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The Demonstration of Waste Biomass to Synthetic Fuels and Green Hydrogen

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - TO-SYN-FUEL (The Demonstration of Waste Biomass to Synthetic Fuels and Green Hydrogen)

Reporting period: 2018-11-01 to 2020-12-31

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.

The final scope of the project is to develop and implement a full commercial scale technology that aims to transform dried sewage sludge and other types of biomass waste into liquid transport fuels at standard conditions ready to be used in conventional combustion engines and green hydrogen. Up to 220.000 liters of fuel will be produced. To-Syn-Fuel therefore addresses the challenge envisaged within RED (Renewable Energy Directive) II proposal of gradually phasing conventional biofuels out in favour of advanced biofuels (i. e. being produced from non-food competing sources) in transport sector.

The commercial scale production of the To-Syn-Fuel demonstration plant will provide a real business case to open-up long-term opportunities for converting organic waste into renewable fuels and to directly implement these fuels into existing petroleum infrastructure. The scale up of one hundred of such plants installed throughout Europe would be sufficient to convert up to 32 million tonnes of organic waste per year into sustainable products and biofuels; contributing to 35 million tonnes of Green House Gases savings per year and diversion of organic wastes away from landfill and incineration. In terms of socioeconomic development, 100 plants would create at least 5.000 skilled jobs.
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. By this way, particulates will be reduced using cyclones and filters all emissions and discharges from the plant will be well below environmental thresholds. 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 groundwork has been prepared and the procedures to inform local authorities have been finalized.

The environmental sustainability of integrated TCR/PSA/HDO plant has started: 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 has 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 compliance with ethics requirements has been ensured within all activities which have been carried in these 18 months.
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 TCR/PSA/HDO technology will have 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.