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Compact Gasification and Synthesis process for Transport Fuels

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - COMSYN (Compact Gasification and Synthesis process for Transport Fuels)

Berichtszeitraum: 2019-11-01 bis 2021-04-30

The global CO2 emissions have been in steady increase for more than 50 years inducing global warming. Today, more than 80% of total primary energy is produced globally by fossil fuels. In order to cut down CO2 emissions, the fossil resources have to be at least partially replaced by renewable alternatives. The renewable resources are diverse and often subject to seasonal and local availability changes. Therefore, a wide range of flexible technologies are needed for the renewable energy production. The major bottleneck in many of the new biofuel technologies is the investment and production cost. The COMSYN project combined the latest technological innovations for a feasible biofuel production concept.

Key objectives of the COMSYN project were:
Use diverse raw materials for biomass gasification. > Cuts down raw material costs.
Increase the filtration temperature of biomass gasification gas. > Improves process thermal efficiency.
Use membrane technology for oxygen feed. > Expensive oxygen plant is not needed.
Remove sulfur from product gas by sorbents. > Expensive chemical processing is not needed.
Use intensified, modular Fischer-Tropsch technology for the liquid fuel production. > Decreased investment costs.
Take advantage of the economics of scale by upgrading the Fischer-Tropsch products in an existing oil refinery. > Decreased production costs.
Screen the most advantageous process integration, concept design and business possibilities. > Concept ready for commercialization.
The COMSYN project had two major targets: technical validation of the production concept and development of business concept that is ready for the demonstration phase. During the first years of the project the focus was on the technology development and validation studies. These included scientific and technical research on topics of high temperature filtration, catalytic steam reforming, ultra-cleaning of synthesis gas, and intensified Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

A pilot scale gasification unit at the VTT Bioruukki piloting centre was used as the platform for the technical validation. The existing unit included gasifier, filtration unit for new GKN filters and a reformer. As one of the major objectives of the project, a pilot scale gas ultra-cleaning line was designed, constructed and integrated to the gasification pilot. Furthermore, a once-through Fischer-Tropsch unit, utilizing INERATEC’s novel microstructured reactor was successfully integrated to the gasification and gas cleaning pilot. Two successful week-long test campaigns were conducted in September 2019 where the integrated operation of the gasification island and the FT synthesis unit was validated. The gasifier was operated under gasification conditions for appr. 190 hours in total. 170 kg of FT waxes and oils were produced at high conversion rates.

During the final project period, the technical validation was supplemented by oil refinery studies on the upgrading of Fischer-Tropsch biocrude to high-quality blended biofuels. Our project partner ORLEN UniCRE was able to produce functional samples of both blended biodiesel and biogasoline. The technical studies also provided necessary data to build a upgrading process plan for the oil refinery. This was used as a starting point for the oil refinery simulation as part of the techno-economic evaluation of the entire COMSYN process.

In order to obtain the lowest production cost for the biofuel, the process economics were optimized. The COMSYN project had a multifaceted approach to the concept optimization, with three project partners, Wood, DLR and AFRY, concentrating on this topic. Based on the data from the validation test runs, an engineering package was first developed for the technology. The next step was the detailed techno-economic assessment and life cycle analysis. A market assessments were conducted in order to identify the policy drivers and market barriers of the biofuels and bioproducts, especially in Northern Europe and Middle Europe. Finally detailed case studies, where the industrial-scale plant is geographically fixed to a specific production environment, were performed both in the Nordic and Central European market conditions - taking into account the regional characteristics, such as biomass cost, electricity price etc. Depending on the process configuration and the location the approximate CAPEX for the process was estimated to be around 300 M€ and the OPEX 1.10 €/L for the final biofuel product.

The COMSYN project had an ambitious plan for the dissemination of the project results and increasing the awareness of the stakeholders for the biofuels. Among the achievements of the project were the three thematic workshop held in Germany 2018, Czech Republic 2019 and as online event in 2021. Another major event during the final project year was the Spring School which was directed for the PhD and post graduate students interested in European biofuel projects. During the COMSYN project plenty of new scientific results were obtained and published in 13 peer-reviewed, open-access papers, and sixteen academic theses. The major published results of the COMSYN project can be found in the project website.
COMSYN aimed to develop a production concept for competitive bio-based fuels by means of a compact gasification and synthesis process. This was achieved with new technical solutions on biomass gasification gas treatment (especially on filtration and sulfur removal technologies), new intensified Fischer-Tropsch synthesis technology, and with full utilization of the Fischer-Tropsch liquid and wax products at the oil refineries. The major benefits from these technical advances were higher energy efficiency, and lower investment costs than in the other comparable biofuel concepts. The target reduction of the biofuel production cost was set to 35% compared to alternative routes, which translated to 0.80 €/l production cost for biodiesel. The achieved cost, approximately 1.10 €/L depending on the production concept, was higher than the target but still considered sufficiently satisfactory to continue the development into the demonstration phase.

The COMSYN concept was estimated to have significant green-house-gas saving up to 80% compared to fossil fuels. A favourable balance was achieved as the concept 1) utilizes diversified low cost feedstocks which will lower the GHG impact of the production, 2) produces 2nd generation renewable biofuels and 3) utilizes process intensification approach with significantly high energy efficiency of the process. A stringent life cycle analysis was performed on the different COMSYN production concepts and most of them were found to achieve the 80% GHG target.

The COMSYN project greatly benefitted from the multidisciplinary expertise of the partners and combination of SME, industry and academic perspectives into the biofuel business. This combination allowed the widespread dissemination and exploitation of the project results on many frontiers and increased the social impact of the project by increasing the competitiveness of the new European technologies, providing job opportunities in the research and production, and creating trainee and thesis opportunities for young people.
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Techical configuration of the COMSYN process from gasification to FT synthesis
Engineer Petri Hietula installing a reactor in the laboratory facilities of VTT
Standard COMSYN logo
Sample of biocrude produced by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis inspected by Dr. Matti Reinikainen from VTT
COMSYN biofuel production concept
Mobile Synthesis Unit of VTT and INERATEC