A 3-million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy will allow a University of Oklahoma multi-disciplinary research team to develop a novel biomass conversion process to obtain a bio-oil compatible with refinery operations.
The OU-led team was one of four teams in the nation selected by DOE to move forward in the competition. Daniel Resasco, professor in the OU School of Chemical, Biological and Materials Engineering, and OU team members Richard Mallinson, Lance Lobban and Steven Crossley, will collaborate on the project with researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Pittsburgh.
"The challenge is to develop a commercially-viable bio-oil that is non-corrosive and can be refined in the United States," says Resasco. "To be competitive in the marketplace, we have to have a bio-oil that is more cost effective. Right now, it is not."
The approach proposed by OU provides significant improvement over existing commercial and previously proposed technologies. Existing processes have limitations that result in low-carbon yield or high-hydrogen consumption. A fundamental problem with these technologies is that the complex bio-oil presents different problems that cannot be solved with a single solution.
Resasco and his team have gained invaluable experience in this area through previous research and a grant from the DOE EPSCoR program, but the research focused mainly on the chemistry required to produce bio-oil. In the current grant, the chemistry will be applied in the development of a marketable product.
The project was funded by the DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Bioenergy Technology Office through its Carbon, Hydrogen and Separation Efficiencies in Bio-Oil Conversion Pathways program.