Gasification method turns forest residues to biofuel with less than a euro per liter

July 03, 2013

According to the new research results of the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, lignocellulosic biomass can be used in the production of high-quality biofuels for the price of less than one euro per litre. A new technology developed in Finland allows the transfer of more than half the energy of wood raw materials to the end-product. The technology is considered ready for the construction of a commercial-scale production plant in Europe.

VTT has assessed the techno-economics of the production of renewable liquid transportation fuels from forest residues. The case studies focused on the production of four biofuels using a method based on pressurised fluidised-bed gasification. The fuels studied were methanol, dimethyl ether (DME), Fischer-Tropsch liquids and synthetic gasoline.

The results show that the production of renewable biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass, mainly bark and forestry residues, could achieve an energy efficiency of 50%, depending on the end-product and process conditions. Should the thermal energy produced as a by-product be exploited for district heat or industrial steam, for example, the overall efficiency from biomass to saleable energy products could reach 74%.

Based on the case studies, the research scientists estimated that once commercialised the technology can be used to produce liquid transportation fuel at the cost of 58 €/MWh. Converted into gasoline-equivalent price per litre, the estimated production cost would be 0.5.7 €/litre. The price of renewable solutions would thus be on a level with the current pre-tax price of fossil transportation fuels, and cheaper than existing imported biofuels.

Each case study design was based on a BTL plant with 300 MW capacity, the equivalent of a large district heating power plant. A biorefinery of this size could produce liquid transportation fuel for about 150 000 cars. The EU has set a target of 10% renewable energy content for the transportation sector by 2020. For Finland, the target is 20%.

After long-term development work, the technical functionality of the production process was verified through extensive testing at VTT test rigs as well as industrial piloting in Finland and in the US. The technology is now ready for its first commercial-scale demonstration. However, the first wave of these ground-breaking production plants requires significant public venture capital investment, for which planning has consequently been initiated at both Finnish and EU level.

According to the research results, the best efficiency and lowest production costs were achieved in the production of biomethanol. The risks related to the commercialisation of the synthesis technology were also estimated to be lower with the biomethanol production plant compared to the other options.

Methanol is an alcohol fuel that can be used in modern cars at maximum 3 vol-% content in combination with petrol or, as with ethanol, in high concentrations in FlexFuel cars designed for this purpose. Methanol can also be further converted to synthetic gasoline or used as renewable raw material in the manufacture of various chemicals and biomaterials.
The VTT publication can be found online at:

Further information:

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Esa Kurkela, Manager, Gasification development
tel. +358 20 722 5596

Ilkka Hannula, Research Scientist
tel. +358 40 838 0960

Further information on VTT:

Olli Ernvall
Senior Vice President, Communications
358 20 722 6747

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland is a leading multitechnological applied research organization in Northern Europe. VTT creates new technology and science-based innovations in co-operation with domestic and foreign partners. VTT's turnover is EUR 290 million and its personnel totals 3,100.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Related Biofuels Articles from Brightsurf:

Making biofuels cheaper by putting plants to work
One strategy to make biofuels more competitive is to make plants do some of the work themselves.

How to make it easier to turn plant waste into biofuels
Researchers have developed a new process that could make it much cheaper to produce biofuels such as ethanol from plant waste and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Barriers and opportunities in renewable biofuels production
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have identified two main challenges for renewable biofuel production from cheap sources.

How biofuels from plant fibers could combat global warming
A study from Colorado State University finds new promise for biofuels produced from switchgrass, a non-edible native grass that grows in many parts of North America.

Calculating the CO2 emissions of biofuels is not enough
A new EU regulation aims to shrink the environmental footprint of biofuels starting in 2021.

Algae cultivation technique could advance biofuels
Washington State University researchers have developed a way to grow algae more efficiently -- in days instead of weeks -- and make the algae more viable for several industries, including biofuels.

Cutting the cost of ethanol, other biofuels and gasoline
Biofuels like the ethanol in US gasoline could get cheaper thanks to experts at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and Michigan State University.

Cellulosic biofuels can benefit the environment if managed correctly
Could cellulosic biofuels -- or liquid energy derived from grasses and wood -- become a green fuel of the future, providing an environmentally sustainable way of meeting energy needs?

Making oil from algae -- towards more efficient biofuels
The mechanism behind oil synthesis within microalgae cells has been revealed by a Japanese research team.

WSU study finds people willing to pay more for new biofuels
When it comes to second generation biofuels, Washington State University research shows that consumers are willing to pay a premium of approximately 11 percent over conventional fuel.

Read More: Biofuels News and Biofuels Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to