Biofuels offer considerable scope for catalysts

The Catalyst Group says that biofuels offer considerable scope for catalysts, which could help improve yields and reduce reaction times. It’s not on the Catalyst Group’s website yet… so here’s what they said in an email…

The Catalyst Group Resources (TCGR) has identified a number of attractive avenues worthy of further consideration.  Developed for members of its Catalytic Advances Program (CAP) and entitled Catalysis in Biofuels Applications, the study addresses three (3) principal routes for pursuit, broken out by area of bio-based source as follows:          

Liquid Biofuels from Oils and Fats:


- New heterogeneous catalyst technology is needed to allow the transesterification reaction to be conducted at lower temperatures with strong resistance to contaminants.  This should reduce the cost of production and could allow additional decentralization of production, which reduces transportations costs. 


- Adding value to the co-products derived from processing oils and fats into fuels can be pursued via the integrated bio-refinery concept, which can then be extended to incorporate ethanol production from corn or cellulosic feedstocks and methanol production from the biogas produced by anaerobic digesters utilizing agricultural waste.


Liquid Biofuels Made by Direct Liquefaction of Biomass:

- Catalytic primary liquefaction is still in the embryonic stage of development. Cheap, robust catalysts are needed that can withstand severe fouling and poisoning conditions. Attention should be focused on oxygen removal and control of the molecular weight (MW) of the oil product.  Improvements in simplification and robustness should allow operation in remote/rural areas on a small-to-medium scale.

- For upgrading primary bioliquids (e.g., pyrolysis oil) via deoxygenation, strategies for implementation in existing refineries need to be developed. The optimal combinations of the primary liquid fractions and requisite upgrading technologies merit further investigation. 

- Catalysts for deoxygenation that combine decarboxylation (DCO) and hydrodeoxygenation (HDO) conversions with minimal hydrogen consumption are needed.

Liquid Biofuels Made by Catalytic Gasification of Biomass and Syngas Conversion:

- The design, development and selection of improved catalysts for solid biomass gasifiers should focus on mechanical strength and attrition resistance.

- Bioliquids gasification should enter the process development stage now. Autothermal operation and long-term stability of catalysts are needed. Lowering the operating temperature would allow heat integration with exothermic reaction heat from synthesis reactions such as Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.

- Co-reforming of bioliquids and natural gas or naphtha would facilitate fast introduction of large amounts of renewable hydrogen or synthesis gas. In addition, integration of catalytic gasification and gas cleaning (e.g., S, Cl, tar) in a single process is possible but has hardly been explored.


In this detailed and comprehensive 115-page report which summarizes recent progress on catalysis in biofuels applications, members of The Catalyst Group Resources’ (TCGR‘s) Catalytic Advances Program (CAP) have exclusive access to a state of the art report. The study not only provides a comprehensive treatment of new science and technology with an extensive review of the literature, but also puts recent developments in perspective relative to existing technology.  The most recent advances and most commercially promising technologies are assessed in detail.  The report is authored by leading industrial and academic experts and is peer reviewed. 


Additional technical reports issued on a members-only basis in 2008 include: “Direct Conversion of Methane, Ethane and Carbon Dioxide to Fuels and Chemicals” and “Catalytic Conversion of Syngas to Chemical Products”.


To view the report’s complete Table of Contents, List of Figures and List of Tables, please visit  For further information on these reports and the membership-driven Catalytic Advances Program (CAP), please contact Mr. John J. Murphy ( or call 215-628-4447.

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