Enabling India achieve clean energy needs with biofuels

Enabling India to achieve clean energy needs with biofuels

10:42 AM, 28th October 2016
Dr Anjan Ray, Regional Commercial Director – Renewable Energy and Chemicals, Honeywell UOP.
Dr Anjan Ray, Regional Commercial Director – Renewable Energy and Chemicals, Honeywell UOP.

In an interview Dr Anjan Ray, Regional Commercial Director – Renewable Energy and Chemicals, Honeywell UOP with Chemical Today magazine discusses the ways in which biofuels can pave way for a greener world.

By Shivani Mody

Tell us about the biofuels business of Honeywell UOP

Across the world, people are concerned with energy security, agricultural and rural development, and the environment. Fuels and chemicals from renewable sources have the potential to support growing energy needs while addressing concerns regarding climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. UOP’s innovative renewable fuel technologies enables energy producers, fuel marketing and distribution companies, feedstock owners such as farmers and plantations and regulators to play a vital role in this dynamic, emerging arena. Honeywell’s UOP offers biofuel technologies and process solutions in the following categories:

A. Fuels from oils and fats: Honeywell UOP licenses technologies and provides basic engineering design, catalysts and services that enable our customers to produce high-quality drop-in renewable hydrocarbon fuels from naturally occurring oils and fats (sometimes referred to as lipids) that are pipeline compatible and freely miscible with fossil fuels.

Green Diesel: Using feedstocks such as non-edible oils, used cooking oil, animal fats, algal oils etc, Honeywell Green Diesel™ is chemically identical to petroleum-derived diesel, due to ecorefining technology, and is serving as a drop-in substitute for traditional diesel.

Green Jet Fuel: The UOP Renewable Jet Fuel Process converts non-edible feedstock such as tree borne oils (e.g. Jatropha, pongamia), inedible by-products from edible oil refining processes, oilseed plants used in crop rotation such as camelina and carinata, algae-derived oils and other naturally occurring lipids into renewable jet fuel compliant with the internationally accepted D7566 fuel standard.

B. Biomass conversion to fuels, heat and power: For clean-burning biofuel used to generate heat and power in burner applications, our Rapid Thermal Processing (RTP™) technology effectively reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent and sulfur emissions by over 95 percent compared to fossil fuels like coal or heavy fuel oil. RTP green fuel is a replacement for heavy fuel oil in existing boilers, furnaces and kilns; it can also be co-fired with coal or fuel oil. This significantly reduces sulfur emissions and particulate matter and thereby improves air quality in addition to reducing overall carbon footprint.

What is the company’s future plan in biofuels business?

Biofuels offer opportunities to decrease the nation’s dependence on foreign energy imports. The UOP Renewables Vision is to build on UOP expertise that has made us a technology supplier of choice to the conventional petroleum refining sector. We want to produce real “drop-in” fuels that can be seamlessly transported in existing pipelines and used in existing unmodified vehicles under all conditions, instead of fuel additives/ blending components. Drop-in biofuels made with UOP technologies leverage existing hydrocarbon fuel infrastructure to lower capital costs, minimize value chain disruptions and reduce investment risk. Our focus is on a path toward advanced generation fuels based on feedstocks that minimize competition with food, land and water resources.

What are the recent trends in biofuels sector?

Biofuels are the key to deliver INDC commitments made by India to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the Paris Climate Change Conference (COP-21) in December 2015.

In a bid to curb vehicular pollution in India, the Union government announced the intent to implement stricter Bharat Stage (BS) VI emission norms from April 1, 2020 while skipping BS-V altogether. However, there are two key challenges to bring forward the nationwide rollout of BS-VI vehicular emission norms. First, the oil refineries will need substantial investments to upgrade which will allow refineries to supply fuel types that can match the BS-V and BS-VI standards. Second, the automobile manufacturers also need to align their vehicles to the new standards, potentially leading to extra costs in the design and production of compliant vehicles.

Honeywell shares this concern of air quality deterioration, and offers a range of diversified technologies to help oil refineries and automakers in India achieve BS-VI by 2020:

– More than half the country’s oil and more than 70 percent of the country’s gasoline are made with UOP refining technology that make cleaner fuels

– UOP’s Unionfining technology uses hydrogen from the refining process, with a catalyst, to remove sulfur from diesel and thus reduce sulfur oxide (SOx) levels in the atmosphere. Its Unicracking process also uses hydrogen and a catalyst to produce lighter, higher-cetane diesel fuels

– UOP renewable fuels technologies produce ultra-low-sulfur fuels (diesel, jet fuel), which can be used as a quality-enhancing blending stock or replacement for fossil fuels

– Subject to feedstock availability, Honeywell Green Diesel can enable India to raise the biofuel component in diesel to levels well over 20 percent, significantly higher than FAME biodiesel.

Tell us about the path breaking R&D and innovations happening in biofuels and green jetfuels?

