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viernes, 23 de febrero de 2018

Mercurius Biorefining plans to establish pilot and demo plants in Queensland

Type of post: NEWS.

Queensland University of Technology (QUT) is testing a novel technology called REACH which has been developed by the US company Mercurius Biorefining (Mercurius) to convert biomass into jet and diesel fuels. On 20th February, the Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning of Queensland (Cameron Dick) joined the CEO of Mercurius (Karl Seck) at Brisbane’s QUT Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities (CTCB) to view the results of this scientific testing and discussing a plan to establish a pilot plant in Queensland area (see media statements, 20/2/2018).

Plans for establishing pilot and demo plants

The REACH technology could enable the manufacturing of renewable jet fuel and diesel made from sugarcane waste across Queensland under a project supported by the State Government. During the visit, Karl Seck underlined the company’s intention to use the State of Queensland as its biomanufacturing hub. They selected it after a global search of potential locations due to its favourable business climate, extensive agricultural industry and world-class universities.

Initially, Mercurius plans to build a pilot plant to test different units of the process in Gladstone and Mackay and, later, a larger demonstration plant at Gladstone. Over the longer term, based on the performance of the pilot and demo projects, the company could seek out further Queensland locations to build up to five commercial scale biorefineries. The demonstration plant would attract an investment of 11 million AUD and around 50 jobs.

REACH technology and the scientific validation program

The scientific validation program and the feasibility study of the REACH technology is being supported through the Biofutures Acceleration Program (see below more blog post related to this program). The project aims to optimise the process and help determine achievable yields and the quality of the fuel produced from sugarcane bagasse (fibrous residue left after juice extraction) and other biomass. Although validation processes are not yet concluded, results to date are positive and in line with expectations (see press release of CTCB, 20/2/2018).

Figure 1. Basic flow diagram of the REACH technology (extracted from Mercurius website)

REACH (Renewable Acid-hydrolysis Condensation Hydrotreating) process consists of three main steps: acid hydrolysis, condensation and hydrotreating. The technology is similar to industrial processing techniques already in use in the pulp and paper industry and in the petroleum industry, therefore, it can be easily scaled. The CTCB is demonstrating the first two steps of the process. The intermediate obtained (biocrude) is subsequently transformed into jet fuel and diesel by the Northern Oil Advanced Biofuels Pilot Plant near Gladstone. Litre quantities of the precursor fuel product have been already produced by the CTCB and sent to undergo the final hydrotreating step.

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