- The production of biodistillates from vegetable oil (Vegan™)
- Lignocellulosic ethanol production (Futurol™)
- Production of advanced biodiesel and biokerosene (BioTfuel®)
- Fischer-Tropsch process for the production of synthetic fuels
- Mesuring the impact of fuels
The production of biodistillates from vegetable oil
The Vegan™ process for the hydrotreatment of vegetable oils was developed by IFPEN with Axens. Capable of producing biofuels for land and air transport from diverse feeds, it is seen as a technology of the future.
« One of the major advantages of the Vegan™ process is, without a doubt, its flexibility. Firstly, it is suitable for feeds used for the production of conventional (first-generation) biofuels, i.e, originating from food crops, as well as feeds used for the production of advanced (second-generation) biofuels:
- waste vegetable oils,
- animal fats,
- food-grade vegetable oil production waste (fatty acids),
- non-food feeds from wood (pine oil).
Moreover, the process can be used to produce biodistillates similar to diesel that can be used as biofuels for the vehicle sector, as well as biokerosene that can be incorporated at a proportion of up to 50% in the fuel used by the aviation sector. An interesting avenue for reducing CO2 emissions in this sector... Conscious of this potential, we are continuing to improve the performance of the process in partnership with IFPEN’s teams, particularly by testing different, highly sustainable feeds, specific to certain regions of the world: distilled pine oil and fatty acids, for example. »
Larissa Perotta, technologist, Axens
In 2015, Total (becomed TotalEnergies) chose Vegan™ technology for the conversion of its La Mède (Marseille) site into a global-sized biorefinery (500,000 t/year). It was commissioned in 2018.
Lignocellulosic ethanol production
The French Futurol™ project targeting the development of an industrial-scale advanced bioethanol (2nd-generation) production technology, was completed at the end of 2018 after 10 years of work. IFPEN was a key player in this collaborative project.
« The aim of the project was to develop a competitive process adapted to different lignocellulosic biomasses in order to make it operational throughout the year in as many countries as possible: agricultural and forestry waste, dedicated crops such as miscanthus, etc. We shared our expertise in various fields with our Futurol™ partners:
- the development of enzyme cocktails, particularly using a new strain of the Trichoderma reesei fungus,
- the implementation of enzymatic hydrolysis to convert cellulose,
- process extrapolation.
Pilot (1 tonne of biomass per day) followed by demonstrator (100 tonnes of biomass per day) tests validated the operation of the entire process chain, including by-product recovery. In terms of economic considerations, the in situ production of biocatalysts (enzymes and yeasts) contributes to its profitability
Today, the process is marketed by Axens on behalf of the project’s partners. It is performing well, but its commercial success also depends on the regulatory and tax contexts of each country, since they have a significant influence on the market’s enthusiasm. »
Gilles Ferschneider, Futurol™ project manager, IFPEN
An R&D company specializing in biotechnologies and plant-based chemistry created by cereal (Vivescia) and sugar (Cristal Union) cooperatives, ARD is a major partner of IFPEN in the Futurol™ project… and beyond.
« Throughout the project, our teams and those of IFPEN worked closely to realize the potential of lignocellulosic ethanol production technology: it was a long-haul adventure lasting 10 years! The various players in the project began by sharing their knowledge, setting out their points of view and building a common approach to develop a uniquely ambitious project. By pooling the combined expertise of ARD, IFPEN, INRA and Lesaffre, and supported by the analysis and backing of the project’s industrial and financial players (CANE, CGB, ONF, Tereos, TotalEnergies, Unigrains, Vivescia), we were able to oversee the development of a complex technological process. Today our partnership goes beyond the Futurol™ framework and we will now be working together on three fronts:
- firstly, the five-year extension to the PROCETHOL 2G trials conducted by IFPEN and Axens on the Futurol™ platform, taken over by ARD with the support of IFPEN. We will thus be able to test various biomasses representative of the market’s needs and ensure access to essential equipment within the framework of marketing support,
- secondly, the conduct, by IFPEN, on this same platform, of tests to complement those of the Futurol™ project, for its own research needs,
- lastly, the provision, by IFPEN, of dedicated biotech resources developed within the context of the Futurol™ project, which will give us the additional capacity required to meet our customers’ expectations.
