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The Demonstration of Waste Biomass to Synthetic Fuels and Green Hydrogen

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - TO-SYN-FUEL (The Demonstration of Waste Biomass to Synthetic Fuels and Green Hydrogen)

Reporting period: 2021-01-01 to 2022-09-30

Today millions of tonnes of organic wastes from different sectors end up in landfills or incinerated resulting in a further increase of GHG (Green House Gases) emissions and subsequent air, soil and water pollution.

To-Syn-Fuel combination of technologies is able to use a wide range of that biomass (organic waste such as biowaste, anaerobic digestate and dried sludge as well) and transform into a newly designed plant that produces sustainable biofuels, green hydrogen and biochar. This process presents many advantages in terms of flexibility of scale and delocalisation at regional and local levels (thus minimising feedstocks transportation costs), as well as flexibility of feedstock, quality and reproducibility of final products and competitive low cost.

TO-SYN-FUEL demonstrates a new integrated process combining Thermo-Catalytic Reforming (TCR®), with hydrogen separation through pressure swing adsorption (PSA), and hydro-deoxygenation (HDO), to produce a fully equivalent gasoline and diesel substitute (compliant with EN228 and EN590 European Standards) and green hydrogen for use in transport. The primary ambition of this project was to demonstrate and validate the technical and economic viability of the integrated TCR®/PSA/HDO technology approaches, together with their environmental and social sustainability, as well as the cost-competitiveness, at near commercial scale through the construction of a demonstrator that will also serve as an exemplar to facilitate rapid commercial uptake.
By demonstrating all the essential process steps in an industrial operational environment, the ToSynFuel project advances the technology’s technical readiness to level 7 while achieving the main aim of the project, which is the long-term operation of a pre-commercial demonstrator. This is the final step of development before the technology reaches full commercial scale. The testing campaigns with TCR® have shown very satisfying performance, with the biocrude oil quality being in line with expectations. Also, the business plan and the socio-environmental sustainability analysis for the process provide very positive outcomes.
The integrated approach has been designed to be economical at a small scale. The intention is for the demonstration site to be located near to a variety of organic waste producers and, potentially, petrochemical industries.
This means that the concentration of potential end users of the integrated approach will be high. By locating the plant close to these feedstocks TOSYNFUEL will be able to engage with these waste generators and demonstrate to them the value of the approach thus facilitating their involvement in the next phase as feedstock providers to the commercial flagship plant.

The feedstock composition, mass and energy balance of the plant have been investigated as a basis for the design of the TCR/PSA/HDO units. The design of the HDO technology has been optimized to meet the necessities related to the TCR-oil upgrading. Variables such as TCR-oil composition, hydrogen pressure, reaction temperature etc. have been assessed within the process. In parallel with this, an assessment of syngas treatment requirements has been fulfilled according to EU environmental regulations: all aspects relating to emissions, desulphurization, NOx, heavy metals etc. have been considered. The integrated TCR/PSA/HDO plant has been designed by means of the above-mentioned data and basic and detailed engineering and the new site for the demonstration plant has been identified. The demonstrator has been assembled completely at the site in Hohenburg, Germany.

The environmental sustainability of integrated TCR/PSA/HDO plant has been examined: the elements of the plant as well as the data collected from design and engineering phase have been taken into account to set the ground for concrete measuring, monitoring and evaluation.
The identification and mitigation of potential risks to project outputs have been taken in charge by the Risk Management Board: problems and opportunities have been identified, along with risk profiles and assessment tools related to the actual estimation. Regulatory impacts on the project and risk scenarios in business development (especially with respect to tipping fees) have been taken into account too.

Concerning communication and dissemination activities, a Communication & Dissemination Plan has been finalized by the effort of all project partners. A project website as well as a social media presence have been established to raise awareness about To-Syn-Fuel activities and project branding material has been developed in order to be shared within several occasions by every project partner.
Two email To-Syn-Fuel newsletters and press releases have been elaborated and sent in order to reach the targeted audience, as well as articles on the project have been published in dedicated publications, magazines and conference proceedings to reach relevant stakeholders in the field of bioenergy R&D. The project has been introduced on the occasion of events in the field of renewable energy (biomass and bioenergy in particular), waste management and LCA.

The consortium is working hard on communication at both national and international levels. One of the most significant is a promotional Car Tour planned between 15-28th September 2022 (Figure 15). A car, fuelled with TO-SYN-FUEL diesel, will stop at locations around Europe.
To-Syn-Fuel integrated process (TCR/PSA/HDO technologies combination) aims at overcoming the nowadays restrictions of biochemical pathways as well as the technical problems of thermochemical conversion of biomass feedstock into biofuels. Furthermore, other approaches considering algal/bacterial bio-oils or the production of compressed bio-methane and other light gaseous hydrocarbons as a substitute for compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) are still far from being competitive and at a low TRL level. By the end of the project, the demonstrated TCR technology has been validated at TRL-7, opening to further technology validation at TRL 9.
Moreover, the project is dedicated to the production of biofuels from poor-quality waste organic feedstocks by means of low cost, flexible, high-yielding performances. This will allow to meet increasing demand for biofuels envisaged by Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) targets; it will also foster circular economy by diverting waste from landfill disposal to recycling practices.

The overall impact of the project To-Syn-Fuel has not changed since the start of the project.
The upstream and downstream market impacts as well as environmental and social impacts have still the same focus.