Invensys Process Systems has joined OPTFUEL, a European consortium researching the feasibility of using second-generation biofuels to power vehicles.

Invensys Process Systems (


) has joined OPTFUEL, a European consortium researching the feasibility of using second-generation biofuels to power vehicles.

Led by Volkswagen, the project will demonstrate optimised fuels for sustainable transport and may pave the way for the large-scale production of second-generation transport biofuels based on wood and forestry residues.

As part of the consortium, IPS will provide process simulation, design and optimisation technologies.

The OPTFUEL project started in February with a planning meeting of all the consortium partners, including Ford, Renault and Volkswagen from the automotive sector; CHOREN Industries, an engineering company based in Freiberg, Germany; Conservation of Clean Air and Water in Europe (CONCAWE), representing the European mineral oil industry; and representatives of research institutes from France (IFP), Greece (CERTH), India (IITD) and German project consultant SYNCOM.

It is expected that the OPTFUEL project will establish the technical basis for the large-scale production of up to 200,000 tons per year of biomass-to-liquid (BtL) products from wood chips that can be used in vehicles, either as neat fuels or by blending with conventional fossil fuels.

The production process involves the gasification of wood residues at 1,400°C, followed by the recombination of the gasified residues into sulphur- and aromatics-free liquids. Advanced biofuels for evaluation in this project will be produced at CHOREN Industries's Freiburg beta plant. The BtL demonstration will begin with the cultivation of 200 hectares of fast-growing willow, poplar and robinia trees on land near the Freiberg facility.

Automotive manufacturers and the oil industry will then work together to blend the BtL liquids, evaluate their exhaust emissions and explore their potential in current and future engine technologies. Earlier projects have shown that vehicles operating on neat BtL can achieve reductions in exhaust emissions.

In addition, the consortium will evaluate the economic aspects and potential of reducing energy and greenhouse emissions from all parts of the BtL production process. Technical issues associated with wood plantations for energy applications will also be thoroughly examined.

‘BtL is one of the biofuels that can make a substantial contribution towards maintaining individual mobility. Therefore, OPTFUEL is part of the fuel and powertrain strategy of Volkswagen,’ said Dr Frank Seyfried, head of the department for fuels and fuel cells in the group research division of Volkswagen.

Ten partners from five countries are pooling their skills to optimise the production of BtL liquids over the course of the three-and-a-half-year project. The European Union is supporting the project with €7.8m (£7.1m) of funding within the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.