This partnership would not have been possible without the shared interest and relationships of trust built up over a period of several years within the Futurol™ project. »
Jean-Christophe Duval, Managing Director, ARD
Production of advanced biodiesel and biokerosene
Launched in 2010, the BioTfueL® project aiming at developing and bringing to the global market a complete chain for the production of advanced biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass using a thermochemical process, was completed in 2021. This technology, which is currently being industrialized, represents a leading solution to the problem of producing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). It is being marketed by Axens.
« This project demonstrates a chain of technologies designed to convert lignocellulosic biomass into synthetic fuel. A test phase on units of sufficient size for industrial-scale extrapolation was conducted: the upstream part of the process (pretreatment) was tested in a torrefaction furnace located on Avril Group’s Venette site. The downstream steps (gasification, synthetic gas treatment, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis) were tested on a facility built on a TotalEnergies Group site near Dunkirk.
We have successfully completed in 2021 the test program on the demonstration units, with our consortium partners (Avril, Axens, CEA, Thyssenkrupp Industrial Solutions, TotalEnergies). This demonstration phase enabled us to validate, develop and optimize the process chain on a semi-industrial scale, following more than 1,500 hours of torrefaction and 1,000 hours of gasification.
The experimental program was focusing on different biomasses to demonstrate the flexibility of the technologies, a key factor for the successful roll-out of the BioTfueL® technology throughout the world. In addition, for a given plant, we will be able to offer the customer the opportunity to treat all available resources and hence construct bigger units, thereby reducing production costs. We are also targeting flexibility in terms of products, since an industrial unit based on the BioTfueL® technology is an energy hub that can produce biodiesel and biokerosene in proportions that can be adjusted at the customer’s request, but also bionaphta, biogas, bioLPG, etc.
Working with our partners, our focus now will be on research to move to a first industrial reference for the process, that is particularly well adapted to meet the regulatory objectives set out for the aviation sector in terms of SAF incorporation. »
Laurent Bournay, Managing Director, Bionext
Jean-Philippe Héraud, BioTfueL® project manager, IFPEN
Fischer-Tropsch process for the production of synthetic fuels
The conversion of biomass or natural gas into synthetic liquid fuels is notably carried out using the Fischer-Tropsch process. Although this technology dates back to the middle of the last century, the aim of the research conducted by IFPEN is to improve its efficiency, its production costs and environmental footprint.
« After more than 15 years of research in partnership with ENI, we developed a new Fischer-Tropsch process marketed by Axens under the name Gasel®.
It is characterized by:
- a high level of productivity,
- and by the absence of sulfur, nitrogen and aromatics in the synthetic fuel obtained, which improves the environmental performance of vehicles, particularly when it comes to particles smaller than 23 nm.
In 2018, Axens signed a major contract with Energy Security Partners, concerning the construction of a GTL (Gas to Liquids) unit with a capacity of 33,000 barrels per day in the USA, the ultimate aim being to triple this capacity. The Gasel® process is also the Fischer-Tropsch process used for the production of second-generation biokerosene and biodiesel within the BioTfueL® project. For the past five years, we have continued to invest in the development of a new generation of catalysts making it possible to:
- increase diesel-type liquid fuel productivity,
- and reduce catalyst renewal frequency. »
Jean-Philippe Héraud, Fischer-Tropsch project manager, IFPEN
Mesuring the impact of fuels
IFPEN’s biofuel expertise allows it to propose a comprehensive range of services, particularly when it comes to the qualification of processes: economic and environmental impact, characteristics and functional properties for land, aviation and maritime applications.