Battelle’s hydrotreatment system converts bio-oil into biofuel. Photo courtesy of Battelle.

Battelle—a nonprofit research and development organization that operates many of the national laboratories—reached an Energy Department project milestone to demonstrate at least 1,000 hours of bio-oil hydrotreatment on a single catalyst charge. Typically, it takes many catalysts to convert a bio-oil intermediate into biofuel, making the conversion process expensive. Battelle’s new process substantially reduces the cost and risk of biofuel production and helps make the process more commercially viable. 

The next step to increasing commercial viability is to achieve 4,000 hours on a single catalyst charge, which would allow commercial operators to change out the catalyst only two times a year. Read more about this accomplishment from the Battelle press release.

Battelle reached this milestone with funding from the Bioenergy Technologies Office and with help from scientists at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). The project is the result of an Energy Department 2010 funding opportunity that invested up to $16.5 million on seven advanced biofuel projects. The purpose of the Battelle project was to advance technologies for the thermochemical conversion of biomass into advanced biofuels that are compatible with existing fueling infrastructure (“drop-in” biofuels)—that is, biofuels that can directly replace, rather than blend in with, petroleum fuel. 

The Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO’s) long-term conversion goal is to validate pathways for conversion of “drop-in” hydrocarbon biofuel at $3/gallon gasoline equivalent. BETO has focused research and development projects (including the Battelle project) in its Conversion Technology Area on eight biofuel conversion pathways for “drop-in” hydrocarbon fuel since 2012, after successfully demonstrating cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol