refinery.
A characteristic of the bio-liquids that are produced, compared to crude oil, is the high level of oxygenates which they contain. The project consortium will develop technologies to convert these bio-intermediates into valuable products through chemical processing and the production of industrial oxygenated chemicals.
The new processing route uses European biomass as feedstock, which will help to secure and increase the internal EU energy supply. It will also enhance the competitiveness of European industry by providing business opportunities. Jobs will be created for the whole value chain, from the initial biomass feedstock producers to the final end users. The project will develop renewable energy sources and promote in particular the use of lignin, a by-product of wood pulp production. BIOCOUP will also help to make a significant contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions in the transportation sector through the efficient utilisation of biomass material.
The process begins with the procurement of bio-feedstocks, such as wood pulp, paper and food, from existing industries and the processing of upgraded biomass-derived liquids in existing mineral oil refineries. This enables a seamless integration of bio-refinery co-processing products to the end consumer for products such as transport fuels and chemicals. This will encourage the acceptance of biomass and further the technological development of biomass production routes. The process will also help reducing the production costs of biofuels.
According to the project’s coordinator Yrjö Solantausta, ‘There are good opportunities
for both new companies because of new technologies being developed, and existing
companies, because eventually the biorefinery will be integrated into existing