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Title: Fundamental catalytic challenges to design improved biomass conversion technologies

Abstract

During the past ten years, there has been significant interest and investment in the study of catalytic conversion of biomass-derived feedstocks into renewable fuels and chemicals. In the United States, an estimated $25 billion has been spent by venture capitalists, industry, and government agencies during this period of time to commercialize “renewable technologies” including solar energy, wind power, batteries, and biofuels (e.g., cellulosic ethanol). Four societal factors are driving these investments including: (1) the increased price of crude oil; (2) concerns about global warming; (3) the desire to improve rural economies where biomass is produced, and; (4) national goals to become energy self-sufficient. Furthermore, underlying these efforts is the realization that lignocellulosic biomass is the only realistic, near-term and non-food-competitive source of renewable organic carbon. To this end, legislative efforts, such as the US Renewable Fuel Standards, have been implemented to create subsidies, tax credits, mandates, and loan guarantees to help bring renewable fuel technologies to market. However, the representative body of industrial efforts to this end has faced significant challenges, with several startup companies having commercialized biomass conversion technologies but having struggled to reach commercial scale; in fact, many of these companies have filed for bankruptcy. This situation ismore » likely due to the challenges associated with scaling up unproven pioneer processes, as well as neophyte investors not understanding the decade-long time frames and the sheer amount of funding that is often required to bring chemical process technologies to market. Nevertheless, several emerging catalytic technologies have either entered the market place, or are currently demonstrating their technologies in fully integrated pilot plants. Commercial and near commercial technologies for second generation biomass conversion technologies to-date include, among others: biomass-derived jet and diesel fuel from both waste vegetable oils and ethanol; small scale production of renewable jet and diesel from landfill gases via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis; catalytic conversion of carbohydrates into gasoline and aromatics; hydropyrolysis of biomass into gasoline and diesel, and; catalytic conversion of wood into aromatics. To be successful, biomass conversion technologies must ultimately be able to compete economically with petroleum technologies, which are already operating at large commercial scales and have been practiced for decades. To this end, various factors must be considered when evaluating the potential for new processes to compete with incumbent technologies; factors such as regional variations in feedstock quality and availability, government policy, subsidies and tax rates, and the proprietary positions of the ancillary technologies that might support the process. By any measure, however, a critical metric of the economic potential of a process is its efficiency with respect to the yield of products from raw materials, and this metric of performance is directly related to atom efficiency of the underlying chemical reactions. Therefore, while promising biomass conversion technologies continue to demonstrate progress towards commercialization, there remains an important need for the catalysis community to aid in this effort by: (1) designing more active, selective and stable catalysts, and (2) elucidating a more detailed understanding of the catalytic chemistries underlying these processes. Indeed, the study of catalytic biomass conversion has grown tremendously during the past decade; and new or emerging technologies that are in the laboratory stage have allowed for biomass to be converted into a wider variety of commodity chemicals and the full range of liquid fuels that are produced from petroleum. The objective of this perspective is to highlight some of the ongoing, fundamental challenges with respect to the catalytic conversion of biomass into renewable products, and to provide insight as to how the catalysis community can overcome several of these challenges. It is our belief that, as an international academic community of catalysis researchers, we can (and must) work together to address these challenges, and to drive progress toward the production of next-generation renewable chemicals and fuels from biomass.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [1];  [1]; ORCiD logo [1]
  1. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
1542787
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1635965
Grant/Contract Number:  
EE0006878; SC0018409; FC02-07ER64494
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Journal of Catalysis
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 369; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0021-9517
Publisher:
Elsevier
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
09 BIOMASS FUELS

