Decades of R&D still in the lab but getting closer. Wayne Gerdes – CleanMPG – December 16, 2019 Simulated Algal Growth Reactor built to model a variety of geographically and meteorologically locations and weather. The development of a market-ready biofuel requires advanced performance, minimal environmental impact, infrastructure compatibility, and economic feasibility. Storage stability was also confirmed upon addition of a common fuel antioxidant. Initial process analysis suggests economic viability and reduced greenhouse gas emissions relative to diesel fuel. NREL A new oxygenate molecule that can be produced from biomass shows promise for use as a blend for diesel fuel, according to researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The NREL scientists, along with colleagues at Yale University, Argonne National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are part of the Department of Energy’s Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative. Co-Optima’s research focuses on improving fuel economy and vehicle performance while also reducing emissions. 4-butoxyheptane contains oxygen in abundance while conventional petroleum-derived diesel fuel is comprised of hydrocarbons. The presence of oxygen significantly reduces the intrinsic sooting tendency of the fuel upon burning. The paper, “Performance-Advantaged Ether Diesel Bioblendstock Production by a priori Design” details how corn stover-derived molecules are the starting point for an array of potential fuel candidates. From here, they relied on predictive models to determine which molecules would be best to blend with and improve traditional diesel. The molecules were prescreened based on attributes with implications spanning health and safety to performance. There are a lot of rules and regs that a fuel has to meet that eliminates a lot of promising molecules because they may be great in certain properties but fail in others. The intention is to blend the 4-butoxyheptane molecule into diesel fuel at a mixture of 20 to 30 percent. Initial results suggest the potential to improve ignition quality, reduce sooting, and improve fuel economy of the base diesel at these blend levels. The molecule didn’t exactly match the predicted fuel properties but came close enough to meet the desired performance improvements. Further R&D is needed however, including testing the bioblendstock in an actual engine and producing the fuel in an integrated process directly from biomass. An economic and life-cycle analysis revealed the oxygenate fuel could be cost-competitive with petroleum diesel and result in significant greenhouse gas reductions if the process also yields a high-value co-product such as adipic acid, which is used in the manufacture of nylon. "If" this blend product created from Corn Stover - the leftover leaves, stalks, and cobs left in a field after harvest - can be mass produced, this could increase efficiency, reduce GHG emissions, reduce oil consumption, and create a new market for what is ultimately plowed back in or left to decompose back into the atmosphere. Co-Optima funding comes from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies and Vehicle Technologies offices.