In an integrated approach, for customers who want to incorporate renewable fuel production into a petroleum fuel facility, UOP biofuels technologies can utilize existing infrastructure, allowing licensees to drive down capital and operating costs, while meeting renewable fuel targets. The advantages can be even more significant for refiners who convert idled assets in a retrofit design to produce renewable fuel at a fraction of the cost of a new installation.

Honeywell Green Jet Fuel is both sustainable and practical. It has shown high energy density in flight, which allows aircraft to fly farther on less fuel, and it is clean burning because it contains low levels of aromatics and Sulphur. Honeywell Green Jet Fuel offers an impressive reduction of up to 85% in greenhouse gas emissions relative to petroleum-based fuels. Apart from cost saving and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, Honeywell Green Jet Fuel offers several other advantages:

• It meets or exceeds key aviation fuel specifications when blended with petroleum-derived jet fuel

• It can replace as much as 50% of petroleum fuel in aircraft without changes to fleet technology or the fuel storage and delivery infrastructure.

• Honeywell Green Diesel and Honeywell Green Jet Fuel are made from second-generation feedstock’s that don’t interfere with food, land or water resources.

In what way are second generation fuels a better option than traditional biofuels?

First generation biofuels like FAME biodiesel contain oxygen and have lower energy density than the corresponding fossil hydrocarbon fuels – gasoline and diesel – respectively. Also, the quality and shelf life of FAME biodiesel can vary depending on the feedstock oil or fat used.

In contrast, Honeywell Green Diesel is superior to both petroleum based Euro V diesel and Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) biodiesel on multiple counts. Because it is chemically similar to traditional diesel, Honeywell Green Diesel can be used in today’s tanks, pipelines, trucks, pumps and automobiles without infrastructure changes.

The product quality of Honeywell Green Diesel is independent of feedstock, which enables use of a much wider variety of oils and fats than FAME biodiesel and thus enhances opportunity for farmer incomes and oilseed processing jobs in rural supply chains

The key difference:

Because of these distinct advantages, automobile associations in Europe (ACEA) and Japan (JAMA) have indicated their preference for green diesel over conventional biodiesel. In fact, the installed operating base of UOP-licensed biofuels capacity worldwide exceeds the total installed base of first-generation FAME biodiesel capacity in India.

How will lignocellulosic residues in second generation fuels market benefit the industry?

Lignocellulosic biomass – primarily by-products of wood processing like sawdust and non-edible crop residues like rice straw, sugarcane bagasse or cotton stalk – represent a very large pool of renewable carbon sources. 

In India, where per capital arable land is much less than in economies like the USA, Brazil or China, growing dedicated biofuels crops such as oilseeds is not likely to be a solution in itself. Attempts to grow such crops on marginal and arid land have met with relatively limited success, especially since gestation periods to full maturity of oil-bearing trees can be several years while small farmers typically work on annual cycles.

On the other hand, crop residues from existing farms and fields are available in substantial quantities. Though not all of this is surplus – finding uses in fodder, pulp and paper production, power generation etc – several million tons of lignocellulosic biomass are still routinely burned either to make way for the next crop or for domestic energy use in cooking and heating. Open burning of such biomass causes particulate matter pollution leading to severe adverse health effects. It makes much more sense to deploy this biomass as feedstock to biofuels production and bio-energy generation.

One challenge with biomass is that it is low in bulk density – meaning that it takes 4-6 times the storage volume compared to liquid fuels. That makes it expensive to store in areas where land is scarce, or to transport over large distances. Also, stored dry biomass can be flammable at high ambient temperatures while wet biomass can attract fungi and pests. RTP technology can convert biomass to a storable, transportable liquid fuel that can be dispatched to wherever the biomass energy might be needed. It can thus help renewable carbon from biomass reach user facilities such as industrial boilers, thermal power plants, furnaces, kilns or refineries more easily and conveniently.

What are the potential growth sectors for biofuels, green jetfuels and green diesel industry?

UOP’s process technology to produce Honeywell Green Diesel is industry-leading around the globe. The company has agreements in place with organizations in China, India, Malaysia and Masdar in the United Arab Emirates for biofuel development projects that will utilize our Ecofining process along with Honeywell Green Jet Fuel technology to introduce new energy solutions and develop new biofuel economies.

Honeywell Green Jet Fuel is approved by major airframe and engine manufacturers under the internationally approved ASTM D7566 standard and is being produced on a commercial scale by our licensee. It can be used in regular passenger flights in India. There are no licensed UOP Renewable Jet process units in India at this time, though we are in conversations with potential licensees in the region.

What are the challenges faced by the biofuels market globally?

The key challenges in biofuels globally can be divided into four categories:

A. Feedstock availability and price volatility due to seasonal variations,

B. Qualification of biofuels through technical approvals by OEMs (automobiles, aircraft, gensets, boiler manufacturers etc.) and establishment of national and international standards

C. Enabling regulatory mechanisms (like the Low Carbon Fuel Standard in California) or industry initiatives (like the International Civil Aviation Organization thrust for reduced GHG emissions in commercial aviation)

D. Availability of finance for biofuels projects

© Chemical Today Magazine


See the Interview Coverage in Chemical Today magazine (Pg 22)


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