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Solid biomass into diesel pilot plant opens in Austria

A new pilot plant heralded as ‘the world’s first direct solid biomass-into-diesel fuel operation’ has opened onsite at an ONV refinery in Schwechat, Austria.

The BioCrack technology-powered plant is a joint venture by Austrian industrial company OMV and customised bioplant construction company BDI Bioenergy International, with support from the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund and the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (BMVIT), and is set to meet growing European diesel demand.

‘The European fuel market faces considerable challenges: it must meet the growing demand for diesel and raise the renewable energy share in the transport fuel sector to at least 10% by 2020,’ says OMV CEO Gerhard Roiss.

‘Conventional first-generation biofuels are not a long-term solution because the cultivation of the necessary raw materials competes with food production. Our refineries are well-positioned and the BioCrack technology that was developed in partnership with BDI is a further response by us to the changing conditions.’

The second-generation fuels will be extracted from biomass at the plant using waste products, like wood chips and straw, from the agricultural and forestry sectors, but without the use of food. This means the fuels will not compete with areas that are needed for food production.

“There are high expectations worldwide for second-generation biofuels and this new pilot plant represents true pioneering work by domestic companies and researchers,’ says BMVIT minister Doris Bures, who helped open the plant . ‘It also reflects the success of our technology policy as we have consistently channelled research funding into environmental and energy technology, which involves the careful handling of resources, energy efficiency and climate protection.’

The plant, which has been an on-going project since 2009, opened on 2 July. A grant of €2 million ($2.5 million) from the Austrian Climate Energy Fund research and technology programme 'New Energies 2020' helped fund the pilot plant development.