UK-based biofuel technology providers TMO Renewables recently announced major progress on their involvement in a planned cellulosic bioethanol production plant in China, but they are not the only British company making major progress in this area. NNFCC gives its top ten of Britain’s most progressive biofuels and biochemical companies.
TMO use an integrated, three-stage conversion platform featuring a thermophilic organism to produce cellulosic ethanol from non-food, organic feedstocks.
Since June 2008, the company has operated a process demonstration unit in Surrey which was the UK’s first cellulosic demonstration facility. The £8 million PDU is used to conduct feasibility studies on a range of feedstocks to determine the optimal process for each material. TMO are now working with partners in US, China, Brazil and Russia to commercialise the process.
Green Biologics have developed a fermentation technology to produce biobutanol and other C4 chemicals from cellulosic feedstocks, such as forest, sugar and corn residues. The company has laboratories at its headquarters in Abingdon, UK and a pilot facility in the US.
In January this year the company announced its merger with US-based renewable chemicals and biofuels company butylfuel™ Inc in a move the company said would create “a global leader in biobutanol”. The company now operates in China, North America, India and Brazil.
British Airways and US biotechnology company Solena are working together on the GreenSky project – a pioneering joint venture to produce low carbon jet fuel from waste biomass. The first plant will be built near London and convert 500,000 tonnes of locally-sourced waste biomass feedstock into 16 million gallons of jet biofuel, 8 million gallons of BioNaphta and 40 MW of power of renewable electricity.
UK-based Oxford Catalysts were chosen as the sole technology suppliers to the GreenSky project because their Fischer-Tropsch gasification technology offered modular sizing and the advantages of high-efficiency, fixed bed reactors.
Following a 15-month shutdown, Ensus will soon resume production at Europe’s largest biorefinery at Wilton on Teesside in North East England. The biorefinery cost £300 million to build and uses a KATZEN proprietary ethanol distillation and dehydration system.
Ensus will refine around a million tonnes of locally grown animal feed wheat to produce over 400 million litres of bioethanol, 350 thousand tonnes of high protein animal feed, and 300 thousand tonnes of carbon dioxide for use in soft drinks and food production each year.
Later this year production will start at Vivergo’s £350 million biorefinery based at Saltend, near Hull. Vivergo Fuels is a collaboration between BP, AB Sugar and DuPont. The plant will process 1.1 million tonnes of high starch feed wheat each year and convert it into 420 million litres of bioethanol and 500,000 tonnes of animal feed, providing enough feed for the equivalent of 18 per cent of the national dairy herd.
BP is also taking a leading role in next generation biofuels. Together with DuPont they are demonstrating the production of biobutanol at a site near Hull. Once the technology has been proven, BP want to convert the Vivergo Fuels facility to produce biobutanol. In addition, BP’s fixed bed Fischer-Tropsch gasification technology has already been demonstrated at scale in the US with synthetic crude and the company are exploring the commercial production of syngas from renewable biomass feedstocks.
UK-based chemical company Johnson Matthey, through their subsidiary Davy Process Technology, are trialling systems to make syngas from waste cellulose from wood processing or agricultural residues. They are also exploring the potential of producing pyrolysis oil derived from a variety of sources and developing catalysts capable of converting the triglycerides in algae to biofuels.
In addition, Davy Process Technology are working with Myriant Technologies to integrate bio-based succinic acid and butanediol conversion technologies to develop a renewable and bio-based butanediol product. Butanediol is widely used industrially as a solvent and in the manufacture of some types of plastics, elastic fibers and polyurethanes.
Croda is a leading speciality chemicals manufacturer, based in Snaith, East Riding of Yorkshire. Croda employs a variety of ‘traditional’ chemical processes to convert natural based raw materials (mainly vegetable oils and fats such as rapeseed, coconut and palm oils) into fatty acids and glycerol, and then further refine and process them into a range of functional specialities. Earlier this year the company launched its first 100 per cent bio-based range of polyester polyols for polyurethane applications.
INEOS are a chemical company headquartered in Switzerland but originally based in the UK. They are working on Europe’s first biomass waste to ethanol plant to be located at the INEOS Seal Sands site in the Tees Valley. The plant is designed to produce 30 million litres of bioethanol each year and generate more than 3MW of renewable electricity for export, from over 100,000 tonnes of biomass waste.
The company have already successfully demonstrated the process in their Florida facility, which was completed earlier this year. The process uses gasification to convert the waste to syngas which can be fermented in biofuel and valuable chemical intermediates such as ethylene for polyethylene manufacture.
Harvest Energy is one of Europe’s largest independent suppliers and blenders of motor fuels, with operations in the UK, Holland, Germany, France and the Baltic. The company also operate a 250,000 million tonne per year capacity biodiesel production plant on the Seal Sands chemical complex in Teesside – converting recovered oils and fats into sustainable biodiesel and associated by-products.
They are also currently collaborating with the University of Durham and the Plymouth Marine Laboratory in a project aimed at developing the next generation of feedstocks for biofuel production from algae.
Greenergy is the UK’s third biggest private firm by turnover and supplies around a fifth of the UK’s road fuel. They are also the largest manufacturer of biodiesel in the UK, making more than 220 million litres of fuel almost exclusively from used cooking oil.
Greenergy also supply bioethanol to the UK market – mostly from US corn – but they are currently working with biofuel technology providers Scarab to produce next generation bioethanol from waste bakery products, by-products of potato processing, dough, and spent brewer’s yeast.