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Opportunities in Fuels and Chemicals from Syngas and Methane

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14 May 2014

British Airways and its partner Solena Fuels have announced they are to build the world's first facility to convert landfill waste into jet fuel. The GreenSky plant will be built in Thames Enterprise Park, part of the site of the former Coryton oil refinery in Thurrock, Essex. The project will utilise Solena's patented high temperature plasma gasification technology to convert the waste into synthesis gas (syngas), bringing Biomass to Liquid (BTL) technology into the spotlight.

The British Airways - Solena project is based on conventional chemical processing of syngas using the Fischer-Tropsch process. An exciting alternative to chemical processing is syngas fermentation, the conversion of syngas using microorganisms to produce fuels and chemicals. Because syngas fermentation (and also methane fermentation) operates at principally ambient temperatures and pressures, the capital intensity of the process is much less than for conventional gas-to-liquids processes. This enables small-scale and modular systems which are economically feasible for the conversion of the relatively small volumes of biomass and waste, or methane which are available in many geographical locations.

The current potential for this market is illustrated by the recent D-round funding of New Zealand-based biotech firm, Lanzatech, in which it received investment of US$60 million for the development of its syngas fermentation technology.

In Florida INEOS New Planet BioEnergy (INPB) has begun using biomass and agricultural wastes as a feedstock to produce advanced biofuel and power through a gasification process to produce syngas, which is then converted to ethanol by fermentation. The heat recovered from the hot syngas is fed into a steam turbine and is used to generate renewable electricity.

SCI and Bio Base NWE have organised a one-day symposium to examine developments in gasification of biomass and wastes to produce syngas, and conversion of syngas and methane from a variety of sources into liquid fuels and chemicals.

This conference will explore the technologies being developed and their commercial potential. The event is intended to broker links between science and industry, specifically between technology providers, the KTNs, and bio-based fuels and chemicals, with a target audience of biochemists and biochemical engineers, business and commercial managers, policy managers, academics in the field (re market development), R&D managers, marketing and business development managers, technical and operations managers, and investment decision makers.

SCI offers a network of contacts spanning education, science and business, an in-depth knowledge of chemical related industries together with a rolling programme of conferences, awards and scholarships to help further knowledge and support those involved in the sector no matter what stage of their careers.

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