Johnson Matthey and NREL sign up to five-year biofuels effort

Posted at December 17, 2012 » By : » Categories : News » Comments Off on Johnson Matthey and NREL sign up to five-year biofuels effort

Chemicals company Johnson Matthey and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have signed up to a joint five-year effort on biofuels.

The $7 million project aims to produce ‘drop-in’ petrol, diesel and jet fuels – which require no engine modifications – from non-food biomass feedstocks like poplar or pine trees, switch grass, forestry or agricultural waste and even municipal solid waste.

Specifically, the two organisations will work on improving the pyrolysis part of the process, where the biomass is heated to very high temperatures under pressure – to lower costs and speed up production. It is the vapour produced when biomass decomposes under pyrolysis that can be used to make transportation fuels.

NREL is world renown for its expertise in biomass conversion, while Johnson Matthey is a leading supplier of catalysts and process technologies for a range of sectors, including biofuels.

“Combining Johnson Matthey’s understanding of catalysis with NREL’s biomass processing capabilities will help accelerate the development of more economic routes to biofuels,” suggest Andrew Heavers, business development director at Johnson Matthey.

“The goal is to find catalytic systems that can produce biofuels cost effectively at scale,” adds Mark Nimlos, NREL’s research supervisor for molecular sciences. “The best outcome would be, in five years, to have a new catalytic process which can make gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel at a price range that is better than, or competitive with, the cost of existing fuels.”

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