Advances in Chemicals and Fuels from Renewables
The Netherlands Process Technology Symposium (NPS15) was held at University Twente 30 and 31st of May 2018. Here are my highlights:
Ligno-cellulosic biomass conversion
Professor Sacha Kersten University Twente showed that ligno-cellulosic biomass can be converted in a single step to a liquid at 300 C and 100 bar. The liquid can be separated by distillation in a light and a heavy fraction. Recycling part of the light fraction to the reactor inlet increases the product yield. He also showed that this type of conversion can yield 60 % sugars from ligno-cellulose in a single conversion step.
Electrochemically produced chemicals
Dr. Wilson Smith of TU Delft showed that chemicals such as ethylene and ammonia can be produced electrochemically from carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen by including a bi-polar Naflon membrane. The membrane ensures the optimal pH conditions at each electrode. The present cost of electricity and the capital expenditure are too high to be competitive now, but if electricity from solar cells keeps coming down and clever integrated process designs can be made, Wilson thinks that the cost will become competitive. The advantage of this electrochemical route is also that the chemicals can then be made locally as the feedstock is available from the air and electricity from the sun. Both are available at all locations of this Planet.