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Gasification and Fischer-Tropsch without CCUS (biodiesel)

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Technology Description

The biomass-based Fischer Tropsch pathway (bio-FT) is typically referred to as a biomass-to-liquid (BTL) route, though this umbrella term can apply to any route which produces liquid fuel from biomass. In the bio-FT route, biomass is first gasified into syngas and the syngas is then converted into hydrocarbon liquids via the Fischer-Tropsch process. Biomass with a high lignocellulosic content (e.g. wood, straw, residues from forestry and agriculture, municipal solid waste) is gasified via heating in an oxygen-restricted environment, producing a mixture of mostly hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and other hydrocarbons. This "syngas" is then sent to a water-gas shift (WGS) reactor to increase the H2/CO ratio required for Fischer-Tropsch (FT) synthesis, and CO2 is separated and vented. The syngas is fed into the FT reactor, and the resulting liquid hydrocarbons are cleaned, refined and separated into diesel, jet fuel, naphtha and other products. The biomass used to produce bio-FT are not food crops, avoiding direct competition with food and unwanted land-use change. Fuels resulting from bio-FT are "drop-in" and can therefore use existing fossil fuel infrastructure and technology without blending limits. Technical challenges revolve around tar buildup and removal during gasification. Bio-FT kerosene (biojet) is a American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)-certified sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), allowed to be blended up to 50%.

Relevance for Net Zero

The biomass feedstock used in the biomass-based Fischer Tropsch pathway (bio-FT) does not face the same land-use change and food competition concerns that plague other biofuels. Additionally, the bio-FT process produces a drop-in fuel that can completely replace fossil counterparts in the transport sector, allowing reuse of existing infrastructure.

Key Countries

United States, United Kingdom, Japan, France

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