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Scenarios for integration of bio-liquids in existing REFINERY processes

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - 4REFINERY (Scenarios for integration of bio-liquids in existing REFINERY processes)

Reporting period: 2019-11-01 to 2021-06-30

4REFINERY will develop and demonstrate the production of next generation biofuels from more efficient primary liquefaction routes integrated with upgraded downstream (hydro)refining processes to achieve overall carbon yields of >45%. The consortium will aim for successful deployment into existing refineries, including delivering a comprehensive toolbox for interfacing with existing refinery models.

The main objectives of 4REFINERY are:
• To develop new biofuels production technology while at the same time increase understanding and control of the entire value chain
• To scale up testing procedures and define scenarios for the best further implementation in existing refineries
• To develop solutions to answer key societal & environmental challenges

The project will focus on the transformation of bio-liquids from fast pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction into advanced biofuels, through intermediate process steps combined with downstream co-processing technologies. The goal will be to bring these technologies from TRL3-4 to TRL4-5. The project will establish relations between product’s properties, the quality of renewable feedstocks and all relevant process parameters along the value chain. The study of these combinations will allow a full understanding of the influence of feedstock and treatment processes on product characteristics.

4REFINERY will (i) use inexpensive biomass, (ii) require low capital cost processes at small scale, (iii) reduce costs for further treatment due to scaling up and reduction in OPEX and (iv) leverage existing infrastructure, ensuring the new developments can be rapidly implemented at a commercial scale for production of biofuel with competitive prices compared to its alternatives.

4REFINERY has succesfully demontrated an overall carobon yiels of >45% across entire value chains.
Overall Process Integration:
Specification and limits for target fuels, testing protocols, benchmark and key performance indicators have been established. Twelve value chains were selected for techno-economic assessment (TEA) in which eight underwent detailed TEA. Mass, energy and elemental balances for the pre-processing steps in fast pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) have been retrieved. For the HTL process, Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) with 60% heat recovery has been developed and analysed.
Public perception of Danish debate on liquid biofuels reveals limited knowledge in media coverage of the topic. While there exists an overall positive perception in academia towards second generation biofuels for transportation, the mass media apply an overall negative discourse against biofuels. Only about 25% of the press mentions differentiate between different generations of biofuel. Furthermore, only 40% of these simply states that there are two different generations of liquid biofuels, without giving any further explanation.

Primary Conversion:
A total of 100 litres of an initial reference stabilized pyrolysis oil (SPO) 60 kg of a reference HTL bio-liquids and 310 kg of pyrolysis oil (PO) have been produced and delivered to partners. The two alternative reference bio-oils have been investigated in co-refining steps in order to establish the basis for selecting the optimal co-refining routes, as determined by the feedstock and end use application.

With respect to the primary conversion of the biomass to intermediate bio-oils, a number of approaches have been evaluated to optimise the efficiency and cost of the process.

Refining Processes:
In order to establish the basis for selection of the optimal routes for integration of the intermediates from primary conversion of biogenic feedstocks into the refinery all the major co-FCC and co-HDT refinery processes were explored. This involved co-refining of both pyrolysis and HTL bio-liquids produced from all three types of biomass feedstocks (forest residue, eucalyptus, straw).
Miscibility studies have shown that HTL bioliquids are incompatible with straight run gas oil (SRGO). Commercial surfactants have proven to be inefficient. Nevertheless, substantial amount of HTL bioliquids can be solubilized in SRGO by using co-solvents. Interestingly, the heavy distillate fractions derived from the fractional distillation of HTL biocrude showed complete miscibility in SRGO at any proportions. These studies show that fractional distillation is an efficient concept for dividing biocrude oil into different chemical groups to produce transportation fuels.

For the co-FCC route, SDPO and SPO from forest residue, eucalyptus and straw were tested in an FCC pilot unit using an FCC equilibrium catalyst together with typical FCC feedstocks. For tests involving bio-liquids from the pyrolysis route, results foresee that only a mildly treated pyrolysis oil will be sufficient for integration via the co-FCC route. However, for the alternative co-hydrotreating route, a more severely deoxygenated treatment of the pyrolysis bio-liquid is currently required. Based on both technical feasibility and economic profitability, co-feeding SPO forest residue and eucalyptus to FCC has been categorized as the most promising scenarios for implementation for value chains based on pyrolysis liquids.
Economically less profitable, but technically more feasible and otherwise interesting options were co-feeding SDPO from forest residue in an FCC or HDO unit.
The final results from the project have provided an understanding of the influence of the main parameters on the fuel quality and is expected to optimize the overall primary conversion steps and co-refinery processes for the production of biofuels. Moreover, the results have move technology from lab-scale to pilot scale, allowing for further investment in technology scale-up relevant to industrial implementation. The data generated (energy/mass balance, process efficiency, links between process parameters) have been exploited for accurate modelling, and feedback from this modelling is considered for further process developments. Techno-economic assessment (TEA) of the above mentioned value chains for co-feeding bio-liquids into existing refinery assets gives a good indication of which value chains could be interesting, both in terms of technical and economic feasibility for mineral refinery co-feeding. Four of the most promising value chains identified in the TEA has beeen used as a starting point for developing business cases. TEA and life cycle analysis (LCA) deliver scenarios allowing refiners to make the best choice for integration into refineries.

Supply chain and market assessment give an estimation of feedstock costs and sensitivities, define supply chain logistics, market characterization (including potential barriers) and defined pricing strategy.

Results from the project are assumed to increase the share of bio-based carbon in conventional fossil fuel refinery products and thus reduce the greenhouse gas emission impact and environmental footprint. Feasible value chains could potentially create jobs, especially in pre-processing (biomass handling, harvest, transport, etc.), but also in the stabilization process of fast pyrolysis bio-liquid which will be an additional process at the refinery site.
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