R&D strategy for biofuels

In 2006 The Austrian transportation sector had an energy demand of 353 PJ/a and emited with 25 Mio. t CO2-eq about 25% of the total Austrian greenhouse gas emissions.
Series 7/2010

Content Description

Since 1.10.2008 the share of transportation biofuels is 5.75% on the Austrian market, which is realised by blending 5 vol-% bioethanol to gasoline and 7 vol.-% biodiesel to diesel. According to the new EU Directive on Renewable energy a share of 10% alternative fuels is aimed at in 2020, which mainly will be fulfilled by transportation biofuels.

The aim of this project was to set the basics for an Austrian R&D-strategy on transportation biofuels and to suggest a structure to interlink the Austrian activities on transportation biofuels. For this the state of technology and the future challenges of the different transportation biofuels, the medium to long term biomass feedstock potentials were analysed. A selection of the most important transportation biofuels in the future Austrian context, an environmental assessment based on life cycle analyses, a cost analyses, the description of the necessary framework conditions and future scenarios for market introduction were done.

There are 9 groups of transportation biofuels:

  1. plant oil,
  2. biodiesel,
  3. bioethanol,
  4. biobutanol,
  5. biogas,
  6. synthetic biofuels, mainly Fischer-Tropsch (FT)-Biofuels and synthetic natural gas (SNG),
  7. biohydrogen,
  8. pyrolyses oil,
  9. biofuels from direct liquefaction (e.g. catalytic low temperature conversion).

These biofuels may be produced from the 6 biomass feedstock groups:

  1. oil crops (e.g. rape),
  2. starch crops (e.g. maize),
  3. sugar crops (e.g. sugar beet),
  4. lingo-cellulosic materials (e.g. wood),
  5. organic residues (e.g. sewage sludge) as well as
  6. "others" (e.g. animal fat).

The 4 main production processes are:

  1. biochemical processes (e.g. methane fermentation),
  2. thermo-chemical processes (e.g. gasification),
  3. mechanical-chemical processes (e.g. pressing) and
  4. hydro-treatment (e.g. adding hydrogen to eliminate oxygen).

With these transportation biofuels, feedstocks and processes about 40 different combinations are currently of interestand analysed.

The 78 Austrian R&D-Institutions working on transportation biofuels were described in an "Austrian Map of Transportation Biofuel Activities", whereas about 50% are allocated to industry, 25% to research organisations and 25% to other orgaisations e.g. energy agencies.

The future role of the different transportation biofuels will depend on the successful technological development and the availability of low cost feedstocks. The following trends are concluded:

  • Today biodiesel from the esterification of plant oils and bioethanol from sugar and starch are most important to reach the current biofuels targets, because they are easily blended with conventional fossil fuels and need therefore no substantial new infrastructure. The increase of the share of these biofuels is currently limited by technical and legal limits.
  • Biogas will gain importance, if natural gas (CNG) will be strongly introduced in the transportation sector and the upgrading and injection of biogas in the natural gas grid will become more cost competitive compared to the stationary heat and power production.
  • As plant oil cannot be blended with conventional fuels and needs adapted internal combustion engines, plant oils might mainly become important for agricultural and forestry machines.
  • Biodiesel production via hydro treatment of plant oils needs hydrogen as a process medium and might therefore become of interest, if the production will be integrated in the Austrian oil refining infrastructure.
  • Synthetic liquid and gaseous transportation biofuels (e.g. FT-biofuels, SNG) have a significant Austrian feedstock base; they can easily be blended with conventional fuels and might therefore contribute significantly in the medium term perspective. For SNG - like for biogas - the further building up of an CNG infrastructure in the transportation sector is an important requirement.
  • Bioethanol from lingo-cellulosic feedstocks (mainly wood and straw) might become importance in a medium term perspective, if the lignin will be used as energy carrier or high value chemical.
  • Biofuels from the direct liquefaction and the pyrolyses might bring contributions in a long term perspective.
  • Hydrogen needs a complete new infrastructure, which seems possible in a long term perspective after the successful technology development for market introduction.
  • For all other transportation biofuels e.g. butanol it is unclear today, under which conditions the will gain importance in the future.

For the assessment of the R&D-demand the possible quantitative contribution of the different transportation biofuels was taken into consideration. For "conventional" bioethanol and biodiesel the future research must focus on the broadening of the feedstock bases, the optimization of the greenhouse gas balance, the reduction of production costs and the advanced use of the by-products. Based on the Austrian lingo-cellulosic biomass feedstock potential the further development of processes for synthetic biofuels and bioethanol are the most promising options. For lignocellulosic bioethanol the focus should be on the necessary development towards a demonstration plant. For synthetic biofuels the ongoing activities should be continued with further demonstration plants.

The in recent years successfully established transportation biofuels oriented networks should be further strengthened in a "Biofuels Production Network Austria" in the existing framework of the Austrian participation in IEA Bioenergy, to complement the on one side existing A3PS - Austrian Agency for Alternative Propulsion System- focusing on propulsion systems and vehicle, on the other side with the transportation biofuels production.


F&E-Strategie für Biotreibstoffe

Schriftenreihe 07/2010 G. Jungmeier, J. Spitzer, H. Hofbauer, et al., Herausgeber: BMVIT
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Institut für Energieforschung
Elisabethstraße 5
8010 Graz

Dipl.-Ing. Dr. techn. Gerfried Jungmeier
Telefon: +43 316 876-1313
Fax: +43 316 8769-1313
E-Mail: gerfried.jungmeier@joanneum.at