Citation Formats

Walker, Theodore W., Motagamwala, Ali Hussain, Dumesic, James A., and Huber, George W. Fundamental catalytic challenges to design improved biomass conversion technologies. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1016/j.jcat.2018.11.028.
Walker, Theodore W., Motagamwala, Ali Hussain, Dumesic, James A., & Huber, George W. Fundamental catalytic challenges to design improved biomass conversion technologies. United States. doi:10.1016/j.jcat.2018.11.028.
Walker, Theodore W., Motagamwala, Ali Hussain, Dumesic, James A., and Huber, George W. Tue . "Fundamental catalytic challenges to design improved biomass conversion technologies". United States. doi:10.1016/j.jcat.2018.11.028. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1542787.
@article{osti_1542787,
title = {Fundamental catalytic challenges to design improved biomass conversion technologies},
author = {Walker, Theodore W. and Motagamwala, Ali Hussain and Dumesic, James A. and Huber, George W.},
abstractNote = {During the past ten years, there has been significant interest and investment in the study of catalytic conversion of biomass-derived feedstocks into renewable fuels and chemicals. In the United States, an estimated $25 billion has been spent by venture capitalists, industry, and government agencies during this period of time to commercialize “renewable technologies” including solar energy, wind power, batteries, and biofuels (e.g., cellulosic ethanol). Four societal factors are driving these investments including: (1) the increased price of crude oil; (2) concerns about global warming; (3) the desire to improve rural economies where biomass is produced, and; (4) national goals to become energy self-sufficient. Furthermore, underlying these efforts is the realization that lignocellulosic biomass is the only realistic, near-term and non-food-competitive source of renewable organic carbon. To this end, legislative efforts, such as the US Renewable Fuel Standards, have been implemented to create subsidies, tax credits, mandates, and loan guarantees to help bring renewable fuel technologies to market. However, the representative body of industrial efforts to this end has faced significant challenges, with several startup companies having commercialized biomass conversion technologies but having struggled to reach commercial scale; in fact, many of these companies have filed for bankruptcy. This situation is likely due to the challenges associated with scaling up unproven pioneer processes, as well as neophyte investors not understanding the decade-long time frames and the sheer amount of funding that is often required to bring chemical process technologies to market. Nevertheless, several emerging catalytic technologies have either entered the market place, or are currently demonstrating their technologies in fully integrated pilot plants. Commercial and near commercial technologies for second generation biomass conversion technologies to-date include, among others: biomass-derived jet and diesel fuel from both waste vegetable oils and ethanol; small scale production of renewable jet and diesel from landfill gases via Fischer-Tropsch synthesis; catalytic conversion of carbohydrates into gasoline and aromatics; hydropyrolysis of biomass into gasoline and diesel, and; catalytic conversion of wood into aromatics. To be successful, biomass conversion technologies must ultimately be able to compete economically with petroleum technologies, which are already operating at large commercial scales and have been practiced for decades. To this end, various factors must be considered when evaluating the potential for new processes to compete with incumbent technologies; factors such as regional variations in feedstock quality and availability, government policy, subsidies and tax rates, and the proprietary positions of the ancillary technologies that might support the process. By any measure, however, a critical metric of the economic potential of a process is its efficiency with respect to the yield of products from raw materials, and this metric of performance is directly related to atom efficiency of the underlying chemical reactions. Therefore, while promising biomass conversion technologies continue to demonstrate progress towards commercialization, there remains an important need for the catalysis community to aid in this effort by: (1) designing more active, selective and stable catalysts, and (2) elucidating a more detailed understanding of the catalytic chemistries underlying these processes. Indeed, the study of catalytic biomass conversion has grown tremendously during the past decade; and new or emerging technologies that are in the laboratory stage have allowed for biomass to be converted into a wider variety of commodity chemicals and the full range of liquid fuels that are produced from petroleum. The objective of this perspective is to highlight some of the ongoing, fundamental challenges with respect to the catalytic conversion of biomass into renewable products, and to provide insight as to how the catalysis community can overcome several of these challenges. It is our belief that, as an international academic community of catalysis researchers, we can (and must) work together to address these challenges, and to drive progress toward the production of next-generation renewable chemicals and fuels from biomass.},
doi = {10.1016/j.jcat.2018.11.028},
journal = {Journal of Catalysis},
issn = {0021-9517},
number = C,
volume = 369,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {12}
}

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