New ethanol catalyst under development

SPANISH bioethanol producer Abengoa Bioenergy has received a €2 million ($A3.3 million) award notice from the US Department of Energy to develop new catalysts for converting biomass-derived synthesis gas to ethanol.

The aim of the research is develop new catalysts that lower the pressure and temperature required for the conversion of biomass-created synthetic gas to ethanol fuel. By using low-value biomass as stock, it is hoped that a process can be developed that is significantly cheaper, simpler and more energy-efficient than current processes used in the ethanol industry.

The project is to be conducted by Abengoa in conjunction with Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), UOP and Washington University. Abengoa will manage the project and will undertake process modelling, economic evaluation and catalyst testing with UOP, while ANL and PNNL will develop catalytic material and in conjunction with WU develop the structure to relate catalyst structures to selectivity and reactivity.

“Abengoa Bioenergy R&D is dedicated to the development of new technologies to reduce the production cost of ethanol and new utilisation technologies to expand the ethanol market,” said Abengoa president Javier Salgado.

“Our ultimate goal is to make ethanol competitive with gasoline and establish ethanol as the renewable fuel of choice in the transport sector.”

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