Issue: Jun 2013


by Bob Brooks

Following on the heals of information released on the UOP/Honeywell project with ENI for production of pyrolysis based diesel fuel, it has become known that world class oil company Chevron, is also pushing ahead with pyrolysis technology(other contributors include Boeing, General Motors, Cargill) . The Chevron interest is indicated by a Georgia Institute of Technology research report on stabilization and characterization of bio-pyrolysis-oil-formation”. The research, Funded by Chevron provides the essential science for planning and engineering production. The study considers pyrolysis results in the range from 400C to 550C.

Pyrolysis oil has remarkable advantages characterized by conversion of biomass to oil in less than 2 seconds at 500C (reported by UOP/ENI). This translates into very high process equipment productivity for diesel fuel which a report titled Status of Biofuels Activities at DOE indicates basic cost including capital for pyrolysis based fuel at $2.00/gal. This compares with $5.00/gal for Fisher Tropsch source fuel, according to DOE .

Aside from the cost factor, hydrotreated pyrolysis diesel fuel has demonstrated 60 cetane and provides vehicle emissions reduction of GHG by up to 80%(reported by the UOP/ENI team) With these properties, it is expected that initial fuel from an ENI refinery in Italy will be blended with petroleum diesel to meet the EU requirement for 20% emissions reduction by 2020. Up to 100% pyrolysis based fuel can be used at 100%.

Taken together, interest in pyrolysis fuel is another good fit with large oil company needs to make best use of existing assets.

As for competition, Noubar Afeyan PhD Founder/Chairman of Joule Unlimited is quoted that his firm’s microbial system for making diesel fuel will cost $50/bbl at scale including capital (without subsidies). Joule now has letters of intent from clients for construction of two plants for production of diesel fuel at scale. Gasoline and JetA are next Joule products in line.

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