Sustainable technology company Anellotech, based in the US has developed and patented a thermal catalytic process for converting biomass into BTX - a mixture of benzene, toluene and xylene - aromatics which are chemically identical to their petroleum-based counterparts. Called Bio-TCat, the technology has now been proven to be a viable one.
According to the company commercially-targeted yields were achieved at its TCat-8 pilot unit in Silsbee, Texas over six months of continuous process operations. The results validate the economic potential of the Bio-TCat, said David Sudolsky, President and CEO of Anellotech. “The goal of being cost-competitive with fossil resource technologies is a reality and we look forward to on-going process improvements.”
Loblolly pines provide the feedstock used at the Texas pilot unit. The Bio-TCat reactor produces a liquid product containing over 98% C6+ aromatic chemicals directly from feedstock pre-treated using Anellotech’s MinFree proprietary biomass pre-treatment process, through which the mineral (ash) content of wood and other biomass can be significantly reduced. After mild hydro-treating and purification, AnelloMate products – the family of liquid products made through Bio-TCat – meet all specifications for sale as chemicals or fuel blendstocks.
Based on the data obtained from the pilot unit, Anellotech together with, among others, its France-based engineering and licensing partners IFPEN and Axens are now planning the construction of its first commercial plant. Engineering work is expected to begin this summer; once funding is secured, the next phase of construction will begin in the second half of 2020.
The first plant will be capable of processing 500 bone dry tonnes/day of loblolly pine wood into 40,000 tonnes/year (860 BPSD) of products including benzene, toluene, xylenes, and C9+ aromatics to use as fuels or for making bio-based plastics for packaging and consumer products. 30,000 tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO) and other by-product gases will also be produced, for use in generating renewable electricity or used for chemical feedstock.
Following this first commercialization, the next step will be the licensing of much larger plants, with production capacities of 200-250,000 tonnes/year (4,000-5,000 BPSD) of aromatics and 150,000 tonnes of CO. The goal is to expand the availability of bio-aromatics for chemicals and fuels enabling cost-competitive solutions needed by refiners and brand owners looking to make a difference in their carbon footprints.