Processing Magazine

Purdue University researchers develop cost-effective process for creating biofuels

June 12, 2012

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers have developed a new cost-effective, high-yield process for converting biomass into liquid fuels.

An economic analysis shows that the cost of the thermo-chemical H2Bioil method is competitive when crude oil is about $100 per barrel. If a federal carbon tax were implemented, the biofuel would become even more economical.

H2Bioil is created when biomass, such as switchgrass or corn stover, is heated rapidly to about 500 C in the presence of pressurized hydrogen. Resulting gases are passed over catalysts, causing reactions that separate oxygen from carbon molecules, making the carbon molecules high in energy content, similar to gasoline molecules.

The conversion process was created in the lab of Rakesh Agrawal, Purdue''s Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering. He said H2Bioil has significant advantages over traditional standalone methods used to create fuels from biomass.

"The process is quite fast and converts entire biomass to liquid fuel," Agrawal said. "As a result, the yields are substantially higher. Once the process is fully developed, due to the use of external hydrogen, the yield is expected to be two to three times that of the current competing technologies."