Press release, 8 November 2021
BTG Biomass Technology Group and ABATO Motoren B.V. (both based in The Netherlands) have reached an important milestone in their efforts to modify an internal combustion (diesel) engine to enable the use of Fast-Pyrolysis Bio-Oil (FPBO) as fuel, with their novel engine operating for more than 500 continuous hours on FPBO to which 10% ethanol was added.
This achievement, realised within the Horizon 2020 SmartCHP project, was followed by a successful 3-day continuous run on pure FPBO (e.g. without any additive).
“This is a unique achievement and a very important milestone of the SmartCHP project. To our knowledge it is the first time, probably worldwide, that an engine is running smoothly for over 500 hours on biomass derived Fast-Pyrolysis Bio-Oil”, commented Bert van de Beld, Director Technology at BTG and coordinator of the SmartCHP project. “We are very proud of this achievement as it a very important step towards the development of a fully sustainable, regional and reliable cogeneration plant with a very high potential to be replicated in Europe and strongly contribute to reaching the European goals in terms of climate change, energy efficiency and renewable energy,” he added.
The most critical part of the engine modification concerns the fuel injection system consisting of the fuel pump and the fuel injector. In the framework of the SmartCHP project, an ambitious milestone was set to achieve at least 500 hours of engine operation on FPBO without replacing the fuel injection system and while keeping the same performance over the whole duration.
The SmartCHP cogeneration unit
While around 80% of cogeneration plants run on polluting natural gas and fossil fuels as their primary source, the EU-funded SmartCHP project is developing a novel, flexible small-scale cogeneration unit to produce heat and electricity from sustainable biomass. This will significantly help to increase the use of renewables in the electricity, heating and cooling sectors, thus contributing to the 2030 and 2050 climate and energy targets. The SmartCHP unit relies on a modified diesel engine with more than 40% electrical efficiency and an overall energy efficiency of at least 85%. The unit will also integrate a flue gas boiler to produce heat and a smart control unit. Its high flexibility will make it possible to produce more electricity or more heat according to changes in demand and its high electrical efficiency will make this system very suitable to be used in combination with fluctuating renewables and to balance the grid.
Fast pyrolysis is a process in which organic materials are heated rapidly to 450-600 °C in the absence of air. Under these conditions, organic vapours, non-condensable gases (NCG) and charcoal are produced (‘thermal depolymerisation’). The vapours are then condensed to a liquid called FPBO. This process enables a transformation of difficult-to-handle biomass such as lignocellulosic biomass used in SmartCHP (agroforestry residues and organic waste) into a clean and uniform bio-oil which is easy to store and use for bioenergy. One of the main challenges of the project is that FPBO is more corrosive and thicker than diesel, and contains more water, making it more difficult to ignite, thus requiring important modifications in both the engine and the ignition system.