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Producing Clean, Renewable Diesel from Biomass

November 30, 2011 - 12:08pm

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ThermoChem Recovery International's process demonstration unit -- where wood waste and forest residue is converted into renewable fuel. | Courtesy of TRI.

ThermoChem Recovery International's process demonstration unit -- where wood waste and forest residue is converted into renewable fuel. | Courtesy of TRI.

After a rigorous testing process, Energy Department project partners at ThermoChem Recovery International (TRI) have validated a process that converts wood waste and forest residue into clean, renewable fuel. Pilot validation is a key milestone for biofuels companies like TRI. With critical engineering data in hand and the testing phase complete, TRI can now begin the journey toward full-scale commercialization of a proven technology.

With the support of Energy Department funding, TRI has done substantial testing of a thermal gasification and gas-to-liquids process at its pilot plant in Durham, North Carolina. Through its operations, TRI converted several hundred tons of 100% woody biomass feedstock into diesel fuel and paraffin waxes. TRI has collected over 1,000 hours of operational data that validates the process, while meeting or exceeding all of their operational and product yield targets.

This achievement will directly benefit two biorefinery projects in Wisconsin that are cost-shared by the Department: NewPage Corporation’s biorefinery, “Project Independence,” in Wisconsin Rapids and Flambeau River Papers biorefinery in Park Falls. TRI’s data will help inform final engineering design of their future biorefineries. The gasification and gas-to-liquids technology will be integrated into their existing pulp and paper mills to produce clean, renewable, marketable diesel fuel and paraffin waxes, and will also provide additional renewable energy by supplying steam and hot water to the co-located paper mill.

TRI’s thousand hours of runtime is key to the success of the NewPage and Flambeau projects, and a notable milestone on the way to a clean energy economy. It’s an important achievement in the Department’s portfolio of efforts to deploy advanced bioenergy and bioproducts that replace foreign oil, reduce the greenhouse gas impacts of transportation fuels, and open up new economic opportunities for rural America. 

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