Demonstration of sewage sludge to fuel and hydrogen technology commences

A new research project, called To-Syn-Fuel, aims to build up, operate and demonstrate the production of synthetic fuels and green hydrogen from sewage sludge.

The To-Syn-Fuel project is funded by Horizon 2020, the EU’s new research and innovation programme. It comes in the wake of the European Commission’s proposed Renewable Energy Directive for the post 2020 period, dubbed RED II.  

Calling for a gradual phase out of conventional biofuels and setting a minimum target for advanced biofuels in transport, RED II has caused controversy in the European biofuels industry. To-Syn-Fuel claim their project has the potential to meet the market’s urgent need for innovative biofuels produced from sustainable raw materials.

Fraunhofer UMSICHT’s new TCR Technology could provide a solution to the EU’s needs, producing liquid fuels from waste biomass which can be used to replace fossil fuels. These fuels comply with European standards for gasoline and diesel EN228 and EN590, which have already been demonstrated on a pilot scale. The TCR technology converts all kinds of residual biomass into three main products: H2-rich synthesis gas, biochar and liquid bio-oil, which can be upgraded. By high pressure hydro-deoxygenation HDO and conventional refining processes, a diesel or petrol equivalent is created in the distillation and is ready to be used directly in internal combustion engines.

To-Syn-Fuel are now working to validate the technical and commercial validity of the new technology, performing social and environmental sustainability mapping on TCR installed in a plant alongside HDO and pressure swing absorption PSA. To-Syn-Fuel claims that the scale up to one hundred such plants installed throughout Europe would avoid GHG emissions equivalent to five million people per year and divert millions of tonnes of organic waste from landfill to sustainable biofuel production.

Robert Daschner, head of the Renewable Energy Department at Fraunhofer UMSICHT and project management officer, said: “In this project we want to produce green diesel from waste, which in this particular case will be sewage sludge. In the next four years we will build-up, operate and demonstrate the technology and by the end of the project we want to have a business case for green fuels in order to support the targets of the European Commission”.

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