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Catalytic upgrading of gas from biofuels and implementation of electricity production

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Biofuel -the other alternative energy source

Traditional fossil fuels, such as coal and crude oil, are non-renewable energy sources that generate harmful pollutants. Biofuel is an alternative energy source that offers many advantages. European research has targeted the improved conversion of biofuel to a usable form of raw gas through the application of catalytic materials.


The problems associated with energy production from the consumption of fossil fuels have long been known. For several years now, research efforts have focused on identifying sustainable, less problematic sources of energy. Biofuel is one such possibility. It is generated from biological sources (i.e. living organisms such as agricultural crops, trees, etc.) and can be either gaseous, liquid or solid in form. Exploitation of biofuels requires both new technology and new consumer attitudes in order to be successful on a global scale. Scientists from Sweden, Spain, Finland and the Netherlands have combined their expertise in a European-funded research project aimed at improving the efficiency of energy extraction from biofuel. Current methods of gasification of biofuels to produce raw gas of a quality high enough to be usable by engines are inefficient and generate tar deposits in the gasifier as a by-product. The tar deposits build up over time and necessitate periodic cleaning of the gasifier and the ducts between the gasifier and the engine. The research focused on developing a new technique to convert the accumulated tar into useful gas components with the aid of catalytic materials. A 100 kWth biomass-to-electricity unit was constructed for testing purposes. A reversal flow tar converter (RFTC) was incorporated as part of the new process concept. The SPA (Solid Phase Adsorption) method, nominated to become the international standard for tar analysis, was applied. Reduction of tar components sulphur and chlorine was achieved through catalysis by dolomite and nickel-based materials. The results of this research can assist the development of new gas cleaning reactors offering cost reductions and increased thermal efficiency, providing Europe an opportunity to lead the way in energy production from alternative fuels.

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