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CASCATBEL Report Summary

Project ID: 604307
Funded under: FP7-NMP
Country: Spain

Periodic Report Summary 2 - CASCATBEL (CAScade deoxygenation process using tailored nanoCATalysts for the production of BiofuELs from lignocellullosic biomass)

Project Context and Objectives:
CASCATBEL is a project co-funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework programme. It brings together 17 partners, including 4 research institutions, 6 universities, 5 large industries and 2 SME from 10 different European countries. CASCATBEL started its activities in November 1st of 2013 and has duration of 4 years.

The strategy proposed in CASCATBEL is aimed to the development of a process for the preparation of advanced biofuels having composition and properties very similar to petroleum-derived fuels. This is a very relevant advantage regarding the commercial implementation of this technology, as it would not require any significant changes in the already existing infrastructures and engines. Accordingly, the process derived from CASCATBEL is expected to be more competitive than first generation biofuels in terms of both economic and environmental criteria.

CASCATBEL proposes the sequential coupling of three catalytic steps as an essential factor for achieving a progressive and controlled biomass deoxygenation, reducing the hydrogen consumption, and avoiding the problems that hinder other bio-oil upgrading processes. On the other hand, the use of tailored nano-catalysts will allow optimising the reaction yields (increasing bio-oil and energy yield) and solving the limitations of current catalysts in terms of selectivity and deactivation rates.

Finally, the scaling-up of the process is a very important issue for fully exploring and understanding the catalytic and reaction dynamics, assessing the catalyst behaviour after several life-cycle tests and demonstrating the viability of the CASCATBEL process in a relevant environment. In this way, the experimental work is performed in three different scales: laboratory, bench and pilot plant scales.

Project Results:
The main activities performed and the most relevant results obtained are next summarized according to the different WPs that have been so far active:

WP1-Feedstock selection and characterization
This WP was devoted to the analysis of the availability of lignocellulosic biomass in the European context and the selection and characterization of the optimum raw materials for bio-oil production. Even based on conservative estimations, it has been concluded that most of the assessed European Countries have the technical potential to cover more than 10% of the energy demand in the transport sector using these feedstocks.

WP2-Catalysts development and preparation at laboratory and bench scales
A wide range of nano-catalysts have been prepared, characterized, and made available for catalytic testing. They are mainly based in known nanomaterials, which have been adapted for the catalytic processes relevant to the cascade reactions being undertaken in WP5.

WP3-Theoretical studies and modeling / WP4-Advanced characterization and in-situ monitoring
Theoretical studies using DFT models have been carried out for understanding at molecular level the behaviour of representative catalytic systems. A number of advanced characterization and in-situ techniques has been applied to gain insights into the different phenomena-taking place during the catalytic reactions. These results and conclusions have been used to aid in the selection of the best catalytic systems to be scaled up.

WP5-Laboratory and bench scales reaction tests
The performance of the catalysts prepared in WP2 has been assessed in the different reactions of the cascade scheme: catalytic pyrolysis, bio-oil intermediate deoxygenation and bio-oil hydrodeoxygenation. In addition, non-catalytic biomass pyrolysis tests have been also carried out to study the effect of the biomass pre-treatment and bio-oil stabilization. For each of the cascade steps, convenient and efficient catalysts have been identified an optimized.
In addition to lab scale experiments, bench scale tests have been performed, which has implied to operate larger and more complex experimental setups and to work under more realistic conditions.

WP6-Catalyst development and preparation at bench scale / WP7-Pilot plant catalytic tests
Based in the bench scale results, the best catalysts have been selected for being investigated at pilot plant scale. These catalysts are being prepared in WP6 in amounts in the range 1-5 kg, which has required an adaptation of the recipes and procedures employed at bench scale. Pilot plant tests have been already started with the aim of determining the effect of the scale up and to study in deep the catalyst deactivation phenomena.

WP8-Overall process assessment
The results obtained in WP2, WP3, WP4 and WP5 have been evaluated according to different criteria. Thereby, a series of indicators have been defined specifically for each catalytic reaction explored in the project, in relation to different criteria: process parameters, environmental impacts, economic and cost factors and, finally, nanosafety and toxicology issues. This set of indicators has been the basis for taking the decisions related to the main milestones of the project.

WP10-Dissemination and exploitation
Strong efforts have been devoted for the dissemination of the project, as indicated by the following activities:
•Project website ( with the corresponding intranet under operation.
•36 publications in scientific journals have been already published/submitted.
•Participation in about 79 national and international scientific events.
•CASCATBEL Summer School took place on 8th-11th June 2014 in Liblice (Czech Republic) with a total of 75 assistants.
•The workshop on “Thermochemical Lignocellulose Conversion Technologies” took place on 18th-20th May 2016 in Porto Carras, Chalkidiki (Greece) with a total of 71 assistants.
•A variety of networking actions have been performed, such as the participation in different European project clusters.
•Annual Project Summary and Newsletter periodically distributed to target audience.
The results so far obtained confirm the technical viability and the advantages of converting lignocellulosic biomass through a cascade process, in which a set of sequential catalytic treatments allows the pyrolysis bio-oil to be deoxygenated in an effective way. Interestingly, the catalysts selected for the last stage of pilot plant tests are based in several cases in commercial systems, which may facilitate the large-scale implementation of the process, although incorporating novel features specifically designed for bio-oil upgrading.

Potential Impact:
The main results and achievements expected from the CASCATBEL project are listed as follows:
1) Optimization of lignocellulose catalytic pyrolysis (1st step in the cascade process proposed for CASCATBEL). Thereby, tailored nano-structured catalysts, with mild acidity or basicity, will be tested at different scales and optimised to obtain partially deoxygenated bio-oil.
2) Optimization of bio-oil upgrading by means of an intermediate deoxygenation treatment (2nd step in the cascade process). Three types of condensation reactions (ketonization, aldol condensation and esterification) of the small molecules present in bio-oil will be investigated as a means of increasing their chain length, stabilizing the bio-oil, decreasing its oxygen content and facilitating the separation of organic and aqueous phases.
3) Optimization of the ultimate bio-oil hydrodeoxygenation treatment (3rd step in the cascade process). Bio-oil deoxygenation will be completed by catalytic hydrogenation working at moderate temperatures (200-350ºC) and under moderate to high hydrogen pressures (20-150 bars).
4) Improvement of the fundamental understanding of the different catalytic reactions considered in the project, which will be of relevance for aiding in the selection of the optimum characteristics of the nano-catalysts to be employed.
5) Comparison of the nano-catalyst performance at different reaction scales. Thereby, in- situ catalytic tests, laboratory and bench-scale reactors, as well as pilot plant reaction systems will be employed.
6) Determination of the viability of the cascade process according to economic (production and investments costs), social (impact on the employment and the rural development), environmental (life cycle analysis, LCA), safety and toxicological (regarding both nano-catalysts and bio-oil) criteria.

1.2. Potential impacts
The following potential impacts are expected from the CASCATBEL Project:
• Novel nano-catalytic systems having singular properties.
• Application of nano-catalysts in biomass catalytic pyrolysis showing a remarkable performance.
• Application of nano-catalysts in bio-oil upgrading by ketonization, aldol condensation, showing a remarkable performance.
• Application of nano-catalysts in bio-oil hydrodeoxygantion, showing a remarkable performance.
• Novel methods for biomass and bio-oil treatment to increase the stability of the latter.
• Integrated processes including several cascade steps.

List of Websites:

Reported by

Fundacion IMDEA Energia
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