Natural oil technologies await their turn
An increasing population and demand for oil and fuel.
There is the volatility of the fossil fuel supply with the activity in Iran this week as a recent threat and example to the oil supply. Note the U.S. reliance on foreign oil will increase 30% through year 2030 said the International Energy Agency.
Environmental concerns as to the burning of hydrocarbons and the relationship to global warming abound in North America and Europe. The existing regulations and pending rules/legislation are staggering in their number and complexity.
Bohan is senior segment marketing manager, chemicals and pharmaceuticals at Honeywell. “Biofuels is a quickly changing landscape. The market took off and collapsed over the recent few years. There was the debate over the food versus fuel aspect as well as the land, water, and environmental concern attached to growing fuel. And of course the economy had its say too.”
Those were what we call first generation feedstocks. Bohan, UOP, and Honeywell see more potential in the 2nd generation feedstocks than in the 1st generation that did not work out so well. First generation includes sugars (sugar cane and others) and starches like wheat and corn. Oils (vegetable based) and grease fall into this category too.
Second generation feedstocks are biomass, which can be waste from the pulp and forest product industry like lignin, cellulose, and hemi cellulose, as well as other energy crops like switch grass. Also, include here oils from algae, jatropha, and camelina.
There are many challenges handling this feedstock mainly surrounding the logistics of collecting, transporting, storing, and preparing the biomass for transition.
The technologies to convert the biomass to fuel exist, and there are nearly 10 or so of them. Honeywell and UOP are active in this area and see partnerships developing between companies that make fuel and companies that produce or have access to large amounts of biomass. Oil refiners and papermakers is an example of this.
The UOP renewable vision is hydrocarbon biofuels. This approach builds on UOP technology and expertise. It produces real fuels instead of fuel additives or fuel blends.
It can leverage existing refining and transportation infrastructure to lower capital costs, minimize value chain disruptions, and reduce investment risk. Moreover, it will focus on using second generation feedstocks and chemicals.
“The UOP approach is to use the same biological feedstocks used to make ethanol and biodiesel, but convert them into gasoline and diesel molecules that are identical to their fossil fuel counterparts using refining type processes,” said Bohan. These are UOP’s natural oil technologies.