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VTT launches gasification test equipment for development of second generation biofuels

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland launches gasification equipment designed for the development of second generation transport biofuels.

In the process, synthesis gas will be refined from biomass for the production of diesel fuels. The extensive test operation that is about to be launched will produce basic information for the ongoing design of an industrial demonstration plant. In addition to synthesis applications, the work involves the development of new solutions for gas turbine and fuel cell power plants, as well as for the application of hydrogen for transport purposes.

The gasification plant will be able to exploit any carbonous raw-materials, e.g. forest industry residues, bark, biomass from fields, refuce-derived fuels and peat. In Finland, the main focus at the moment is on exploiting forest industry residues and by-products without risking the supply of raw-materials to the forest industry. Because of the existing logistics, synthesis gasification is specifically being developed to be realized in connection with forest industry plants.

The gasification test equipment located in Otaniemi, Espoo, represents the most advanced technology in Europe. The equipment makes it possible for VTT and the industry to conduct joint research on completely new production technology. This will enable new business models for enhancing the competitiveness of Finnish industrial clusters. The production of liquid fuel in the forest industry or district heating power plants will be remarkably competitive because of its high efficiency and practical raw-material logistics.

The gasification test plant in Otaniemi is one of the largest energy projects financed by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation, Tekes. The project’s overall budget amounts to EUR 4 million. Apart from VTT, the project involves the Helsinki University of Technology, Neste Oil, Foster Wheeler Energy, Andritz, Vapo, Pohjolan Voima and the large forest industry companies UPM, StoraEnso, M-Real and MetsäBotnia.

The gasification test equipment will be inaugurated for the three-year development program by Mr. Mauri Pekkarinen, the Minister of Trade and Industry.

VTT's Director General Erkki KM Leppävuori points out the importance of Finnish pioneering know-how in the fields of energy and environment. “Especially in environmental technology, Finland has been and, in all likelihood, will be the trend-setter in Europe. The gasification test equipment recently introduced represents another Finnish competitive asset both nationally and internationally. “

The commercialization of the gasification technology will be carried out in three phases. The output capacity of the first phase plant recently launched is 500 kW. The second phase plant, estimated to be launched in 2008-2009, will have the output capacity of 50 MW. This phase involves verifying the risk-free operation of the process. The third phase, from 2010 onwards, encompasses the construction of a demonstration plant which will be able to cover about three per cent of the transport biofuel demand. The total cost of the development and demonstration phase will amount to approximately EUR 300 million. In the commercial plant, the estimated production costs of synthetic biodiesel will be 0.45-0.60€/litre. In Europe, the estimated market for transport biofuels will be approximately 20 million tons after 2010, which corresponds to an annual turnover of EUR 15 billion.

According to VTT Development Manager Esa Kurkela, new production technologies will enable the reduction by half of the additional costs incurred for the national economy from the use of biofuels. Additionally, with the domestic supply of raw-materials, the share of bio-energy could amount to as much as 20 per cent by 2020.

Finland actively promoting the biofuel issue

Finland is committed to increasing its share of biofuels by 2010 in accordance with EU requirements. The Finnish government has therefore drafted a bill for parliament to consider that will see 5.75 per cent of all fuels are bio-based by 2010.

Finland is actively promoting the biofuel issue. The working group for transport biofuels established by the Ministry of Trade and Industry proposed the launching of a national development program in order to develop new Finnish production technologies for second generation biofuels, and to introduce new biofuels onto the markets by 2015. The working group report estimated an additional cost of EUR 100 million to be incurred from the 2010 commitment, with a 0.03€ effect on fuel prices per liter. The estimate is based on the first generation field-originated bio-components.

Sirpa Posti | alfa
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