Monday, November 29, 2010

Valuable Chemicals from Biomass


The Test Rig. Photo courtesy of Phil Badger

University of Massachusetts Amherst
Low-Cost Biomass Alternative to Petroleum for Industrial Chemicals

I had a note from Janet Lathrop at UMass Amherst, giving permission to reproduce - thank you Janet. So here is the promised follow up, albeit brief and simplified, on the story of Petroleum Chemicals from Biomass.

The above picture, courtesy of Phil Badger, shows a development test plant, and it is tidy enough to mount on a truck it would appear.

The main man in focus has to be Associate Professor George Huber, head of the chemical engineering team at UMass Amherst. The other guys mentioned in the release are Tushar Vispute, Aimaro Sanno and Huiyan Zhang.

Prof. Huber said that it is now possible to produce high-volume chemicals including benzene, toluene, xylenes and olefins from bio-oils, the cheapest liquid fuels available today derived from biomass. The new process could reduce or eliminate industry’s reliance on fossil fuels to make industrial chemicals worth an estimated $400 billion annually.

It will now be possible to make these valuable and necessary chemicals, used for making everything from solvents and detergents to plastics and fibers, from  cheap oils derived from waste wood, agricultural waste and non-food energy crops.

The team’s efforts have outlined a simple system for converting low-value pyrolysis oils into products with a higher value than transportation fuels. The next phase is for up-sizing and further refining the processes they have outlined for us. This will be done on contract by several interested chemical industries.

I won’t go into reporting the chemistry outlined in the press release. Simply because I don’t understand it myself. I just have to take these guys at their word. This effort looks very promising indeed.

Good luck guys!

Thanks to UMass Amherst Chemical engineering team and Janet Lathrop for permission to reproduce materials.


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