Squeezing diesel from wood

Japanese researchers have succeeded in synthesising diesel from wood using less processing stages and smaller-scale equipment.

The Biomass Technology Research Center (BTRC) of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has achieved the continuous synthesis of diesel fuel at the laboratory scale from woody biomass through gasification, purification using activated carbon and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

This new process removes the need for a cooling process, heat recovery and compression of gas, which makes it attractive for use in compact and portable plants using widely available woody biomass.

The gasification process is carried out at a high temperature (800-900 C) and high pressure (several MPa), removing the need for use of compressors. Gas cleaning is carried out through a dry refining process that uses active carbon, instead of the traditional wet method using water, increasing the gasification heat efficiency. As a result, the researchers were able to produce and use more compact equipment.

The main features of the equipment are the economical use of heat, which increases the energy efficiency, and the removal of the compression process, which reduces the power requirements.

The BTRC was established in October 2005 as a base for biomass research in the AIST. The two main research topics at the BTRC are the development of bio-ethanol production technology centred on saccharification of woody biomass and technology for liquid fuel synthesis through gasification.

Through these two central research topics, the BTRC aims to develop practical biomass conversion processes that are sufficiently cost efficient to replace fossil fuels and to contribute to the establishment of an energy recycling society.