Microchannel Reactors Prove Positive In Biofuel Production

Microchannel reactors provide the key to intensifying the Fischer-Tropsch (FT) reaction, opening up the possibility of economical and environmentally friendly distributed production of third-generation transportation biofuels. A $5 million grant awarded to Velocys Inc., a subsidiary of the Oxford Catalysts Group, from the Ohio-based Third Frontier Research Commercialization Program will help to bring the advantages of microchannel reactors to alternative fuel production facilities to make it possible to convert small quantities of FT materials to meet diesel and jet fuel specifications. The grant is part of the $1.6 billion, 10-year Third Frontier Program initiative designed to support the development of a world-class research capacity in Ohio.

In the grant-funded research, Velocys will apply its microchannel technology to intensify the hydrocracking of heavy waxes produced via FT for the production of diesel fuels. Successful extension of the microchannel technology platform will result in modular, less capital-intensive hydrocracking units. These, in turn, will improve plant economics. It will also help to maximise the production of transportation fuels from the heavy waxes produced via FT in biomass-to-liquid and gas-to-liquid plants.

"Economic hydrocracking of FT waxes is an essential element of an integrated biomass-to-liquids facility," according to Tom Hickey, Velocys president and managing director. "Velocys microchannel technology greatly improves this process step and will speed the development of third generation biofuels.”

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